Why the SKY doesn’t FALL on the ground or the myth of the Lonely Hero

Why the SKY doesn't FALL on the ground or the myth of the Lonely Hero1As you may have noticed from my previous posts, I’m a big fan of movies, especially classical ones, and nothing has more class on a square foot of film than the 007 series. I frequently find myself exchanging reviews with my friends and putting the movie’s messages (subliminal or obvious) under scrutiny, as well as pondering about the morality of heroes’ choices and the possible “what if’s” in the plot. As movies are a reflection of our perception of reality, it’s not such a bad hobby for a manager.

So, in a discussion about “Skyfall”, one of my friends made a remark that the movie leaves you with an impression that the whole MI6 service consists of M. (the boss), her secretary and James Bond. Think about it – it’s called a Secret SERVICE and there is almost no one around to deal with the crisis, but the main hero, with the most useful asset at his disposal being his family homestead.

Does this sound anything like the organization you’re working at? Is there any real possibility that all organizational assets will come down to one man (as prodigious as he may be) without needing anyone else? What about electronic experts, developers, administrative apparatus, suppliers of paper and suppliers of guns, car vendors and car drivers, security guards and many others? Where are they?

They have all fallen prey to the myth of the Lonely Hero, a giant holding the sky on his shoulders, preventing it from falling on our heads.

Despite the obvious fact that everyone knows pretty well about the importance of teamwork and the indispensability of collaboration, many managers tend to see themselves as the all-mighty 007. They have their reasons of course, – many really important decisions and responsibilities do rest on their shoulders. They stay with the project through all the crucial junctions, they take the blame for a failed project, but they’re also frequently the only ones who get the honor to present the outcomes of a successful one. However they shouldn’t forget that there was a lot of work by others that preceded this moment. Working under impression that the manager is the only one REALLY working here could be dangerous, because it will immediately (and negatively) reflect on his relations with his team.

There are two distinctive biases that endanger the manager’s judgment as a result of Lonely Hero myth:

  1. If you want to do it right – do it yourself“.

Wrong! The whole purpose of being a manager is DELEGATION. The organization doesn’t need one extra pair of hands – it needs someone to manage the existing hands in the best way. Following this bias will only bring disappointment and exhaustion.

  1. One lion is better than a hundred sheep

Wrong again! If your goal is to produce wool – even a hundred lions would be worse than one sheep. Even the most heroic lion will fail at this task, 007 or not. If the herd belongs to the lion – fine, but they will still have to work together for the common goal. The sheep will graze and produce wool and the lion will keep other lions and hyenas from hampering this process. EVERYONE SHOULD BE DOING THEIR OWN JOB.

So please remember, when we’re looking at the end result, we often do not realize the amount of work that had to be done to get to that point. Manager has to guarantee that he is not falling into one of the aforementioned traps and that he always remembers to acknowledge the work of the team. As most of us are not working for CIA or MI6, we have the luxury to say out loud the names of the real heroes that diligently worked with us to produce the desired outcome.

They are the real reason why the SKY doesn’t FALL on our heads.

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