How every leader & business can unleash their inner hero
Love us or hate us, we’re not watering down our values for anyone. Yes, they are a bit bold, but they’re also courageous, and visionary. They’re heroic.
It’s always painful to admit when things have gone out of date. A hairstyle? Typically a quick fix. The values or your organisation? Not so simple.
It’s why I’m not surprised that I tend to encounter a certain resistance from HR teams around recognising that values might be a little bit dated and that they need to change.
Change can be frightening, but it’s about stepping up, to the hero’s plate.
No one wants to work with leaders who don’t know what they stand for
Or with businesses and leaders who don’t care about what they stand for.
I always want to work with people who want to discover that, if they don’t already know. I want to see dedication to purpose. And I’m not alone.
More and more people (customers, employees, clients, you name it) are thinking and feeling this way.
Every business needs to be a hero, and every leader within that business needs to be a hero too. Now more than ever — and HR teams are essential in driving those journeys.
Knowing what you stand for means having a vision
You have to have a vision; that’s become so much clearer over the past few years, and it’s what I tell each and every one of my clients.
Without that vision, who are you? Without the end in mind, how can you tell where you’re going? Or see how to get there? How can you avoid making mistakes? Wasting resources and effort? How can you set goals? How can you make your people care? And understand how to develop leadership skills? How can you even know what you’re doing it all for?
Having a talent vision, a leadership development vision, and an HR vision that fits into the wider organisational purpose and direction are absolutely essential for 2022 onwards.
We’ve all seen companies that weren’t living and breathing their values; companies lacking vision, lacking leadership skills, lacking a commitment to diversity and inclusion. We’ve seen them called out by customers for half-hearted and bandwagon efforts (or none at all) and seen them suffer for it.
A hero lives and breathes that vision
After all, what is a hero? Someone who devotes themselves to a higher cause, and to overcoming struggles for a greater good.
So, HR: it’s essential to understand just how vital your role is in ensuring the organisation is living and breathing its purpose and vision, and in developing leadership skills.
That value system needs to inform your culture and the thinking and doing of every employee, to unify and retain talent, and bring that vision — and your transformation as a company — to life.
I think the ‘hero’s journey’ can be incredibly useful in helping to guide transformation. If you’re not already familiar with Christopher Vogler’s take on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth theory, check it out. It breaks down every hero’s journey into 12 stages (try to think of a single story or movie that doesn’t fit into this, it’s hard):
We can break those stages down into 3 acts:
- Need for change — in which the hero meets the mentor and prepares to leave their familiar world behind.
- The transformation — in which the hero learns to navigate this new, unfamiliar world.
- Returning stronger — in which the hero returns, changed, to their familiar world.
It’s the journey of transformation that every business should put itself through (as the hero). It’s also how talent development and HR teams should think about developing leadership capability.
It’s the journey that it needs to provide for every leader, employee, and customer, too (as the mentor).
Turn your organisation’s journey into an epic.
Organisations that complete this journey will be better equipped to identify potential, and attract, develop, and retain high potential talent at all levels.
They will have a greater understanding of how to do so in line with business goals and those new values, and how to leverage everyone’s strengths for the greater good.
The hero’s journey is one that will help leaders to grow and become stronger. It will prepare them to deal with unexpected challenges, changes, losses, and successes, with greater agility and resilience.
Developing leaders to have this hero mindset means they will be able to rise to occasions and lead their businesses through the unknown, with courage and optimism.
They will also be better equipped to recognise and engage high potential talent. Heroes act with empathy and understanding; they ‘save people’ who need a bit of encouragement, lift them up and support them on their journeys. Those heroic leaders will be able to act as better mentors themselves.
No hero ever goes it alone, so why should businesses have to?
That mentor role is also where I come in.
This theory highlights the importance of working with somebody like myself who can support your organisation through its transformation. A leadership development consultant can guide you through your journey into the unknown world, and offer the right support to learn and grow as an HR team and as a business.
Then, help you to re-enter the familiar world transformed, with new capabilities, new vision, a new learning culture, and leaders who are prepared for change.
In the words of American poet Amanda Gorman (in her 2022 New Year’s poem — have a watch if you haven’t already), “Let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next.”