Monday, November 12, 2007

U.S. Needs More Reluctant, Team Oriented Heroes

In our world of cowboy chief executives, many people yearn for heroes of yesteryear. The Greatest Generation produced a slew of them and research sheds light on their characteristics. A study asked veterans what makes a leader and the insights shouldn't be surprising, except to the self appointed, hyper-competitive, and ego starved Machiavellians. Many pose as leaders in today's government and business sectors.

Veterans noted selflessness as a key trait of reluctant heroes. That means they didn't save their friend for incentive compensation. They didn't jump on the hand grenade for a plaque or a medal. They did it out of loyalty to their friends and fellow soldiers. It was their role as member of the team and they came to it of their own volition.

Another characteristic is humility. None would identify themselves as heroes. They each had a deep sense of duty. Once again, reluctant heroes of The Leadership Quarterly show us what is missing in American leadership today.

Stories like this keep me hopeful that the world will rediscover another contributor from the Greatest Generation, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. The fifty year petri dish of the post WWII Japanese economy has much to show our present day world, much as these reluctant heroes have to show our elected and boardroom leaders.

"The problem is that most courses teach what is wrong."

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