How to Avoid the ‘Hero Paradigm’

Many companies get caught in the trap of relying on heroes. So many companies in challenging economic times have flattened out. They’ve had some success in the past but they are now facing a flat top line or worse, their top line is shrinking. Sometimes this is the result of the “hero paradigm.” This is where companies succeed based on the activities of a hero or a set of heroes. They eventually flatten out because they lack process, structure, and methodology (the bane of entrepreneurs), and they can’t scale.

A quick litmus test for your company to see if your success is dependent on heroes is to listen carefully to your language of success. How do you describe success?

For example, some leaders will talk about opening up a new market with a comment like, “We were successful in the Southwest because of John’s contacts and his ability to push through sales during the last quarter.” Can you imagine, Eric Schmidt of Google or Larry Ellison of Oracle saying, “We attribute our success in India to the ability of Mary Jane and her knowledge of corporate IT buying behavior!”

Some companies rely on heroes to be successful while others learned to scale, and although they certainly have superstars on their teams, they’ve learned how to repeat their successes by leveraging individual competencies, not relying on them.

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