The Hero Shadow

The three steps to replacing heroics with genuinely useful decisive action

If you’ve ever done or said anything that you regretted, were ashamed of, or got negative feedback about, then this mini-series might be useful. Look for the shadow tag.

Sometimes we do and say stuff that comes out wrong – but we do it with good intentions. These behaviours are a kind of distortion of our true strengths, hence the term ‘shadow’.

The Hero is a distortion of the true masculine strength of being able to take action, with energy, decisiveness and skill.

You can spot a Hero in action if you see these behaviours:

  • He jumps into action with a reckless disregard for himself and others
  • The task is more important than the people
  • He needs (or possibly even causes) a crisis in order to feel energised
  • He gets way too far out in front, so that other people are unable to keep-up and therefore accidentally creates his own solitude.

I’ve sometimes found the Hero Shadow to be a tough one for men to work on. It’s such an addictive (but temporary) source of energy and purpose. And there are also quite a lot of social expectations for men to behave heroically. We ask them to sacrifice their bodies in war or in dirty and dangerous industrial jobs. We tell them to “suck it up” when it comes to emotional pain or thwarted ambition.

Heroic Leadership in the workplace is what sometimes happens when entrepreneurs are unable to take their business from the thriving start-up phase through to a sustainable company. Because that’s not something one person can usually do by themselves. In larger companies Heroic leaders create burn-out around them and fail to get the boring processes in place so that the organisation can function without them.

There are three steps to replacing heroics with genuinely useful decisive action:

1. Reconnect with the real heartfelt purpose behind why action is even necessary. That way it transparently becomes action for the sake of something worthwhile, not for its own sake

2. Deliberately create the kind of positive solitude that gives a longer-term top-up to energy levels (long, silent bike-rides are my favourite)

3. Unearth the compassionate, nurturing side of the hero; the part that can’t bear to see suffering and wasted opportunity in people, and teach them how to help others help themselves, instead of having to save them all the time.

Unhappy is the land that needs a hero

Bertolt Brecht


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