Heroship and Leaving A Legacy Aren’t Part of Leadership

Gary A. DePaul, PhD (he/him/his)
4 min readMar 10, 2020
Image of three business professionals in suits but with superhero-style masks and capes

Imagine the following American cinematic experience: During the 19th century, you’re watching just about any western taking place somewhere in a small town. Here, heroes save towns from outlaws. Not even the local government and sheriffs could protect the town in the same way that these heroes could.

Like the heroes of this image of the old west, leaders behave as if they are the heroes, and their teams are incapable of solving problems without leaders. The leader alone steps into the situation, issues orders, salvages the situation, and dramatically rides off into the sunset.

I call this heroship rather than leadership

In addition to being the hero, some leaders talk about leaving their legacy within an organization. Through their accomplishments, they believe that the organization and its employees will recognize a legacy left behind after leaders move on to another organization or retire. Freiberg and Freiberg describe the assumption.

The Leader as Hero Myth — Intellectually, most of us would agree that no one person — no matter how great — does it alone. Yet we have been conditioned to think of leadership in terms of the…