Who would have thought that an absent-minded fish could encapsulate what we need to do to be effective leaders in today’s continuously evolving world? “Just keep swimming.” This isn’t to say that we need to keep floating that would only be maintaining status quo, but we need to keep swimming to stay abreast of the new and emerging technologies; we need to keep swimming to see and experience new situations; and we need to keep swimming to remain relevant to our followers.
I enjoyed the post by Michele Martin, however, I do not think that we should eliminate the word “hero” and its derivatives from our language and descriptions of modern-day leaders. The use of a language is important for leaders as well as how those words are used. If we were using “superhero” to describe a leader, then I would wholeheartedly agree with Martin’s thesis that we should not call our leaders “heroes”; however, I do believe that as a society we have embraced heroes to be police officers, first responders, physicians, nurses, mothers, fathers and even the school teacher that greets each student with a different handshake.
I would also argue that in today’s uber connected world we still need leaders who will take on the risk of discovering new and emerging technologies and allow followers the freedom to explore the possibilities that these tools and resources can have on our lives. I do not think it is by accident that our studies at Creighton began with the lessons from the heroic Jesuit leaders (Lowney, 2003). These heroes learned how to truly know oneself, which provides the foundation for immersing oneself and taking leap into the evolving world. Risk takers are heroes, not hosts.
Heroes also have sidekicks. As Weinberger (2011) and others taught us, there is just too much knowledge out there for any human to comprehend. He also suggested that we need to surround ourselves with people who have diverse experiences and beliefs in order to get exposure to the vast amounts of knowledge. Again, this sounds like a pretty heroic view and one that those with insecurities cannot value.
Finally, heroes are human, not super human. Today’s modern leader, through self-reflection, needs to occasionally eat humble pie. A true leader is not defined by titles and compensation, but rather by influence. One of my favorite TED Talks is from Drew Dudley. Recently I started a new position and I was challenged to bring together a diverse group of people, both in terms of tenure at our organization and in professional experience. I shared Dudley’s TED Talk because one person cannot save the day like a super hero, but one person can help others reach their full potential.
We cannot slow down the adoption of technology and the rise of artificial intelligence, but we can just keep swimming, just keep exploring and just keep encouraging. So, jump on in. The leadership water is just fine.