5 Mistakes of the Hero Leader

by  Guest Author  |  Leadership Development
5 Mistakes of the Hero Leader

This post is a part of our 2016 Lead Change Group Guest Blogger Series. Today we are pleased to introduce you to Dan Forbes from Lead With Giants.

When I was a kid I would fasten a bath towel to the back of my shirt and pretend to be Superman. I would run as fast as I could while pretending to fly. Visions of heroically saving the day filled my mind.

When I graduated from Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree I had a vision of “leading” a church as kind of a “hero-pastor.” I assumed others would follow me because of my position, authority, charisma, and knowledge.

I was wrong.

Now, as an Executive Coach, I help Leaders discover that it’s not the Hero Leader that saves the day. It’s the Inclusive Leader.

I made a lot of mistakes and learned about leadership mainly through the school of hard-knocks.

Here are five mistakes I learned that helped me transition from Hero Leader to Inclusive Leader:

1. Hero Leaders think they have to be smarter than those they lead. They relish the idea of being the smartest person in the room. They become arrogant and egotistical.

Inclusive Leaders gather smart people around them. They seek out others who are smarter and encourage them to speak their mind and offer their ideas.

“Wise leaders generally have wise counselors because it takes a wise person themselves to distinguish them.” –Diogenes of Sinope

2. Hero Leaders rarely admit their mistakes. The three words you’ll never hear them say are, “I was wrong.” To them, admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness to be avoided at all costs.

Inclusive Leaders openly admit their mistakes. They know that they are not perfect and step into vulnerability in ways that encourages others to do the same.

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” –Arnold Glasow

3. Hero Leaders believe it’s their position and authority that makes them a leader. They use their title and authority to force others to conform to their wishes. They often take a “my way or the highway” approach.  This kills the morale of others.

Inclusive Leaders understand that when others follow they are giving you a great gift. They follow because they share your vision, your enthusiasm, and your heart. They follow because they feel inspired.

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” –Brian Tracy

4. Hero Leaders focus on themselves. They consider themselves to be the most important person in the organization. They enjoy riding into town like the Lone Ranger to save the day.

Inclusive Leaders are humble. They say, “We are in this together.”  They ask, “How can WE do this?” They willingly seek the input of others and rally people to a great cause.

Remember the difference between a boss and a leader; a boss says “Go!” – a leader says “Let’s go!”  ~E.M. Kelly

5. Hero Leaders constantly remind others of their (the Leader’s) power. They relish barking orders and giving commands. Others are expected to fall in line and do what they are told. Their one go-to style is command and control.

Inclusive Leaders share power, responsibility, and leadership. They create space for new leaders to emerge and flourish. They let others take the lead to learn and grow. They know that their primary job is to create new leaders.

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” –Harvey S. Firestone

The less one tries to be the Hero Leader and seeks to become an Inclusive Leader the greater the results.


Dan Forbes is an Executive Coach, Speaker, and founder of the #LeadWithGiants Community on Social Media which has a vision of raising up 10,000 UpLifting Leaders. Connect with Dan at and


Have you served under an inclusive leader? Did their choices make a difference for you?
Photo Credit: 123rf/Wavebreak Media Ltd

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What People Are Saying

John E. Smith  |  06 May 2016  |  Reply

HI, Dan – nice to “see” you outside your usual haunts:)

However, I resent you building your blogpost around how I spent the first half of my management career. Hitting way too close to home …

I am familiar either directly or by experience with all five of these behaviors. The fourth one about “riding into town to save the day” struck an especially loud chord with me. I refer to this “leadership” behavior as being a “Firefighter”.

Without a fire to fight, firefighters have little to do. Sometimes firefighters are tempted to start fires in order to have fires to fight and consequently be hailed as heroes for putting out those fires they started.

One of my former presidents was very much in this mode. Either by intention or by lack of attention, she would allow situations to develop to a boiling point, even when encouraged by those who reported to her to take a more proactive stance.

This CEO reveled in heroic efforts to tackle and subdue issues or problems, which did not need to exist in the first place. It is not surprising to me that this person fits the textbook definition for narcissistic behavior.

Thanks for the fascinating post and trip down Memory Lane:)


Jane Anderson  |  10 May 2016  |  Reply

Love his post, Dan. I’m reading your post and thinking …. you know what? Inclusive leaders are hero leaders. If you are a leader others want to follow, you are a hero.

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