We celebrate the wrong leaders

mad formal executive man yelling at camera

In his TEDx talk, Martin Gutmann lays out why we need to take another look at the leaders we idolize and promote. 

Often a combination of bias and “… the action fallacy, our mistaken belief that the best leaders are those who generate the most noise, action and sensational activity in the most traumatic circumstances” give rise to what many people think of as “great leadership”.  Leaders I like to call “Firefighter arsonists”. Those who heroically save the organization, in the wake of crises of their own making.

Instead, we need to tell the stories of, and celebrate, boring leadership. The type of leaders that can look ahead, devise mitigations, and get out of their own and their team’s way, to ensure that crises are few and far between. 

While these leaders make for much less exciting stories, akin to the difference between the biographies of, say, Jordan Belfort the “Wolf of Wall Street” and Warren Buffett, the lessons current and future leaders can learn about humility, trust, collaboration, and true confidence are important.

By celebrating these unsung heroes, we can foster a new generation of leaders who prioritize prevention, collaboration, and sustainable growth. It is through their guidance that organizations can thrive, avoiding unnecessary crises and building a better, more stable culture. The stories we tell about leadership shape our collective understanding of success. Let’s start telling the stories of the quiet, competent leaders who create lasting impact, not just flashy headlines.