When the Carthaginian Warmaster Hannibal had to cross the Alps to invade Italy with his elephants, his anxious generals asked him how he would achieve this impossible task? He gave a simple answer: I will find a way, or I will make one.
This is a powerful demonstration of an ownership mindset: The choice to do whatever it takes within your control to improve a situation.
If your team lacks ownership, and often defaults to victimhood, it’s fruitless to try and teach ‘ownership.’ Instead, ask yourself a better question: Is there any behavior you show yourself that actually reduces ownership of your team members?
I call this the heroic leadership trap: Consistent leadership behaviors which are well-meaning, but in the end promote more victimhood.
Let’s review the list of 10 common behaviors which I have come across that enable victimhood:
- Task-manager: Chasing others to ensure that they do their work.
- Referee: Solving personal conflicts between team members.
- Monkey magnet: Taking ownership of the issues (“monkeys”) of others.
- Hoplite: Shielding the team from difficult realities.
- Superhero: Inviting everyone to bring their tough problems to you.
- Peacekeeper: Providing a neutral zone between warring fractions within the team.
- Quarterback: Constantly stepping in, stop the bleeding, and fixing stuff.
- Martyr: Personal sacrifices to compensate negative team member attitudes.
- Psychiatrist: Engaging in endless conversations aimed at letting team members vent their frustrations.
- Nanny: Cleaning up after team members have made a professional mess.
Every time you fall into the heroic leadership trap, you send a clear yet unintended message to your team: It is ok to outsource ownership to me and adopt the role of a victim.
True heroic leaders are those who focus on developing themselves to avoid the heroic leadership trap. This is the way to quickly develop other heroic leaders.