Corporate Cultures: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life

By Terrence E. Deal; Allan A. Kennedy | Go to book overview

3
Heroes: The Corporate Right Stuff

If values are the soul of the culture, then heroes personify those values and epitomize the strength of the organization. Heroes are pivotal figures in a strong culture. Like a John Wayne or a Burt Reynolds in pinstripes, they create the role models for employees to follow. The hero is the great motivator, the magician, the person everyone will count on when things get tough. They have unshakable character and style. They do things everyone else wants to do but is afraid to try. Heroes are symbolic figures whose deeds are out of the ordinary, but not too far out. They show--often dramatically--that the ideal of success lies within human capacity.

America's boardrooms need heroes more than Hollywood's box offices need them. Heroism is a leadership component that is all but forgotten by modern management. Since the 1920s, the corporate world has been powered by managers who are rationalists, who do strategic planning, write memos, and devise flow charts. But we are not talking about good "scientific" managers here. Managers run institutions; heroes create them.

The one quality that more than anything else marks a manager is decisiveness, but heroes are often not decisive; they're intuitive; they have a vision. They don't make any decisions, except one: does it fit the vision or not? Managers are busy; heroes have all the time in the world because they make time. Managers are routinizers; heroes are experimenters. Managers are disciplined; heroes are playful and appreciate the value of "hoopla," --ceremonies and rewards to honor top performance. Both managers and heroes fuss about details, but managers will spend hours refining their numbers, while heroes will plant a garden so that it will look just right.

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