Hi-ho, CEO! Away!

You’ve likely heard of the Lone Ranger, that mythic hero whose Wild West adventures played out to the strains of the William Tell Overture.  The Lone Ranger’s skill set was transferable to any setting. No situation was too troubled for him to return it to rights. Everywhere the Long Ranger went, good things followed. OK, so his faithful companion, Tonto, provided assistance. But there was no doubt about the star of the show.

In other words, exactly the sort of person many nonprofits seek in a CEO. At least that’s what I’m noticing in my work with faith-based organizations. Frantic for a savior who can lead them to a land flowing with major gifts and program success, search committees are easily awed by charismatic candidates who seem able, singlehandedly, to do it all.

However, as the folks over at Fast Company.com remind us, in the real world, no one – regardless what his or her resume or press releases suggest – wins alone. And that’s why Nancy Lublin, author of the following, is singing the praises of “the little guys” – the followers who get things done.

I think we’ve got it wrong. We’ve overdone this whole leadership/founder/entrepreneur thing. And we’re not spending nearly enough time crediting the folks who turn all that visionary stuff into tangible reality: the chief operating officers, the midlevel managers, the staffers. If the word didn’t have a pejorative tinge to it, I guess you’d call them followers.

Our leadership obsession has real, unfortunate effects. For instance, there’s a totally unevenly sliced pie when it comes to rewards. In wonkier terms, you’d call that a resource-allocation problem: While CEOs represent the smallest part of our labor pyramid, a disproportionate amount of time and money is spent grooming them, charting who’s about to join their ranks, and celebrating “their” achievements (hello, fat pay packages!)

We have to recognize that your bright ideas – and mine – would go nowhere without the doers. Failing to do so will make us collectively poorer, not just in spirit but in money.

Weary board members and star-struck search committees can be excused for seeking a savior as their next CEO, but just for a bit. Then it is back to reality and the simple truth that organizational success takes time. It takes a diversity of gifts. It takes a team.

What's your take on this topic?

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