Beyond Hero-Culture

A tweet reminded me about the topic, I already wanted to write something about.

If You change the view to things,
You change the things You see.

– inspired by
W. Heisenberg
E. Schrödinger
Wayne Dyer

I personally was promoted in senior level before I was 30 years old.
This once felt good, but had several consequences.
In my late 30’ies and early 40’ies, I suffered from these too fast successes.

According to the fact, I knowed better, made better and mostly succeeded during my 30’ies there was a certain attitude established in me and people around.
Today, I would name it “hero-culture”.

Back then, I very often experienced the same initial conditions.
At the end of budget there was no suitable result to show up.
Thinking began, and I was charged to help out.
“Winston Wolf – I solve problems – You know?

A specific approach was always following.
My task was to “make it happen” – and I did.
No matter about costs of hurry and sustainability of solution.
Milestones were to hold and we kept.

Once is fun.
Twice is exciting.
At third time, it seems to be pattern.

I wondered about this pattern.

I did not like what I did, because I doubted this approach to be sustainable.
Tell You what? It was the pioneer years and money was burned in impressive amounts.
This could not last long and it did not.

At the end of this era, I reached the turning point where I looked for.
I found the approach of agility, mainly represented by Scrum framework.

While the years went on, I noticed some gaps in stream from vision to reality.
I would like to fill them out with the following lines.

I wondered, how to convey the people in charge about their responsibility. After several attempts and some failure, I approached my destination.
Now I know: make them understand AND make You understand.

Sounds simple, is hard to achieve.

When mutual understanding happens, the Magic begins.
Zhang Ziyi in “THE GRANDMASTER – from Ip Man to Bruce Lee”

You need to get access to peoples mind.
And if they are in a hurry, when they follow the efficiency action pattern, they believe themselves in a fighting situation.
They are always on the escalation path or ignoring what is obvious to all others around.
You just can’t reach.

In January 2017, I got a hint about the Laloux-Model from his book “Reinventing Organisations”.
From first sight, I guessed, I was operating mostly in orange state. As I dived deeper into the topic, I realized that I am operating from a teal mindset for nearly two decades, now. I found that insight helpful to understand my problems to get connection to people with different mindsets. It is a handy model to explain conflicts in understanding for me, personally.

Later through the year, some deeper insights arose from this.

/preparing stage

Before I go deeper into the core topic, I would like to offer some thoughts to prepare ground and sow seeds.


Beeing an adult has a lot to do with “being organized” on a personal level. There is lots of work to do. Appointments and targets are to keep. Organizing for You, personally, is one thing. But working in an organization together with others is not only about one or several tools and methods, it is about complexity. Am I right? Are they right? Are we right? What is this “we” and how do we indentify a “we”?

There are lots of theories and models to describe the phenomenons.

/five stages to mastership

You may stumbled already upon Bruce Lee. He said “be like water my friend.” He also talked about plateaus to reach. In a Yoga-world some talk about eight stages. Many popular models of the Western world talk about five stages.

There is Maslow with his pyramid. There is Tribal Leadership. There are Tuckman’s stages of group development. There is CMMI and there is Laloux with his model to describe organizational stages of maturity.

And there is Miyamaoto Musashi who coded the five rings.
This is different, because he reflected about warriors facing a world at combat.

From my perception, they all – except Musashi – describe more or less same stages to approach and to grow through to achieve a next further level of organizational structure.
And by that, the even further level contains something from the previous Levels.
And there are some habits, attitudes and beliefs to leave behind.
As You Progress further, You concentrate on the very essential things while releasing others.
Not everything from the past needs to be contained in the current shape – but it needs constant remembrance and ability to deal with those previous stages of maturity.

And please, bear always in mind: I write about organizations.

Being on a stage, personally, is one thing – being as an organization is another.
The hardest part: both influence each other bi-rectional and in realtime.
It is complex. AQAL.

/what is it about, then?

Since I experienced greatness in groups first time, I ask myself whether this was luck or could it be achieved repeatedly.

What are the crucial factors? What are the Dos and what are the Donts?
Gazillions of words are already spent on this topic. Why do I add mine to this pile?

Did I found the Holy Grail?
Well, yes and no.

I experienced greatness and I whatched it emerging and I have seen it disappearing.
In some cases, I was lucky to observe long enough to get a clue about the phenomenon.

By this, I was able to describe a sequence, which is able to make success more likely to occur.
It is no guarantee, and it is nothing of everlasting endurance. It just makes it easier, to achieve greatness and establish a Status quo of decent sustainability.

Before people are ready to use this sequence from mindset, they need to pass some stages in growth by experiences. Sometimes this is called “maturity in mind”.
You can watch this phases in development at children playing with each other.

Problem in organizations is: even if You are matured to a further stage of development in mind, personally, You are endangered by being relapsed back to a previous stage in groups.
There is this force which drags You down or lifts You up to another level. It depends on where the leading energy of the group located in its stage of development.

spread of Tribal Leadership stages

This curve is orienting on numbers given in Tribal Leadership context and relate to the US-society of the 1990’ies. It depends on the context, where You are and where the others are who build the sphere of influence.

There are areas on their way up like Germany in general, there are areas falling back to lowest stage like Lybia. There are fallbacks like in Turkey. There are struggles about direction up or down like in the US or UK these days. There is hard work the way up like in the EU, resisting drawbacks originating from Eastern Europe.

The message is: the stages are there. It is hard work to get the way up. It is work to learn for the following generations. They are needed to preserve uplevel status quo. If they are conditioned to a narrow mindset, top-position will be lost and decline sets in.
You could whatch this phenomenon at old Rome or at Microsoft as Gates handed over to Balmer. You could witness handover from Obama to Trump.
Microsoft got its turn-around – Rome not.

What is about US, UK and Turkey?

What the hell do I talk about all the time?
Let’s take a look on the stages, I have in mind.

/Stage 1: order by violence

Outer Limits of territory You control is defined by reach and firepower of Your arms – double meaning.

/Stage 2: peace by order

At second stage, I want to offer a perspective which might irritate.

What is the common ground between monestary in terms of religion and barracks in terms of military power?
Their residents committed themselves to peace. They just differ in practice and belief about how peace can be achieved.

Monks concentrate on their relation to God. They practice religion as a peaceful way and as model for the world to orientate on.
Soldiers concentrate on practicing techniques for war, hoping never need to use it. The bare existence of demonstrated military power is believed to be deterrend enough, never to be used.

In my eyes, both approaches are naïve. You need the ability to actively defend Your beliefs, yes. The Shaolin way. But, demonstrated military power in combination with domination challenges the oppressed to find out, how vulnerable the concept is. Not practicing defense and acting the Christian way, will oppress people to find God inside their minds rather than outside in a hostile world. The monestary as well as the barracks need protection from the world outside. And both established them – by walls and guards.

When now glancing over to the Laloux-model, You find these organisations colour-coded by “amber”. They claim to rule everything of those who are inside. And they act upon an outside which is believed to be hostile and could not be resisted other than concentrating on the order inside.

Monestary, baracks and some boarding schools claim to rule the whole life of its residents – the totalitarian way.

Outer limits of Your territory are defined by border installations raised by Your organization.

Leadership model is characterized by extinguishing of surprises. You stabilize Your environment physically, so You are able to dictate every action to every possibility in every detail which usually happens or even to think of.

/Stage 3: single purpose

Once You raised horizon, got older, got stronger, You notice, there are several views to the world. You wish to step out from the limits of Your totalitarian home, which is also safe ground to You. You want to get out to see the world.

Organisations at this stage admit, not being able to rule everything in the world. They concentrate on a single purpose where their core competences are needed to fulfil purpose. This is the stage where multi-industry companies begin to realize, they have a need to distinguish.
Are they willing to fulfil their identity within several market branches and industries like Daimler tried in the eighties. Or do they concentrate on single, broad-range branches like the vehicle producers did. Or do You understand Yourself as a provider for mobility as  BMW does already today?

Outer limits of Your organization are physically defined by site limits and controlled occasionally by border installations.

Virtual limits of Your organization reach even further. People who are integrated into organizations in stage 3 do not stop thinking about fulfilment of purpose once they left physical territory. They often have problems to leave work behind in their spare time.

Problems arise from being able to participate and contribute to this purpose by utilization of home office and other possibilities to work remotely.

Leadership models in stage 3 make it easier or worser, depending on attitude of organizations’ members.
Often, stage 3 organizations are still organized like stage 2 organizations – in a hierarchical order, forming a pyramid.

Decisions are made from top to buttom, only distuinguishing in level of detail.
There are some who are responsible for the vision, and many responsible to realize it according to the overall purpose of the organization.

/stage 4: concensus driven

In next stage, concensus is the leading idea behind organizational structure. Everybody need to declare consent about vision, purpose and measures to fulfil it – opt-in.

This approach is handy in small groups like families or tribes. Everybody needs to know everything to decide mindfully. It takes time to share idea, information and to negotiate about proceedings. Therefore, this approach is limited to groups with small numbers of particpants.
According to the Dunbar number, this approach is suitable for inner circles of 5 and greater circles of 15 people involved. You can solve this issue by delegation and small number of decision making meetings in plenums of 50 or even 150 people. Every number above will lead to split ups and break outs where topics are worked out in smaller groups and asked for concensus in whole plenum.

Over all, concensus driven approaches are slow and limiting to agility – the ability to act quickly.

/stage 5: fluid structures

Once You experienced concensus as a limit to Your agility, organization hopefully does not step back to stage 3, but goes forward to stage 5.

In the organizational pattern which Laloux coded as “teal”, units group themselves around topics. They realized what they identified as need and demand of their abilities and save their capabilities by limiting group size. Number of people 7+/-2 is great for complex problem solving. Group sizes of up to 15 are found suitable to address work which is more complicated rather than complex. Units build from several groups of 15 are often found where responsibilities are comparable but need some detailing from sheer amount of work to do.

Physical territory is often found same as in stage 3 and 4. Problems are the same or even worse. People cannot rest from work mentally. According to the fact they can work virtually and everywhere, they need mechanisms to release in mind.

Leadership models make it even more difficult, because it is Your commitment to a topic not Your position in the organization which makes You responsible.
When people feel this responsibility, they tend to be on duty everywhere. They need help to understand mechanics of focus. They need methods to rest for gaining ability to perform when it is needed. Worst habit derives from an “always on”-attitude.
This is bad for machines – even more for people.

/challenge is to distinguish

I find it very hard to interact with people beyond neighboring stages. I usually need to work with people in mindsets resulting from stage 2 up to stage 5. The bigger an organization is, the more spread in mindset is experienced. There are task-oriented people at accountancy, there are output-orientated people in production, there are concensus driven people in workers-counsil which fight against people with a hierarchical mindset. There are goal orientated people in development projects, suffering from task-orientated people in production they develop for.

From my experience, there is a majority of hero-centred minded people all over the place. It is given in numbers from the original research which lead to the book about Tribal Leadership. 49% of the people observed, are selfish. They are not willing to co-operate. They want to be “the man” – some belief, they are “the women”. People in this state of mind are raised in the belief, there is “the one” that saves all. Messiah, the White Knight, Mr. Anderson or whatsoever. They know best for themselves and everybody else.

This works fine as long as they are in a hierarchical position in stage 2 organisations. Their pursuit in life is making it to the top. Wherever this top is. If You find nobody to compete against, You will surround Yourself with people You can oppress. Among the blind, the one-eyed is the hero who saves all from desperation.

Lots of people today follow a mindset, they were conditioned to for all their life. They rest in agony to wait for somebody to help them out.
Once they were helped out, they demand even more from this hero. A visious cycle is established. The system stabilizes itself as long as role models are stable. The hero safes, the poor gratitude. Again and again.

Why does this work?

The context is stable and protected from outer limits of organization. The organization survives, the poor are rescued and Robin Hood is admired and celebrated as long as he and his comrades spread wealth between the oppressed poor.

There came a different idea from the East. Give a man a fish … or learn him fishing – intentionally not “teach him” to fish!
However, leaders who empower people to survive for themselves know the difference and practice it everyday. The rest manages KPIs and exhaust themselves by instructing people.


Wherever You are in Your personal mindset. You are sourrounded with people who differ.

When You watch carefully and let Yourself recognize the patterns, You are able to whatch at least first three stages of these five in Your children’s sandbox. Once, they enter school, they are hopefully lucky enough to experience stage 4. But, there are lots of reports about children being drawn back in development of mind – back to stage 2 and falling back to stage 1 on “playground” of the schoolyard.

The Asian masters say

As a student, it is all about gaining.
As a master, it is all about loosening.

Challenge is, to distinguish those things to give up from the things that are worth enough to keep.


How You do You react on irritation?

  • What, if it is OK when You differ from “them”?
  • What, if Your difference is something, the “we” needs?
  • What, if “they” did not recognized, yet?

/what can You do?

You cannot secure them from everything in the world.
You can only prepare them to deal with it.

– Andreas Junghans

Safe ground is needed to emerge in abilities. Dojo, Gym, home whatever.
Security is needed as well as safety. Learning needs a protected space for trial and error.

So, what kind of role model is needed to lift organizations from one stage to another?
The bridge over troubled water is build in iterating stages.

  • 1 to 2 by calling in the cavalry (from soldiers)
  • 2 to 3 by establishing administration (from managers)
  • 3 to 4 by grouping around (from a role model like a sports coach)
  • 4 to 5 by releasing into greatness (from master artists like a Guru, a S(h)iFu, a Zensai)

As long You can afford the risk of failing, You should catch every opportunity to learn.
This is what the real successful organizations and serial-entrepreneurs do.
There is no failure – only increased knowledge about how it does not work.

Btw., this mindset can be learned. The approach behind is called “Effectuation”.


It is all about You as a part of we. People are changed by organisations they relate to. It must not be from a membership-role, only. It can be a fellowship, customership or sponsorship as well.

People build and utilize organisations to compensate personal deficits – at least scalability of their physical capability. Organisations will change people by the degree of affection they experience by it. Up or down in stage is possible. You can grow personally in a well developed, trustworthy organisational environment. But You can also been drawn back to earlier stages from people around You. It depends on the overal stage of the organization or at least major parts of it, described by units and departments as “production”, “IT”, “HR”, “Legal”.

Organisation’s purpose is to support, rather than to impede. Once You notice a difference between You and the organisation, represented by people around You, is the key moment of growth.

In the moment of truth, a decision is reqeuested between

  • is the organisation changing You?
  • are You changing the organisation?


In fact, it is always both. It is not complicated, it is complex.
Complicacy is about multi steps, an approved process towards a future state of limited possibilities. On – off – defect.
Complexity is about a multi-layered state of concurrent streams in reality which build a fundament to the unknown but aimed for future Status quo.
The impact zone is where spheres of influence meet between Systems components – sigularity points in systems.


The amount You change the organisation has a reflection to You personally.
You will perceive organizational change as success or failure to Your hidden agenda or hopefully transparent achievement on Your shared goal sheet.

What pattern matches to Your perspective?

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Your attitude to Your perception will keep You going or changing direction. So called successes will make You do more of this and like this. Failures will make You do the same in a different way or it will make You quit at all.
This will depend on Your current mindset in resonance with surrounding environment.

Is the environment supportive, trustworthy, mature and rich enough to deal with failure? It will encourage You to keep goal and change approach.

Is the environment poor, over-focussed, full of fear and discouraging?
It will force You into the one habit, the one approach the organisation is familiar with. Those organisations stay unchanged until they die out from exactly this insistance on approaching destinations nobody want to travel to, anymore.
They die from their yesterday’s success.

Interesting questions arise from this. Is an organisation obsolete, once You as a person outgrew? Should the primary school be closed, once Your children left it?
Maybe, there is a use for the institutation for future generations?
– but in the different shape of future’s “now”.

Remember, the five stages of people for themseves or organisations they form.

Up to stage 3 it is about people and winning.
Stage 4 and 5 is about filling the emptiness following the defeat of the final opponent.

  • Stage 1 is about Power by ability to harm
  • Stage 2 is about Power by ability to order
  • Stage 3 is about Power by ability to serve purpose
  • Stage 4 is about Power by ability to create agreement
  • Stage 5 is about Power by ability to shift structure to adapt change.


Organisations might be shaped up to stage 3 by single persons. There can be “the man”, the hero coming along and presenting the stone of commandments. Stages 4 and 5 need a mindset beyond focussed followership. The ruling item switchs from people to issue. This switch is the hardest part in growth. For You personally, as well as the people around You.

Stages 4 and 5 are covered from sight by the Ego-Barrier.

There is a very interesting fragment in Sleaford Mods documentary. Jasons’s wife Claire tells about the time needed to integrate him from center-stage back into the family after a Sleaford Mods tour.
It takes her about two weeks to cure, what she calls the “cunt flu“.

When heroes limit system’s capability to perform

Hero journeys are ego-trips ultimately ending in stage 3. Organizations in terms of Community, Business and Society need a guided tour of the whole group of participants towards terra incognita of

our Utopia <  = not only Your own!

It is more about the passion for the sea, rather than instructions about building ships.
Many people already understood this in the past. Then, they were outsiders, intellectuals, artists.

Today’s world can still learn from them. Times of stable contexts for a lifetime are gone. People need to learn the ability to identify what the current context is. Once context is identified, people can apply tools at hand. It is not about the situation You search for, once You got a hammer in Your hand. It is about the situation where You need something to hit a nail on its head. It could be a hammer or stone. Whatever is available and suits to attach the image of the better future to the board, You once nailed to Your head …

Credits to the creators of Sponge Bob

Responsibility is the ability to name the “why” rather then demonstrating the “how”.
Empowerment is the demand of finding out about the “how” rather then instructing the “why”.
Personal leadership is about “from-to-how”. The rest is up2u.
Success is what follows, once You know why You found out about the how.

And don’t forget about front-stage and back-stage …


You get access to whatever I estimate being worth to share on my twitter-channel.

/inspirators (chronologically to this topic)

/additional sources


May all Your needs vanish into reality.
Live long and prosper.


Does Your life run in a circle?

Life runs in cyles. Some are smaller, some are bigger.
In the end, there is no end – only another beginning.

Talk to whom it may concern. And share what matters to You!

3 responses to “Beyond Hero-Culture”

  1. Thanks for guiding me to an insight I always had as a gut-feel, but never got formulated. There’s an interdependence of personal state versus organizational state I often suffer. More in person when we talk next.

  2. […] einer “Hero-Culture” – ich bereite dazu gerade einen anderen Artikel vor. Update: hier ist der entstandene Artikel zu […]

  3. […] und wie schädlich diese für eine Organisations sei. Meine damalige Reflexion führte zu diesem […]

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