Why Hero Worship is Good for You

When I was 5 years old, Mighty Mouse was my hero.

mighty_mouse.jpgI loved that small bundle of strength, bravery, and plucky good humor.
I wanted to be Mighty Mouse. So, I tied a towel around my neck – for a cape. I tucked a piece of string into my waistband for a tail and ran (flew) through the house, arms outstretched, singing, “Here I come to save the day!”

But, why Mighty Mouse?
What did Mighty Mouse have that I, as a five-year old lacked?
At first the answer seems obvious. He was, after all, a super hero. And, I was a five year old.
But, in fact what I was attracted to in Mighty Mouse was not what I lacked. It was what I already possessed – but had not yet developed.

We are attracted to heroes who embody our own undeveloped potential

Mighty Mouse was a mirror – in which I sensed my own potential. Not to become a cartoon mouse with super powers. But, to develop and embody qualities of strength and brave good humor in my own life situations.

I was attracted to my own undeveloped potential – as reflected in the image of my hero.
And it was through hero worship, that I began activate, experience, and integrate those qualities.

That’s why hero worship is so powerful – and useful

The image of Mighty Mouse allowed me to tune into those qualities that were dormant within me.
There is a concept in psychology called ‘projection’. It suggests that the qualities in other people that really bug us – are often qualities within ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge or own.

But, projection also suggests – and this is the key to skillful hero worship – that the positive qualities we admire in others – are also within us.

The qualities that you see in those you admire are potentials in you.

You admire in others what is potential in yourself. You see in others, aspects of yourself that may be more or less developed.

This understanding of projection sets the stage for a skillful use of hero worship. Instead of letting projections operate unconsciously, we can intentionally use this natural psychological process to accelerate our own development. We recognize that we are attuning to our own creative potential – reflected in the form of those we admire most.

But, without this recognition – hero worship becomes diminishing rather than strengthening.

What makes hero worship unhealthy?

Unhealthy hero worship reinforces the false belief that the positive qualities you see “out there” – in those you admire – do not reside “in here” within yourself.

This sets the hero on an untouchable pedestal.
It separates you from your own greatness.
It builds dependency – and undermines your own development.

When we don’t give enough attention to the process of hero worship –it will tend to operate in this unhealthy, unconscious, and damaging manner.

But, conscious hero worship – is the intentional use of projection.
Conscious hero worship harnesses the natural process of projection – in the service of your own development.

This has profound implications for those of us interested in developing our own (or others) leadership. It offers a skillful way of using hero worship – to support your own leadership development.

You can engage the natural process of projection – to accelerate your leadership development.

You do this by:

1) Identifying a leader you deeply admire

So who is a leader that you deeply admire? This could be someone that is famous or known only to you and a few other people. They may or may not have a lofty title of position. What matters is that they capture your imagination. That they resonate deep within your soul.
When you think of them, you feel something within you starting to stir, to wake up. (Yes – it’s those dormant qualities stirring to life)!!

2) List the qualities that make this leader so meaningful & important to you

Focus not so much on their accomplishments – as on those qualities of character that makes this leader so meaningful to you. Focus on who they are – their being – more than what they do.

3) Embrace their image with your creative imagination

This is where you let your five-year old imagination take over. Don’t over think this process. Don’t analyze. Just let your five-year old imagination begin to strengthen your inner experience of that leader.
Get a sense of who they are. Imagine how they move through the world. How they talk. Interact with others. The tone and tempo of their voice. The look in their eyes. The feeling they bring into a room. Their presence.

4) Feel the resonance of their qualities within you

Begin to make a shift from focusing on “their qualities” to feeling the presence of those very qualities within you. Again, don’t over think this step. Let yourself simply and directly be aware that the very same qualities you admire in “them” – exist within you. Some people sense the presence of these qualities as a feeling of warmth in their heart. Others have a more general sense of well-being or heightened energy. Notice the ways in which you become aware of those qualities stirring within you.

You don’t need to put on a Mighty Mouse costume

When I was five, it made sense to dress up like my hero. But, you don’t have to tie a cape around your neck to put the creative power of hero worship to work for you.

You simply have to recognize that:

  1. You admire in others – what is dormant within you
  2. This process occurs naturally – through the mechanism of projection
  3. By harnessing the power of projection – you can accelerate your own development

Soon you’ll be flying through the corridors and hallways of your organization.

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Categories Leadership · Learning

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 pqr // Aug 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Good interpretation of Hero Worship. Very helpful.

  • 2 Eric // Aug 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks Chandra!

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