The Unsung Hero Leadership Archetype

Continuing Our Series on Boosting Leadership Performance through Archetypes


leadership archetype - Unsung HeroSo far this month, I have talked about how using the power of archetypes can clarify leadership styles and boost performance. Next, I would like to take a closer look at several leadership archetypes that occur frequently. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each style? How can you know when each fits the current needs of your company? First up: The Unsung Hero.


The Unsung Hero

Henry had always been a hard worker. Throughout his career, he found himself in the role of “right-hand man,” helping the CEO clarify and refine the company strategy. Most importantly, he was the one who saw to the execution of that strategy through twists, turns, and unforeseen obstacles.

Several years ago, he had joined a startup because he knew and trusted the private equity team. Three visionaries who were known for developing leading-edge software led the new company. Their latest effort promised to be game changing in the commercial real estate industry.

Henry’s problem was that he didn’t like bragging or pointing out his accomplishments. During the first few years of the business, he had saved the company tens of thousands by preventing costly liabilities. He regularly helped expand business with current customers. Henry worked long hours, spent time away from his family, and did whatever was necessary to retain and add new clients. He was just doing his job.

When it came time for the company to decide who would have profit sharing or an equity stake, Henry was surprised to learn he was not on the short list.


What went wrong?


Henry made it all look so easy to the leadership that they thought the company would succeed no matter what. They suffered from a touch of what I call “Inventor’s Syndrome,” the mistaken belief that “if we build it, they will come.”

The founders liked Henry well enough, but as is common, they over-estimated their product somewhat. They had reached the conclusion that pretty much anyone could have achieved the same result that Henry had over the years.


Henry was the Unsung Hero.


What Henry decided to do next changed not only the future of the company but also his future-and for the better.

Over the coming months, Henry changed three behaviors:


  • He adapted his communication style with the PE team from the detail level to the strategic level
  • He communicated his wins for the company in quantifiable terms
  • He shifted his focus to more strategic actions and delegated more to his team


The Result:

After nearly a year of deploying a more decisive and strategic style, Henry presented his accomplishments with the goal of obtaining a raise and an equity stake. He achieved both goals.



Doing the right thing isn’t enough. Owning your successes may be uncomfortable. In this instance, the difference between the Hero and the Unsung Hero was Henry’s ability to adapt his leadership style to the needs of the company and the situation.