We don’t need another hero


The 1970s were difficult says Simon Denny from Northampton University, but at least we can take heed from the Paper Lace song 'Billy Don't be a Hero'. Here's why.


The 1970s were dreadful. We had the Three Day Week, the Winter of Discontent, and to compound the misery, in 1974 Paper Lace released what is possibly the worst pop song ever. ‘Billy Don’t be a Hero’ had trite lyrics, a banal tune and was fantastically, annoyingly catchy. (If you don’t remember 1974, or don’t believe me, watch it for yourself.)

However, while the Three Day Week and the Winter of Discontent have become part of our past, the message of Paper Lace is still with us and, I suggest, very relevant to social entrepreneurs. 
Social enterprises in the UK are mainly small organisations. They have frequently been set up by somebody with a real personal mission and fantastic drive. They have survived and succeeded largely because of the personal efforts of the founding manager. Then they grow, and the trouble starts. As new businesses have shown for ever, it is easier for the boss to be a hero than it is for them to let go. While being the resident hero in a small-scale operation is often required, once the enterprises grow beyond a certain point nobody can be a hero for everything, all the time, and everywhere. If you want to see a failing middle size business, look for the heroic entrepreneur, note the inefficiencies, talk to the de-motivated staff and ask customers and suppliers what they think of the service.
Richard Hazenberg and Fred Seddon of the University of Northampton have recently written up their research into a social enterprise that has been very successful as a small business and is now growing into a mid-size enterprise. They were interested into how the founding director had changed his management style to take account of the growth of the business. What did they find?
“Billy deserves a lot of credit for what he has done done. He’s come in, He’s set this up. He’s hell bent on making it. Certainly, Billy is like the ‘Messiah’.”
They found a hero!
Luckily, some social entrepreneurs do stop being heros. How do they do it? Easy, it’s a two-step process. Step 1: tell yourself you are going to delegate. Step 2: delegate.
To help stop unnecessary and inappropriate heroics, Pioneers Post Business School brings you ‘Delegation – a practical guide for social entrepreneurs’. If you are running a small, success and growing social enterprise, if you are over-worked, over-tired and think you might be a hero, read it! Alternatively, watch the Youtube clip again, and again, and again…