Interestingly there is a table in Cohen’s article without discussion. The table lists situational conditions where heroic leadership is not required but more importantly conditions where heroic leadership is required. In my opinion, each of the situational factors in the table can be thought of as a continuum. (Any misinterpretations of this table are mine.)
How much pressure is brought to bear in the situation? In a very high pressure packed situation, heroic leadership may be required. What are the consequences if there is failure? If the consequences are severe, heroic leadership is needed. If the task is “difficult to impossible,” again heroic leadership is needed.
It would seem that these situations do not describe the typical workplace. However we can probably all imagine situations were there is great pressure, severe consequences, and what is needed looks impossible. What do we call those who lead, and lead successfully, in those situations? Heroes.
Cohen, W. A. (2013). Peter Drucker wants you to be a heroic leader. Organizational Dynamics, 42, 70-80.