The heroic nature of leadership

My interest in video games has gone back over 30 years now. (Typing that sentence makes me feel old! 😂) The reason I bring up the subject is that I’ve always been drawn to the themes of:
  • heroes and villains
  • good versus evil
  • light versus dark
  • underdogs overcoming obstacles and triumphing over antagonists
These are classic stories. I’m definitely not alone in my love for these stories either. Whether it is books, comics, movies or video games, there is a huge demand for heroic stories (Avengers Endgame anyone?). Of course, we don’t have to look to the world of fantasy to find heroes. My mind immediately goes to the brave people who serve our communities and our nation. Firefighters, policemen, EMS, and the military all hold a special place in my heart and in the hearts of many others. As an Air Force veteran, I salute them all and honor those who sacrificed it all. So when I think about this concept of heroism in light of leadership and marketing, I think of some questions:
  • Are all heroes leaders?
  • Are all leaders heroes?
  • Do leaders set out to be heroes?
  • Or is it a byproduct of a life lived with intention?
  • Do all acts of heroism go viral?
  • What does it mean to be heroic?
  • Who gets to decide?
Lots of ideas to work through here but I want to focus on this concept: Small acts of heroism This may be confusing to some people because they associate the heroic with the grand and newsworthy.

But heroism is not predicated on the size of the act or how much attention it gets; it IS predicated on the impact it has on someone’s life.

Big or small. Viral or unnoticed by the masses. Have we changed someone’s life for the better in some way? We can also think about this as small acts of kindness. They are heroic because we don’t stop to dwell on the outcome. We can’t control that anyway. We do it for the sake of doing it. We all can’t run into burning buildings to save lives. Nor should we. We don’t have the training and experience. We cause more harm that way and place more people in danger. I like to think there is a whole continuum of heroism. We may not be saving lives in our day-to-day responsibilities within the marketing world. But as leaders in our respective industries, professions, and businesses, we strive to serve. We put ourselves last and put others first. We create opportunities for others to shine and succeed. We do small things for the benefit of others. We can alter a course for the better.

When we act outside of ourselves and our own self-interest, we create momentum for positive change in this world.

Reciprocity is real. It’s not the motivating factor for us as leaders. It’s a byproduct of heroism – or generosity in action. Our team members, associates, and colleagues are inspired by our actions. They want to be more and do more. They want to see great things happening around them locally and globally. It’s a virtuous circle. Heroism begets heroism. The effects of small actions spiral upward and upward.

What it takes to be a hero

It’s the selflessness factor. It’s the ability to see beyond our limited scope. It’s broadening our world view. Experience is certainly part of it. But it also comes from practice. Being able to see others – specifically seeing their struggles and distress – is a skill. Just like any other skill, it can be developed. Are we able to see the suffering around us? I’m not talking about global issues of hunger here. I’m talking about the people around us when we lift our heads up from our screens. It’s awareness, empathy, and a sensitivity to the human condition. It’s taking time out of our busy schedules to help other people. It’s going out of our way to lift another person up and to help shoulder a heavy burden. It’s a small act of heroism. What if we said to ourselves:

“For the next five minutes of my day, I will look for ways to serve people and to give unexpected aid.”

Even if we don’t find an opportunity, it makes us a little bit more aware. So that if we do it again the next day, maybe we will recognize the opportunity. We start small but we have to start. Let consistency build and it becomes much easier to identify people who need help and what we can do to provide it. We’re not expecting a reward. We’re doing it simply for the joy of the action and the pure human factor of serving other people. As a person of faith and spirituality, this concept of heroism resonates deeply with me. Heroism isn’t self-seeking. It’s self-sacrificing. It’s an outward orientation of the heart. Small acts of heroism aren’t just financial (although they might be). Obviously, there are people in this world who are struggling to put food on their tables. They live well below what we consider middle class here in America. And if that is an issue that touches your soul and you can help that; by all means put your energy behind it. I clearly recognize the blessing of living in the US today. We enjoy such an amazing standard of living. We have freedom, safety, food, clean water, homes, education and much more. Heroism is grounded in a perspective and recognition of blessings all around us. But it doesn’t attempt to hoard.

Blessings are meant to be shared.

Sometimes that is in a financial way. For instance, my family has supported, over the years, an organization that fights against human trafficking. That’s a big thing for us. That connects to our heart for foster care kids, orphans, and adoption. But let’s also talk about non-monetary kinds of giving – time, talents, and energy. Being a volunteer for something is fantastic. But you don’t have to be in an official capacity with the local shelter to make a difference.

Heroism doesn’t wait around for sanction to do good. We do.

Find the cause that stirs your soul go help. Even if nobody else sees it, you know. It’s still an act of heroism. On a personal note, I use my talents to impact my family. I am helping my kids to grow into the people God created them to be. I want to inspire them and lead them to be a force for good in the world. My hope is they, in turn, will teach their kids. Leaving a legacy of love, service, and heroism is a deep desire for me. Small acts of heroism are all around us. They don’t have to be recognized, identified, praised or even appreciated. That’s not on us. We don’t sulk because people didn’t say a simple thanks. My motto lately has simply been this: Do it anyway Because you believe in it. Because you believe you can help. Because you believe in serving others. Because you believe that it will ultimately change someone’s world or the world. Because you’re doing a good thing. You’re making an impact in the world. You’re being an influencer for a better lack of a term there. Do it regardless if you hear crickets or people hating or people simply misunderstanding your intentions. You know the value of what you’re doing. It’s creating positive change one small act a time.

Heroic marketing starts with heroic leadership

I see my brand purpose as connecting two very important subjects:
  1. Leadership
  2. Marketing
These two areas go hand in hand. Great leaders make for great marketers and vice versa. And if small acts of heroism are essential to leadership, they are vital to marketing.
  • Small acts of service
  • Going beyond the norm
  • Easing pain points
  • Giving without consideration for a return
  • Helping others succeed
These are the tenets of a successful marketing department, agency, team, or brand. Here’s the very opposite of successful marketing. We could even call it villainous marketing. Marketing that is:
  • self-serving
  • spam
  • soulless
  • over automated
  • treating people like dirt and not valuing humanity
  • not helping others (collaboration over competition idea)
  • not creating a positive impact in the world
  • creating a sour taste in people’s mouths
  • reinforcing negative stereotypes about the industry
That type of marketing ruins it for all of us. I want to be part of marketing that:
  • lifts people up
  • builds trust
  • connects people into communities
  • serves and
  • makes a difference beyond the dollars
That is effective marketing. That is heroic marketing. That is an idea that I can get behind. No cape is required. You don’t have to catch up on comic books, movies, or video games. Instead,
  • think like a hero
  • serve like a hero
  • be a humble hero
  • go beyond the immediate ramifications
  • watch marketing produce real and sustainable value
Would you like to come along on that journey? I hope so. It’s gonna be a great ride! Thanks so much for reading! If you aren’t a subscriber yet, can I ask you to sign up? If you are a subscriber, thanks for the support! Can I ask you to share with a friend? It would mean the world to me.
servant based leadership ldrbrnd gene

I’ve been helping leaders become better marketers for over 21 years and would love to help you take the next step in your spiritual leadership journey.

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