I was asked recently who my hero / heroine is. As a bit of a list-lover, I quickly reeled off several names but was promptly interrupted and told I could only pick one. This had me a bit stumped, so in order to figure out who occupied the number one spot, I started to think about why I admired these people – was it the type of person they were? What they had achieved in the face of adversity? Did I want to “be” them? To be honest, they fell into all of these categories and none.
Why do we need heroes?
Taking it a step further (I am prone to over-analysis – I blame Dawson’s Creek as a teenager) I started to think about why we have heroes. Is it the case that, in the words of Tryon Edwards “People never improve unless they look to some standard or example higher or better than themselves.” A quote which, coming from a famous theologian (thanks Wikipedia!), I initially felt had rather too much of a “humans need a higher power” feel to it. Naturally, we humans like a bit of hierarchy, many of us feel a bit lost without it. Particularly in the world of business, a bit of rank and order helps us out. It gives us something to strive for – so on reflection maybe Tryon has a point.
From childhood, we are generally looking upwards (at 5ft 3.5 I’m still looking upwards) for direction on how we should act and what our goals should be. We are raised on a diet of role models and examples; whether it’s the sibling who played cricket for the county, the family tradition of studying medicine – or the curious case of anti-heroes, whereby children are encouraged to succeed where parents and siblings have failed. In the workplace this continues – heroes and anti-heroes; our bosses fall into these same categories – the ones that you wish to emulate and make proud; and the ones whose actions you put on your personal “To-Don’t” list for when you’re CEO.
Be your own hero(ine)
For many though, there comes a time when we want to be our own heroes. For some entrepreneurs this comes at a pretty young age. I’ve been meeting some inspiring people recently while networking who have set up on their own and done extraordinarily well. In my mind, these people are heroes. Partly because they have all the characteristics I feel heroes should have – they’re ambitious, driven, not afraid to fail, passionate, personable (you don’t sell your wares without being able to talk to people), and normal. That last characteristic probably doesn’t sound very “hero-like” (especially if you watch the television series) but it’s one I’ve come to really value. Many of the heroes that we have are athletes, politicians (it happens), scientists, captains of industry…the list goes on. But if we dig a bit deeper, many of these people share characteristics with the regular heroes. Perhaps then, it’s the characteristics we should aspire to, rather than the people themselves, because the people have been moulded by circumstance, happenstance and the time and the place they live in (I couldn’t think of another “-stance”) so it’s difficult for us to be exactly like them, as much as we may wish it. Maybe we should be happy with “being” the characteristics we admire. There’s nothing wrong with having heroes and heroines; it’s healthy to admire people and wish to emulate their actions. Instead though, let’s concentrate our efforts on our ambition, our fearlessness and the other traits we marvel at, so at the end of the day we can be our own heroes.
We would love to hear who your heroes and heroines are. Let us know…
About the Author: Joanne Rourke is the Associate Director of Sustainability at Peter Deer and Associates, an engineering firm, based in north London. Given that many businesses wish to do something to improve the sustainability of their practices, her goal is to help them identify this “something” and act on it. This can be as simple as developing relationships with local businesses to improve their place in the community or as complex as creating sustainable waste management systems for entire company networks. She is passionate about educating businesses and individuals on what true sustainability means and how this can help their business grow and develop. The fact that sustainability is not just about the environment is often well concealed, so it’s her goal to help people achieve social, economic and environmental sustainability in ways that suit their business model. She works with many different types of organisations – from colleges and universities to property management companies; analyzing their current performance and developing their personal sustainability strategy