Why Leaders Talk About Heroes


If you want to remind people of what is important and help to bring out the best in them, take time to talk about your heroes.

Reframing Organizations

Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal help leaders make sense of organizations by examining them through four lenses or frames:[1]

  • The structural frame
  • This is the architecture of the organization, how groups and teams are organized and structured to get results.
  • The human resource frame
  • This is the people of the organization, how interpersonal and group dynamics interplay in achieving results.
  • The political frame
  • This is the internal and external political workings of an organization. It includes how people tackle issues of power and conflict, resource allocation, and decision making.
  • The symbolic frame
  • This is the culture of the organization, including its rituals, ceremonies, stories . . . and its heroes.

Heroes are a key component of the organization's culture. Because of this, when leaders highlight and retell their stories they remind the organization of what is important and help it to stay on track.We see this in history and in Scripture.

Ronald Reagan Highlighted Heroes

In Eyewitness To Power, David Gergen recounted Ronald Reagan's prowess for using heroes to exemplify the best of the American spirit. Reagan planted a "hero in the balcony" during his State of the Union address in 1982. Gergen comments:

[Reagan] had long pointed to heroes as a way to retell the American story and illustrate the values he thought precious. 'Some days when life seems hard, and we reach for values to sustain us, or a friend to help us, we find a person who reminds us what it means to be an American,' he once said. [2]

As Reagan demonstrated, telling the stories of heroes reminds people of what matters and encourages them to follow in a similar path.

God Reminds Us Of Heroes

Opening the pages of Scripture, we find that God helps us remember who and what is important through the telling and retelling of the stories of heroic people and events.

  • David's mighty men (2 Samuel 23)
  • Paul's carefully noted friends (1 Corinthians 16, Romans 16, Colossians 4)
  • The Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11)

The great heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 are pictured as "a cloud of witnessess" to be emulated. They surround us and remind us to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Identifying Your Heroes

We think of heroes as people who have done brave things. They are! They are also people we admire for their noble actions, enduring personal qualities, and sacrificial spirit.

Who are the heroes in your organization? Take a moment and identify two or three people. Write down their names and why they "fit the bill."

1. ______________________________________________________

2. ______________________________________________________

3. ______________________________________________________

Tell Their Stories

Highlighting heroes highlights the values we hold dear. Here are eight ways to tell the stories of your heroes:

  1. Give an award. Giving a regular award (quarterly, annually) provides an opportunity to acknowledge the value or ideal for which the hero stood.
  2. Share a history lesson. People quickly forget the past. Exodus 1:8 reminds us,"There arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph." Even cherished people get forgotten. Use key times to tell their stories.
  3. Start a scholarship. Scholarships provide an ongoing way of honoring heroes and highlighting what we want others to emulate about them.
  4. Keep a framed picture of a hero on your desk. Tell the person's story to those who ask. This is a wonderful way to honor people, keep a memory alive, and remember what is important.
  5. Create a memorial fund in honor of your hero.
  6. Erect a plaque. Plaques are inexpensive and provide a visible reminder of who and what we value.
  7. Thank God for your heroes.Giving thanks to God---and doing it publicly---points people to the Lord as the source of all good things. It also reminds us and others of those good things for which we are thankful.
  8. "That reminds me of ..." statements. When leaders catch people living out the values the organization holds dear they can say, "Way to go. That reminds me of..." and name the hero whose life exhibited the same value.

It is much easier to read about heroes than to talk about heroes. But when an organization takes the time to tell its heroes' stories it actually highlights who it is at the core. It reminds people of what is important and helps bring out the best in others by providing great examples to follow.

Whose story should you tell today?


[1] Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2008, page 20.

[2] David Gergen, Eyewitness To Power, page 229.