Hero-Leaders: The Oasis in Today’s Desert of Leadership – Thoughts from Chapter 37 of The Leadership Muse

“Just as the visible world is sustained by the invisible, so too do the manifestations of man find nourishment in the visions of our solitary dreamers.” – Wayne Dyer, author of The Power of Intention

Today’s aspiring government leaders find themselves too often facing impossible challenges with few resources available to help them. More than ever, we need our 21st century leaders to do more than wring their hands in despair. We need hero-leaders who have a vision for a different outcome and can take action to transform their invisible courage and faith to substance and reality.

Do you have these aspirations? We all do I think. But, how do we find our way in this darkness and turn our leadership nightmares into manifested dreams of the possible? Facing these impossible situations where all hope is lost and it hardly seems worth the effort to try. But it is worth it.

Consider the story of Rodger, who leads a large software-development group which creates applications to support the day-to-day business functions of its clients. When an F-5 tornado devastated parts of Alabama in April 2011, Rodger’s world of extraordinary technical leadership in developing business software became ordinary and unimpressive. Setting aside the challenges of technology integration in a complex organization of 18,000 employees and leaving an oasis of diesel-generated electricity, he rolled up his sleeves to help people in Athens, Alabama. He worked with his church to serve hot sandwiches, cold water, encouragement, and prayer to people whose lives had been turned upside down, many of whom lost everything.

There, he met two ordinary ladies who lost all their worldly possessions in a few brief minutes. They were resilient and grateful to be alive. Inspired by these tenth muses, Rodger returned to his work as a technology leader with thoughts of not just the financial systems in his domain, but the programmers – the people — he led who lost loved ones and lost their homes. Thankful that everyone in his group had been accounted for, he sent them a heartfelt, stream-of-consciousness e-mail:

Both ladies were praising God and thankful for all their blessings. Talking about living out Philippians 4:11-13!!! My hope was to be a blessing and encouragement to others, and I left as the one blessed and encouraged!

We need hero-leaders like Rodger, who find inspiration amid rubble and broken glass. In seeking to help and encourage others, he was himself transformed. And this transformation inspired him to look past the rubble and glass and see the reality of a restored future. Rodger found his Leadership Muse that day.

History reminds us over and over about the need for such heroes, and hero-leaders in particular. These are the souls who prevail against all odds and face the certainty of defeat or death to achieve the “impossible.” They courageously overcome fear – and inspire others to do the same. They don’t give up in the face of danger; they take risks when few others will; they believe in what they are doing; and they rarely ask for anything in return. They led soldiers during Operation Desert Storm; they led teams of medical technicians in Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; and they led teams of doomed firefighters after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Perhaps this talk of hero-leaders inspired by a Leadership Muse seems like a mirage. But, these ordinary men and women are just like you. They are merely differentiated by their ability to hear and see their Muse. The leader who recognizes his Muses (no matter what form they take) and listens to their inspiration will be able to do the impossible – and motivate followers to do likewise.

The Muse-inspired leader will raise her skill sets to the level of artistic mastery and will always be on the lookout for the Leadership Muse and the lightening strike of inspiration – when she is ordering pizza for her geeks, in the sky overhead, at the hairdresser, feeling a bit nuts, lying awake on sleepless nights, and even on vacation. But inspiration is everywhere, for all of us, if we just keep our eyes and ears vigilant.

You may doubt the existence of the Muse – those laurel-wearing goddesses who whisper into the ears of artists and leaders alike, but do not doubt what they represent – the inspiration that our world so desperately needs. Kryptonite of doubt will neutralize the hero-leader’s ability to succeed. We need these believing dreamers to save our world.

Do you dare become one of these hero-leaders? Start your epic journey today. Have the courage to dream, be aware of your talents and gifts, and fuel the desires of your heart with muse-inspired passion.

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Gordon Lee Salmon

Thanks Linda for your inspirational thoughts and stories of selfless service. When we see examples of such leaders do we step forward and thank them? Do we reflect on what they did and ask how we might be able to pay it forward in our own life ?

Andrew Krzmarzick

In a society where self-help books push us to promote ourselves and build our “personal brands,” we’re not encouraged to take on the tough tasks that could be, in the end, self-sacrificial as we face the high possibility of breaking ourselves on the rocks of entrenched challenges or impossible odds.

I think that’s why hero-leaders are so impressive – they’re risk takers and big bet makers…but they place their money on the unglamorous, hard slog fights that take commitment, tenacity and perseverance to make a difference.

David Dejewski

There are two root components to true leadership: Love and Courage.
Leaders leap off the pages of whatever books they’ve read and get messy. When there is no academic play book left to stand on, they need to turn inward for guidance and inspiration.
In my experience, if a leader can find a way to love the people he/she is leading, a lot of the uncertainty about what to do next fades away. They do what’s best for the group given the knowledge they have at the time. They will not be right all the time, but they will be better able to sleep at night, and they will have the respect of the people.
Courage sometimes requires mind tricks. The definition of Courage that I use is feeling the fear, but doing it anyway. As a fireman, I discovered I did not like to be in closed spaces. I overcame my fear by imagining my sister was trapped in whatever black, hot, smoky structure I was asked to crawl into. My desire to save my sister’s life was more powerful than the fear I had of closed spaces. I went in every time.