When it comes to heroes, one could think of individuals who respond drastically when duty calls. Duty in this case consists in actions aiming at the common good. According to Philip Zimbardo and his concept of the ‘banality of heroism’, circumstances can force even the most ordinary people to commit acts of ‘heroism’. The flip side lies at ‘the banality of evil’: under certain conditions and social pressures, usually involving authority, individuals are likely to resort to acts that harm others. A philosophical question arises at this point: Can an individual turn into an evil person? Accordingly, can an individual turn into a hero?
In contemporary societies, resistance to corruption is often perceived as incompetence. In corrupted businesses, the border between good and evil or common good and selfishness is vague. Individuals who fight corruption become a possible risk. Evil people commit acts intended to hurt, insult and humiliate others, and they tend to harm whoever they dislike or antagonise, often by taking advantage of other people’s authority. One cannot help but wonder: what is it that makes some people ethical whereas others sink in immorality and crime?
The link between good and evil lies in the grey area between common good and common interest, the thin line between good and bad leadership, the corruption and the lack of meritocracy and values. In the context of business, one should consider the extent to which corruption becomes the norm within an organisation, and whether the sense of duty is an objective or an end in itself.
The first response of many people who are called heroes is to deny their own uniqueness with statements like, “Anyone in the same situation would have done what I did”. They do not see themselves as heroes. Therefore, their actions may be heroic, but they themselves do not qualify to be heroes as they do not aim at challenging authority and changing the system.
Nowadays, heroism is rare and heroes are truly special. Social awareness and sensibility about the consequences of one’s actions are necessary when it comes to characterising deeds as heroic and individuals as heroes. It is all very much a matter of society and viewpoint.
Wisdom, knowledge, courage, self-control and transcendent human values are only some qualities of heroic deeds. According to psychologists Alice Eagly and Selwyn Becker, a mixture of courage and passion for a cause is most likely to lead in success than merely courage on its own.
Given the great need for heroes and their acts of leadership today, it is worth examining the association between heroism, heroes and leaders. Individuals whose life aim is to provide for the society they live in, defend their religion and promote the company they are employed in are indispensable. A leadership figure is capable of inspiring and enabling individuals to improve their skills and attitude, thereby creating small groups of people who act the hero in everyday life. These heroes can bring about small-scale changes in their environment and pave the way for others to follow. Leaders can then manage these changes according to their pursuits and aspirations.
The need for individuals with the genuine characteristics of a hero gives a clearer view of a problem which yet remains unresolved; the implicit need for genuine leaders.