Heroes, Pioneers & Martyrs

March 21, 2011

I have an insatiable need to learn. One of the things I love to read about or watch on TV are biographies or documentaries on the lives of ‘great’ people.  The more I study the lives of great people we’ve come to idolize, I understand they were people of great strength with equal weaknesses. It is a fan’s tendency to ignore the weakness and idolize the strength.

I’ve recently had some heavy discussions regarding the leadership styles of current figures like Steve Jobs.  I don’t know Jobs, but I have always considered him a pioneer! When I read about leadership articles about Steve Jobs or Walt Disney I wonder if we are erroneously crediting them with leadership skills when really they are phenomenal pioneers?

We live in a time where any who stands out is getting tagged as a leader. I don’t agree with this. So I thought to reintroduce the following:

Hero/Heroine

The origin in Greek was a demigod. It literally means protector or defender.  This meaning evolved into a person of great renown, a mythological or legendary figure endowed with great abilities and strength.  Michael Jordan and Carl Lewis are two of my favorite sports heroes.  George Washington is one of my favorite American Heroes and leaders. Many of this countries founders are heroes, who’s single act of defiance against Britain birthed this country. Let me not forget the millions of African-Americans who died under slavery!  Their heroism lives in the heart of African-Americans today.

Pioneer

…Quite simply is somebody who is first.  This is someone who prepares the way so that others can follow. Being a pioneer implies there’s no set path to follow to get to your destination. You are the pathmaker.  Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Walt Disney are definitely pioneers. Being a pioneer doesn’t mean others will follow. Just consider whoever invented the Segway.

Martyr

The Greek origin of the word means ‘witness’.  But it’s meaning has evolved into “someone who voluntarily suffers death for a principle or belief.” Joan of Arc is the one who I’ve always admired.  She was a hero for her people and those in power turned on her.  It was 25 years after her execution before an appellate court declared her innocence. It was nearly 500 years before the Catholic church canonized her.

Role models can come from any of the above definitions but not all are leaders. I think we need to slow down the leader worship.  And we need to stop pushing the yoke of leadership on people who were destined to be heroes, pioneers or martyrs.

Laurinda

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I'm Laurinda and I'm a Program Manager by day, Writer by night, Engineer by trade, Speaker sometimes & Christian always. I have a passion for leadership, wine, good friends & science fiction.

One response to Heroes, Pioneers & Martyrs

  1. I agree with you that people should differentiate the meanings of these behaviors. I did a lot of research on archetypes for my book, Wander Woman. Not only does it help to differentiate the behavior and what these patterns mean, being familiar with archetypes is a great way to define and expand your own sense of self. I wrote a post on this for Huffington last year at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-reynolds/sel…. Also, I like your point about Steve Jobs. He might be a good leader, but he known for being a pioneer which probably has him looking more outward than inward to his organization…a good place for him to be!