The gruff pattern of Victorian heroics, triumphing or succumbing over or through adversity is deeply grounded in our psyche. Ground in like the dirt on their faces as they stare, grittily, out from grainy black and white photos. Gruff, bearded, with heavy eyes and the weight of leadership on their souls.
Today’s heroes wield a different form of power: more consensual, contextual and fluid. It’s granted by the community and is often invisible, but exist it does and understand it we should. Because social authority carries the potential for change that often eludes the formal.
Social heroes emerge when the situation demands: the people who do what needs to be done, for the good of the community. They are the people who care, who connect, who share. People who transmit important stories, build communities of change and take purposeful action.
We still have the old style of heroics: that which involves running across the battlefield, but the model of social heroics recognises that the old models don’t always transmit into the new space. We are able to affect change at a distance now, often through social collaborative technology and often at great speed.
Within our own organisations, people take on these roles: the ones who nurture and support communities, the ones who quietly drive change, the ones who often stand up and hold us to account. The people who ask ‘why?‘.
And, of course, they wouldn’t call themselves heroes at all. It’s a different thing for a different age. These are the Social Leaders, the ones who understand the nature of Social Capital and can both build and invest it wisely. The ones who act with humility and kindness, respect and with care.