Who are today’s heroes?

Since time began, human beings have looked to, and admired, certain people who they believed were “stronger” than others.

They called them heroes. We have however evolved to the point where we possibly need to reconsider our view of what a hero – or heroine – is.

The word “hero” is defined as a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements or noble qualities. Nothing wrong with that! But Hollywood got hold of the concept and decided to redefine heroes in terms of something a lot more exciting in order to draw people to cinemas to enjoy seeing “Hollywood heroes” saving the world.

The cowboy movies, or Westerns, very neatly captured the concept of the hero with the gun in their hand. You know the story … Poor frontier townspeople struggling under the power of some arrogant, crooked but wealthy rancher who has the corrupt sheriff doing his bidding. Sounds horribly familiar and close to home, doesn’t it? Just shows, names and places may change but people remain the same.

Good guy rides into town and discovers what’s happening, hears the townspeople’s desperate cries for help and decides to take on the baddies. It usually starts with him reluctantly allowing himself to be drawn into a gunfight in the main street which is watched by just about the whole town’s population, young and old.

Naturally, our hero wins the gunfight and so sends a clear message to the wealthy, corrupt rancher that his days are numbered. Of course, the rancher doesn’t take this lying down and sends a posse of hired guns into town to teach our hero a lesson. They didn’t realise how smart, fast and straight shooting our hero is and the hired guns are systematically taken out of the game. Stripped of his power, the corrupt rancher is hounded out of town, never to trouble the townspeople again. And our hero? He’s appointed as the local sheriff after the former corrupt sheriff is also chased out of town with his tail between his legs.

If only life were that simple …

Over the decades, Hollywood has spun the above theme into multiple contexts – we’ve had the war heroes saving their troops and country, the cop heroes, saving their cities from crime, and the secret agent heroes (remember James Bond?) saving the world. All of them were heroes with guns in their hands.

But times have changed. The heroes we now need don’t need guns in their hands – they need gifts in their hands. They need to give their communities, countries and the world something else, whether it be the gift of their expertise, courage, insight and wisdom, or the gift of their time and opportunities, today’s problems are not going to be solved by guns, wars or walls (are you listening, Donald Trump?). They need much smarter, more sophisticated solutions. Our heroes will however need to display the same guts and courage as our onscreen heroes displayed.

Back in the local frontier town of South Africa – and South Africa is indeed a frontier town with high risk but many opportunities – it’s taken a long time, but our heroes are finally starting to put up their hands as the new sheriff in town, Sheriff Ramaphosa, sets about taking down the corrupt ranchers who have been robbing the townsfolk.

And who might our heroes be? Well, try Standard Bank CEO Sim Tshabalala, for a start. He and his other banking head colleagues stood up to the bullyboy attempts by the ANC to get them to reopen Gupta bank accounts. Standard Bank’s legal counsel at the time, Ian Sinton, made the interesting observation that he had never seen his boss (Sim) so angry. Good for you, Sim! You’re the kind of hero this country needs – people who don’t carry guns but who refuse to allow bullies to intimidate them.

I encourage all rightminded, upright citizens to refuse to be intimidated by society’s bullies. It’s not about looking for a fight. It’s about not allowing corrupt bullies to get their way.

So, away with the heroes with guns in their hands. Let’s start recognising the heroes who don’t carry guns but who are committed to making the world a better place.

Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“.

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