How to Be a Hero

I’ve been thinking about our most valuable currency as leaders. It’s not something you can store in banks, lend or steal. It is, however, something you can use and accumulate in a business, whether you’re an individual, a partnership or a corporation. While general accounting principles don’t classify it as such, it is a legitimate asset that truly builds wealth, and the most consistently productive and effective leaders build significant amounts of it.

This valuable asset is called “Relationship Capital.”

I sat across the table from a healing friend yesterday. A month ago, he was riding his bike in Waconia, MN, which is about 45 minutes west of Minneapolis where most of suburbia has faded into country. A rare convergence of circumstances threw him from his bike.

He lay in 85-degree sun for a long time while mosquitos attacked his body. Broken ribs, punctured lung, and dislocated shoulder. Screaming with no one to listen.

Finally, a young mother drove by with her infant and toddler. I can only imagine all of the reasons she gave herself to keep driving, but she stopped and actually took him to the Waconia Hospital. She then returned to the scene of the accident, threw his bike in her car, took it home, and penned a note for my friend at the hospital.

After five days in the hospital, my friend left in a wheelchair to hugs from the hospital staff. Every one of them, he said with a catch in his voice and tears in his eyes, was a hero.


What if organizations were filled with more heroes? I suspect it would profoundly impact Relationship Capital. Here’s how you and I can accumulate that asset today:

1. Tap into your inner HERO. According to a prominent organizational psychologist, research shows that leaders need to cultivate Psychological Capital (PsyCap) to build Relationship Capital. She describes the HERO resources of PsyCap as:

Hope: belief in ability to persevere
Efficacy: confidence that effort will affect outcomes
Resilience: buoyancy in the face of adversity
Optimism: positive view of work and potential

2. Spend time on your relationship skills. The work we need to do is often common sense but not common practice. By intentionally practicing and applying proven principles with the help of a coach, we can significantly improve our relationships. A mentor or coach can help us see ourselves for who we really are and provide the necessary accountability and encouragement to improve. Our firm created a video (Developing Relationship Capital) highlighting the impact to Relationship Capital when we work on these skills.

3. Eliminate hurry. When you feel the draw to take a ride in the country, do you follow it or fight it? Could you build the margin into your schedule to slow down and help someone who needed you in that moment, the way that mom did last month with my friend?

This idea of “hurry” that seems to permeate our lives has me contemplating the question a trusted mentor asked me this week:

“Do you think you’d accomplish more or less if you slowed down?”

I think that I’d respond to fewer emails and check fewer boxes off the list. But I’d be more available for what matters most and where the true value lies—relationships.

What would you add to the list? How do you build Relationship Capital?



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