They put others before themselves. They sprint into danger. They pay dearly for their courage, and they often go years--if ever--without the recognition they deserve.
Washington is not the first place most people expect to find heroism these days, but this year the White House has been full of true heroes. I'm not talking about politics. I'm far too smart to do that. Instead, I'm referring to a series of ceremonies this year in which an unusually large number of U.S. veterans have been awarded the Medal of Honor. (The ceremonies will continue throughout the rest of the year.)
"Their courage almost defies imagination," President Obama said at a ceremony recently honoring 24 such heroes whose awards were delayed for years because of prejudice and bureaucratic ineptitude. He's right, but we can also find similarities in their stories, and inspiration. While few of us are called to rush into oncoming bullets, we make choices every day about whether to act heroically or ordinarily. Here are five qualities that truly heroic leaders have in common.
Courage and bravery leap to mind first when we think of heroism. It's difficult to achieve anything truly heroic unless you're up against daunting odds. As Nelson Mandela put it, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it."
Example: Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter literally dove on a grenade to protect a fellow Marine during an attack in Afghanistan in November 2010. Both men survived but were badly wounded. After a military investigation into exactly what happened, Carpenter will receive the Medal of Honor at a ceremony later this year.
True leaders always puts others first. Ironically, that kind of selflessness can often be strategic, because focusing on others' needs often winds up helping you achieve your own goals. However, a heroic leader does so without any expectation of payback.
Example: During the Korean War, an army private named Leonard Kravitz (the uncle and namesake of singer Lenny Kravitz) voluntarily stayed behind to cover the retreat of other soldiers in his unit. Remaining as the last line of defense saved his entire platoon, but it also cost him his life on March 7, 1951. It took until this year for him to be recognized posthumously for his heroism with the Medal of Honor
Nothing makes a heroic leader seem a little less heroic than if he or she seems to want constant credit for his or her actions. True heroism can amaze us, but it also often contains a component of modesty.
Example: Sgt. Santiago Erevia received the Medal of Honor earlier this year as a result of his heroism in Vietnam in 1969. During 32 years after he left the military, however, while he carried mail for the U.S. Postal Service, he never talked much about his military service--despite the fact that he'd already been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the military's second-highest honor.
"I didn't give it too much thought," Erevia said. "You know, you go from day-to-day, do what you're told."
While heroism often requires quick thinking and decisiveness, truly heroic leaders often also display an impressive amount of patience.
Example: In September 1969, Melvin Morris was a special forces sergeant serving in Vietnam, and he led a mission across enemy lines to rescue a fellow U.S. soldier. Along the way, according to an official account, he "single-handedly destroyed an enemy force that had pinned his battalion from a series of bunkers ... [and] was shot three times as he ran back toward friendly lines with the American casualties."
"Better late than never," Morris told a newspaper when asked how he felt about waiting four and a half decades to receive the medal this year. The newspaper also reported that like other heroes, Morris had never talked much about his military service, "out of respect for the gravity of taking a human life."
Separate from selflessness, heroic leaders display a sense of concern and kindness for others. This can often manifest itself in strong but gentle actions intended to improve the lives of others. These are small acts of heroism that rarely attract any notice.
Example: Army veteran Jose Rodela received the Medal of Honor earlier this year for his valor during an 18-hour battle in Vietnam in September 1969. However, Rodela was also known for having taken in a 12-year-old Cambodian orphan his unit had found living alone. Rodela made plans to adopt the boy and bring him back to his family in the United States, although the boy unfortunately was later killed when he stepped on a mine.
"That incident was the hardest he faced during his service in Vietnam," according to an official Army report, adding that Rodela still cries when he remembers the boy. "I already considered him my son."
The oxford English dictionary defines a hero as “a person, typically a man, who is admired for his courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” Both the history of the mankind and the world literature are rife with characters who have exhibited the virtues mentioned in the definition, in fact many more and have been admired, adored and revered by the entire human race. Yes, we all have read about heroes like those in the Greek or Norse mythologies and all their deeds are engraved in our minds as the paragon of heroism. However, it is also true that the world has witnessed many heroes who like all of us were crafted in blood and flesh yet by virtue of their qualities attained godhood. Albert Einstein referring to Gandhi once quoted “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” However, the question is what are those essential qualities that make a person hero? Different people have different heroes whom they look up to or try to emulate. However, whoever they may be, sport stars, film stars, politicians, social activists or businessman they all do possess certain qualities which set them apart from the commoners. Read this article to learn what essential characteristics or qualities a hero invariably possesses.
Characteristics Of A Hero
The first and the foremost quality of a hero is his courage. A hero always overcomes his fears and confronts any challenge head on. Even the faintest tinge of fear doesn’t linger in the heart of a hero.
Virtuosity is the key aspect of a hero’s character. A hero is never foolishly audacious. He always is judicious and well skilled to cite and cease the opportunities, which present themselves on the way towards his destination. A hero is laden with all the essential faculties, which are instrumental to accomplish what he seeks.
Sacrifice is a quality that stands unique from all the other virtues which makes a hero noble in his deeds. He or she is always quite willing to cast off the predilections and personal comforts whenever they become indispensable for a higher cause or for the welfare of others.
For a hero the word “Impossible” always decomposes to yield “I am possible.” A hero is unflinching in his or her determination and believes in his ability without the whiff of dubiety.
Being focused is also one of the most prominent qualities of a hero. It seems as if all the heroes that have walked on the surface of the earth have been born with definite motives. All their life they hardly lose focus of what they want to achieve or establish. For instance, it appears that Mahatma Gandhi was born with the sole purpose of driving the British forces out of then enslaved India and to preach the world the ideology of nonviolence.
A true hero is always empathetic, benevolent and shows a great deal of compassion and tenderness to those ailing or in distress. He or she keeps aside thoughts those are oriented to the self and embraces an attitude that serves others.
This quality is what that makes the hero special. Even if they encounter failure on their way, they are determined to get over it and fight till they achieve success. They do not give up simply rather they are focused to withstand all the consequences that they may encounter in their path.
The heroes are selflessly dedicated to their task and will thus focus their actions towards its achievement. They whole-heartedly dedicate themselves to the task, which is set, and work towards its completion.
In all the endeavors that a hero takes up, honesty forms the base of all his efforts. This honesty earns him the respect of others and helps him leading his followers to the desired goal.
A hero is considered to possess fierce loyalties in the sense that he is faithful to whatever tasks they take up. His commitment to a particular cause leads him way beyond others citing an example for others to follow him.
The heroes have a courage that is unshaken despite anything that comes in their path of their focused success. They are determined to fight challenges with resolute courageousness.
Heroes have a strong conviction as they have strong beliefs regarding a particular situation. It is a set of unshakable thoughts or beliefs, which cannot be altered by any chance.
Fortitude can be defined as a habit that is involved in encountering a deed that is dangerous with a bright spirit that is adopted with passive courage.
Whatever be the type of responsibility entailed on them, they take it up with utmost sincerity and take it to its logical conclusion.
Wisdom is the most desired quality, which a leader must possess. A fool can lead a horde of beasts but not human beings set on a definite purpose. Only a wise and astute person can do so. Whatever a hero maybe—a warrior, a preacher—wisdom is always an attribute that all of them possess.
A hero is not born, he is self-made. Above mentioned are some of the most fundamental qualities, which a hero invariably possesses. We all do possess some of the virtues, which have been explained above. However, what sets a hero apart from the hoi polloi is that he can be said to be the highest or the perfect embodiment of all of these virtues.