Heroic Leadership

Working in a corporate environment can suck the life out of us. We can be buffeted around by the conflict between reality and perception; between what is good for me and what is good for clients and colleagues; between taking risk or following the well trodden.

On the other hand, it also offers opportunities for immense social and commercial impact.

Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney, is by far the best book that I have read on what leadership means, as ideals, values and practices. In my case, the book was a gift — one of those precious ones that makes a lasting impact.

Many years ago, after reading the book, I made a short list of the key ideas — that have become a simple, but challenging, compass for me in my working life.

The summary is mostly about disposition or mindset, which makes them very personal. There is a danger that they are so summarised that they lose their wisdom and practical intent, but I hope that they do create some resonance towards achieving great things.

Heroic Action

  1. Vision of achieving the impossible
  2. Decisive and confident action to achieve vision
  3. Ruthlessly honest on what can be done and what has been achieved
  4. Driven by internal goals
  5. Belief that this is the greatest enterprise I could be doing
  6. Restless striving to do more and always ready to embark on adventure

Human Dignity

  1. Deep felt sense of my own dignity
  2. The same sense of dignity in others
  3. Support, trust and respect for the teams and clients we work with
  4. Sense of positive value of all people
  5. Draw out the potential of each person
  6. Unwavering commitment to others


  1. Flexible and creative outlook
  2. No attachment to particular ideas/practices, but ready to embrace the unknown
  3. Grounded by non-negotiable values and vision
  4. Promote innovation and initiative, through delegated authority from a strong centre
  5. Each problem has a solution and it is our striving that will solve it

Self Development

  1. Awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses
  2. Continual assessment of my actions and dispositions
  3. Know who I am and what I stand for
  4. Place work within the context of my life. What legacy do I want to leave?