How to Embrace Your Nobility and Lead with Dignity

I decided to begin the presentation, “Thank you for being heroes.” But, I ended up saying the opposite.

It was dark while I drove to the hotel. I was scheduled to give a presentation to school teachers and administrators the next afternoon.

In the dark, faces of teachers I hadn’t thought of for years flashed in my memory.

The next afternoon, I began by saying, “When you look at me today, you see glimpses of the teachers who cared for me. I am who I am today, in part, because of them.”

“I intended to call you heroes, but you’re not heroes. (long pause.) The people you serve are heroes.”

I heard one teacher shout out, “That’s right.” I asked her if she was a Baptist or Pentecostal. We all laughed.

Something powerful happens when you realize leadership is about others. Yes, it’s humbling. But there’s more.


Nobility in leadership arrives when you realize the people you serve are the heroes of the story.

There are too many leaders running around with capes. In reality, it’s the leader’s job to pin the cape on others.

The teachers who changed me made me the hero.

Leader as hero-maker:

  1. Help people believe they can make a difference. See strength in others. Stop obsessing about things they can’t do.
  2. Turn the spotlight on others. The more deeply you enjoy the spotlight, the more urgently you must turn it on others.
  3. Make space for strategic struggle. Don’t quickly fix other people’s problems. People gain confidence when they hack through difficult situations. (Stay available to help. Coach. But don’t meddle.)
  4. Keep reciting, “The people around this table are the heroes of the story.” They aren’t the enemy.

The vision of leadership is building an organization of heroes.

How might leaders practice the art of being hero-makers?

Thanks to Donald Miller and his clarity about heroes in his new book, “Building a Story Brand.”