What Makes a Hero?
Identifying and Hiring a Potential Hero
Veterans who were drafted rank higher in qualities of selflessness and working well with others than veterans who enlisted
When looking to hire potential leaders, do not underestimate those who are less eager but more thoughtful
Scroll down to read more...
Wansink, Brian, Collin Payne and Koert van Ittersum (2008). Profiling the heroic leader: empirical lessons from combat-decorated veterans of World War II. Leadership Quarterly, 19, 547-555. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2008.07.010
A study originally designed to identify the characteristics of World War II heroes has yielded valuable insights for recruiters of fire, rescue, police, and military personnel.
Researchers surveying 526 World War II veterans who had experienced "heavy and frequent" combat asked the men to rate their own levels of leadership, loyalty, and risk–taking.
Not surprisingly, the findings show that heroes rank highly in each of these qualities.
But when researchers focused on the 83 veterans who were awarded either a Bronze Star, Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, or Medal of Honor, they uncovered a difference between the men who had enlisted ("eager heroes") and those who had been drafted ("reluctant heroes").
"Having been decorated with such highly regarded medals, the veterans in both of these groups obviously exhibited great valor," said Cornell University's Dr. Brian Wansink, who led the study.
"But we found an intriguing difference in two vital measures. The 'reluctant heroes' ranked higher than the 'eager heroes' in the qualities of selflessness and working well with others. "
Wansink hopes that this fact will help recruiters, evaluators, and hiring managers involved in high–risk occupations to look past the stereotype of a hero always being a bold, outspoken leader.
"Certainly, the military, fire companies, police agencies, rescue squads, and EMT departments can all benefit from heroic leaders," he said. "And they would not want to overlook any potential hero. "
"Don't underestimate the quiet, thoughtful types," Wansink added.
Article Summary by Tom Rushmer