The idea of the lone, singular hero is a myth. Too often, we take on great heroic challenges by ourselves, carrying the weight of success and failure on our shoulders, and the myth of the singular hero makes that weight even heavier.
But, we're not alone.
Even the strongest and most powerful superheroes have family, friends, and other ordinary people who provided critical help and support along the way. Some superheroes are part of larger teams (such as the Avengers or the Fantastic Four), while others have valuable companions (Batman-Alfred Pennyworth, Superman-Lois Lane, Wonder Woman-I Ching).
In the real world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for civil rights alongside Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and Hosea Williams; and Oprah Winfrey includes Gayle King and Maya Angelou among those who provide encouragement, friendship, and guidance.
The greatest heroes in our world surround themselves with amazing, inspiring, and strong people, who serve as allies, coaches/mentors, and supporters. Without them, our heroes' legacies may be very different.
The last five weeks, we have examined the heroic arts of the Hero’s Question, the Heart of Courage, the Rock of Strength, the Speed of One, and the Practice of Sacrifice. This week is the final installment of a six part series to assist you in the hero’s journey. Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo identified the key arts necessary to nurture “Heroes-in-Waiting”. They are: Question, Courage, Strength, Speed, Sacrifice, and Team.
In Iron Man 2 (2010), Tony Stark (Robert Downer, Jr.) is confronted with the reality that, despite his incredible accomplishments as Iron Man, he cannot continue to save the world by himself. At the outset, Tony proclaims, "I did you a big favor ... I successfully privatized world peace," and it is obvious that Tony's heroic journey is a self-centered, solitary one. Colonel James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) pleads, "This lone gunslinger act is unnecessary... you don't have to do this alone!", and Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) rightfully points out that Tony is a textbook narcissist.
Alone, he is on the brink of catastrophic failure, and he is at his most vulnerable as a hero and as a person.
On Tony's team, Rhodey, Colonel Nick Fury, and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) demonstrate the key roles of a hero's team.
- Allies (Rhodey): People who are actively engaged in the fight; they stand side-by-side with the hero. In the final fight against Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), Rhodey mans the War Machine suit and fights side-by-side with Tony.
- Coaches/mentors (Colonel Nick Fury): People who provide spiritual or tactical advice or guidance to the hero, but may not be directly involved in the hero's journey. As Tony is at his lowest emotional and physical point, Fury provides guidance for Tony to find a new power source, and places Tony's work in the larger context of his father's legacy.
- Supporters (Pepper): People who may be the hero's close companions, but who are not directly involved in the fight and who don't provide tactical guidance. However, they often provide critical emotional support. In one of the closing scenes, Tony tells Pepper, "You deserve better. You take such good care of me. I was in a tough spot, and you got me through it."
In contrast to the villains' team, which dissolved with mistrust, the good guys each played their roles for the good of the team. Together, they saved the world.
Now, with your own team of allies, coaches/mentors, and supporters, you can change the world for one person, your organization, or your community.
CALL TO ACTION: Matt Langdon has an insightful activity of creating your own Round Table. In that version, you can choose literally anybody - alive or deceased, factual or fictional. For the purposes of building a network of support, focus on the people in your life who can be members of your stalwart team. Who are your allies, your coaches/mentors, and your supporters?
As you are assembling your team, it is important that the people on your team represent a broad, diverse group of people. There are three questions to ask yourself about each person:
- Does the person have the ability (influence or power) to make change? If the answer is yes, he/she may be a good ally.
- Does the person have valuable experience or knowledge? If the answer is yes, he/she may be a good coach/mentor.
- Is the person credible, respected, and trusted with you, within the community, and within the organization? If you are going to count on this person for any of the three roles, it is important that they have the highest integrity.