Book Summary: The Hero Factor by Jeffrey Hayzlett

Are you looking for a book summary of The Hero Factor by Jeffrey Hayzlett with Jim Eber? You have come to the right place.

I jotted down a few key insights from Jeffrey Hayzlett with Jim Eber’s book after reading it.

You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book summary provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.

Let’s get started without further ado.

In this The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures book summary, I’m going to cover the following topics:

What is The Hero Factor About?

According to the book The Hero Factor, business leaders should put people as much of a priority as profits. With the help of fascinating real-world examples and inspiring true success stories, the authors explore what heroic leadership really means.

Who is the Author of The Hero Factor?

Presenter and podcast host Jeffrey Hayzlett is known for his work on television and in the media. Besides being a former Chief Marketing Officer of a Fortune 100 company, he is a regular contributor to Forbes, Mashable, and Marketing Week.

Jim Eber is a marketing expert who focuses on writing about business.

Who is The Hero Factor For?

It is not for everyone to read The Hero Factor. If you are one of the following types of people, it may be right for you:

  • Managers who wants to learn more leadership skills
  • People who are interested in improving their interpersonal skills
  • Entrepreneurs who are seeking new ideas

The Hero Factor Book Summary

Introduction

As the world’s current crop of business leaders face massive bonuses and revelations about the abuse of power under #metoo, it’s easy to become cynical. Workers at the bottom seem to be exploited by leaders as they take an ever larger share of the corporate pie, leaving their employees with barely enough to live on.

What can leaders do to change this hostile public narrative and restore the reputation of leaders everywhere? Heroism is the answer. In a world of greed, selfishness, and short-termism among our most powerful executives, heroic leadership is a powerful antidote.

Explore how leaders can become heroes and radically change the perception of their employees and the community at large. Using real-life success stories and inspirational lessons from the author’s own career, we’ll find out how to transform relationships with your staff, and why you don’t have to choose between people and profits.

Lesson 1: Tasked with balancing the goals of their organizations and their employees, the world desperately needs heroic leaders

As so many of our corporate leaders are being implicated in odious scandals as a result of #metoo, it is easy to take a cynical view of them all. Do they consider the well-being of the ordinary people they employ, or are they just interested in their own well-being, exploiting those lower down the food chain as they go?

It is imperative that we have executives who are able to refute these horrible examples of toxic leadership and prove that the good guys still win in a climate of extreme distrust. Heroic leaders are desperately needed.

The author first became involved with heroic leadership in 2009, when he attended an annual conference of Hero Partners, a club for leaders of fast-growing businesses who are also committed to sustainable, responsible and compassionate entrepreneurship. 

At the time, the author, who was a Chief Marketing Officer at Hero Partners, was so impressed with its values that he purchased the company in 2016.

In other words, what are the heroic values that the author and his club of forward-looking entrepreneurs believe all leaders should uphold?

It’s important to have commitment and courage. Specifically, leaders must continually look for ways to serve others, whether that be their employees, their communities, or the environment.

Isn’t that easy? Maybe, but most companies are doing a poor job in this area these days. Rather, they are entirely focused on three different things: their clients, their shareholders, and their bottom line. What about the hardworking employees? As a result, they are ignored, unheard, and left with scraps.

How can we fix this? We’ll discover, among other things, that leaders can go from zero to hero by recalibrating their focus and making sure their workers, and even the wider community, feel aligned with the company’s goals.

As part of these employee goals, employees may want to live a decent life and do their best at work. Do you, as a leader, share this commitment? Unless they are, take a look at your company’s mission statement, which likely enshrined these goals, and start implementing them.

Lesson 2: Heroic leaders value people and profits equally

As a leader, what is more important to you: profit or people? Whenever the author meets business leaders, he usually asks them this simple question. However, the most heroic response is neither of the two. Heroism is the combination of both. People and profits are equally important to a company, and one must not compromise the health of the other for the sake of the other.

Following this common misunderstanding, let’s take a closer look at what types of values must be implemented in order to make significant profits while improving employee relations.

In order to boost your profits, you need to adopt the values of operational excellence.

In order to achieve operational excellence as a leader, you need to increase your revenue over time, make sure your products are superior to your competitors’, provide as much value to your clients and customers as possible, and recruit and retain talented employees. 

When you get these business principles right and stick to them like glue, profits will follow.

Now let’s examine the other side of the coin. In order for you to look after the people involved in your business, what values do you need to implement? Your employees may be directly involved, or they may be indirectly involved, such as in the greater community. Or to put it another way, how can you start being a hero to those around you?

Leaders who are successful don’t go it alone, so understanding this is the first step. Rather, they’re open to collaborating with anyone around them who has something valuable to contribute, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

Heroic leaders listen closely to their people and admit when they’re wrong, or when their subordinates have more knowledge than they do. The best leaders strive to bring diversity into decision-making processes by seeking out many different perspectives on the challenges their companies face.

People of different genders, ethnicities, and generations are included. Think about asking millennials their opinions if you’re a baby boomer leader, or someone older if you’re a young startup whiz kid.

Lesson 3: Live the values of your company, not just shout them

Leaders must have values, but they must also live them. If you’re not actually putting that value into practice in your work life, what good does it do you to say you value something?

As an employee in his own firm, the author observed this disconnect between professing values and implementing them. After receiving a 60 percent open rate for a batch of newsletters she sent to the company’s clients, one of his digital media employees shocked the author in a meeting. 

Since these clients were paying for these emails, they had an obligation to open and read them.

In the end, the author concluded that the biggest problem was that the employee wasn’t concerned about the outcome. But why? Because they didn’t embody the company’s values. In particular, the core mission of the company is to relentlessly deliver results.

A company employee was telling their clients what great values they had, but they forgot to incorporate those values into their own work. Having read this, the author wondered, have we all become so focused on telling people our own stories and promoting our values that we’ve forgotten to live by them?

Some of the world’s most beloved brands have been threatened by this simple disconnect in recent years. Take Starbucks, for example.

As part of a racial bias training session, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for an afternoon in May 2018. But why? In Philadelphia, just one month earlier, two African American men were arrested for refusing to leave a Starbucks, even though they were just waiting for a third friend to arrive before they made a purchase.

The manager’s actions were not only racist, but they also violated the company’s explicit values: that Starbucks is meant to be a place for people to come together, relax and pass the time together.

Despite spending years selling their warm and welcoming brand story, the company forgot to test whether any of their employees actually lived it. Nevertheless, one manager didn’t, and the expression ‘getting Starbucked’ has continued to be used ironically to describe victimization of African Americans.

It’s important to live up to your company’s lofty values when you’re telling others about them.

Lesson 4: Often, it’s the little things that count when it comes to fostering a heroic workplace culture

In order to be a heroic leader, you must create a heroic culture at work – but what does this kind of culture look like in practice?

A great workplace culture might resemble lots of enthusiastic employees who work long, productive hours while having a good time together. In reality, heroic cultures may show up in subtler ways.

This example of great corporate culture that the author witnessed recently might have been missed by a less attuned observer.

A college in North Carolina, High Point University, invited the author to tour its campus. Until 2005, this college faced many challenges, including attracting students, securing funding, and finding resources. President Nido Qubein changed all of this when he took office. 

From 1450 students to over 4000, the number of buildings owned by the university increased from 22 to 112. He nearly quadrupled funding from $38 million to nearly $290 million during his tenure.

Although this turnaround was impressive, it was not the type of heroic culture the author recalls from his visit. Someone had left a candy bar wrapper lying around when one of the vice presidents bent down to pick it up. He knew the heroic culture of excellence all around him when he saw this senior executive wordlessly stuff the wrapper in his pocket.

There was no expectation that the Vice President would pick up litter as part of his job description. Nevertheless, he did it. How come? Because he genuinely cared about his campus and wanted to keep it pristine and give his guests an excellent impression of the place.

A lesson to take away from this small deed is that a heroic workplace culture does not have to be loud and showy to be effective. Individuals taking responsibility and accountability every day, in fact, is what makes a heroic workplace.

When carried out by those in leadership positions, these small positive behaviors set the tone of a workplace, inspiring everyone else to strive for excellence in their daily activities.

Lesson 5: Relationships are valued over transactions in heroic working cultures

The 15th of January, 2009. When flames shot out from one of the engines of Flight 1549, the aircraft had only been in the air for two minutes. The event that followed stunned and amazed the world. The burning plane was landed in the Hudson River in New York by Captain Chesley Sullenberger.

Dave Sanderson, one of the passengers, quickly found himself waist-deep in cold water after the crash landing. He managed to swim to the boat after a few terrifying minutes in the plane. Hypothermia was treated in the hospital, and he was kept overnight.

Sanderson went straight to his workplace from the hospital the next day to let his colleagues know he was doing fine. How did his boss welcome him?

“Are you planning a trip to Michigan next week?”

Sanderson was stunned. How could his boss be so oblivious to what he just went through? It’s not hard to figure out. His boss embodied an unheroic and utterly careless work culture.

Sanderson’s boss and the company at large didn’t view him as someone with whom they had an important relationship, as this shocking incident has demonstrated. He was simply seen as an instrument for achieving financial success. Sanderson was on the verge of a deal in Michigan, so they immediately inquired about it.

A heroic working culture can be distinguished from a toxic one by two words: relationships and transactions. An heroic culture focuses on the relationships it has with its employees and clients while an unheroic one is all about the transactions it makes.

The flight operator, US Airways, treated Sanderson in a very different way. He was assigned to a liaison assistant to assist him with getting back on track after the crash, and they went out of their way to care for him and the other passengers. What was the result? Despite his ordeal, Anderson remains loyal to the airline and a fan for life.

But what about his employer, the one who didn’t care? In spite of his high performance, Anderson is no longer employed by them, and he has nothing good to say about them. It just goes to show that a heroic workplace culture can increase loyalty, but an unheroic one can drive employees away.

Lesson 6: By giving back to others, heroic leadership empowers others

The impact some heroic leaders can have is remarkable, but they exist in all walks of life.

In 1989, Rob Ryan founded Ascend Communications and could not have predicted that he would sell the company for $20 billion in just ten years. The rest of Ryan’s life continued as before when he returned. There were no changes to the place or the car where he ate lunch. It was only the lives of those around him that were changed. But how? They all became millionaires thanks to him.

Ryan ensured that everyone who helped him achieve his staggering success was properly rewarded upon selling his company. His employees received 10 percent of the money instead of him keeping it all for himself. He made secretaries and janitors millionaires as well as executives who worked for him.

When the author persuades others of the value of heroic leadership, he often tells the story of Ryan’s generosity. He also shares an example from Hamdi Ulukaya, who founded the yogurt company Chobani in 2005.

Ulukaya also understood the importance of rewarding his employees. He told his employees right off the bat that he planned to share up to 10 percent of the firm’s sale price with them if it was ever sold or became a public corporation. If Chobani is ever sold, 2000 people working there will become millionaires. Chobani is now worth $1.5 billion.

His generosity was never framed as a gift by Ulukaya. He instead made a pact with his employees, telling them they would all stick together, and that it was all their responsibility to build lasting value and longevity for the company.

As with Ryan, Ulukaya wanted to empower the people around him. Heroes don’t give people handouts, nor do they be nice for the sake of being nice. Rather, being a heroic leader means gathering those around you and contributing enough to them so that they can reach their full potential and benefit from the fruits of their labor.

Final Summary

Heroes aren’t only concerned with profits and transactions. Rather, they understand that it’s the people who make these things possible, and that’s what really makes an organization thrive. 

Leaders can help their workers build strong relationships and give back to their workers by sharing their good fortunes, being open to others’ perspectives, and living their organizational values instead of just preaching them.

Further Reading

If you like the book The Hero Factor, you may also like reading the following book summaries:

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