The 6 Levels of the Hero Factor

Get the skinny on each level of the Hero Factor scale to help you determine where you are and how to get to the top.
The 6 Levels of the Hero Factor
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The following excerpt is from Jeffrey Hayzlett’s book The Hero Factor: How Great Leaders Transform Organizations and Create Winning Cultures. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound

When you understand the Hero Factor equation, a simple bit of addition will tell you where you fall on the Hero Factor scale:

Operational Excellence (0–10) + Hero Intensity (0–10) = Your Hero Factor (0–20)

Whether you work on Main Street or are traded publicly on Wall Street, the scale is the same. Your Hero Factor isn’t about your ability to make millions or billions; it’s about your Operational Excellence and Hero Intensity for the size you are or want to be. The lower your total, the lower your Hero Factor, and we have names for those types. From low to high:

  • Zeroes are 0–4,
  • Wannabes are 5–9,
  • Good Companies are 10–14, and  
  • Heroes or Near Heroes are 15 or higher.

But these four categories are for people and organizations that have balanced scores, little more than a difference of 2 between their Operational Excellence and Hero Intensity scores. For companies that have a larger split in one direction or the other, there are other two categories on the scale:

  • Bottom Liners (high Operational Excellence, low or no Hero Intensity)
  • Struggling Do-Gooders (low or no Operational Excellence, high Hero Intensity)

Let’s look a little closer at all six of these categories.


When organizations and their leaders have a high Hero Factor, they’re more than just great places to work; most days their people can’t wait to go to sleep so they can get up and get back to work the next day. Hero businesses, leaders, and cultures are constantly doing things for the right reasons and balance profit with people. They have an abundance or win-win mentality and pride themselves on their balance between their Operational Excellence and Hero Intensity—and hold themselves accountable to both simultaneously.

Big or small, they’re entrepreneurial beacons of light in America’s free enterprise system. They have a passion and a mission to be and deliver the best. They have predictable, measurable, and constant behavior and growth and push to innovate in order to adapt and grow more.

Good companies

I believe most businesses are good, both in terms of how they treat their people and their operations, so this is where I believe most companies live. These companies do many of the things Hero companies and leaders do, just not as intensely. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be good. Holding at or above a five in Operational Excellence and Hero Intensity means you have the potential to be a Hero. But this is where the rubber meets the road. If you’re in this category, you have a choice to make: Do you want more, or do you just want to keep from falling into the Wannabe category?


Wannabes are exactly what they sound like: They want to be better operationally, they want to have a higher Hero Intensity, they want to do and be so many things . . . but they just aren’t. It’s all aspirational. But what they aren’t and don’t want to be is Zeroes. The vast majority of Wannabes are neither Zeroes on the rise nor so hopeless that they run the risk of becoming a Zero. They do, however, run the risk of going out of business, because they can’t execute operationally or heroically. Many businesses that fail go out swinging as Wannabes. If you’re a Wannabe, you are going to have to take a hard look at everything you do.


Zeroes are the lowest of the low. They never get it, never will, and never wanted to in the first place. The sole goal of a Zero is self-enrichment and enriching those close to them. Think Martin Shkreli, who raised the price on the drug Daraprim by 56 times when he bought the company. Think David Brandon, former CEO of Toys “R” Us, asking for his $6.5 million bonus as the company filed for bankruptcy, while employees who worked in the stores and stayed loyal until the doors shut for good got no severance. I could go on, but I won’t. I feel dirty just talking about these Zeroes. I want to focus on making more hero leaders and companies, not give these hopeless asshats any more space. I just need to take a shower first.

Bottom liners

If the only value that defines your success as a company is the bottom line, you’re a Bottom Liner—a hero only to the bottom line. Does this make your organization, leadership, and shareholders evil? Absolutely not. Bottom Liner is not a negative term, like “Bottom Feeder.” Bottom Liners are just not Heroes, because all they have is Operational Excellence, not Hero Intensity. For example, in 2018, Disney announced it was tying its employees’ payouts from the tax cut to a promise not to unionize. Is that wrong? No. It’s a business decision. But it sure as hell isn’t a heroic one.

Many Americans have built their futures at companies like Disney making decisions just like that. Sure, I want to see more Bottom Liners become Good Companies and Heroes, but I’ll defend their right to choose profit (Operational Excellence) over people (Hero Intensity) as long as they do it legally and don’t harm others. In other words, profits, in general, raise your Operational Excellence score. All the things people mistakenly associate with Bottom Liners, like greed, self-enrichment, unsafe workplaces, destruction of the environment, and inflated CEO salaries, lower your Operational Excellence score.

Struggling do-gooders

In the cowboy world, we would call Struggling Do-Gooders “all hat, no cattle.” They’re martyrs to their hero cause but have nothing but their dedication to give. That’s because they gave everything else away—or never had it to begin with. I love seeing those people on Shark Tank talking about how they’ll give away all this money to charity and be so good to their people as part of their business models—but lack any business to go with those models.

Most of us cannot survive on altruism. If you’re a Struggling Do-Gooder, you can raise your Operational Excellence. But like Bottom Liners reconsidering their Operational Excellence to raise their Hero Intensity, it is going to require giving up some Hero Intensity in order to build your Operational Excellence.

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