When I think of self-sacrifice, I often picture that scene in a movie where the soldier sees his friends in trouble, grabs a few weapons, and runs into the line of fire. It is heroic, inspiring, and has little resemblance to our everyday lives. Yet, we seem to relate to the idea of putting ourselves in dangerous situations to protect others. Ron Perlman has played many characters who demonstrate these traits.
Ron Perlman is an actor famous for his role in Hellboy and the television series Sons of Anarchy and Beauty and the Beast. While each of these parts is distinctive, they all involve some degree of altruism to protect a loved one. In a discussion on the Nerdist podcast, Ron offered his views on self-sacrifice.
I’m fascinated by the notion of self-sacrifice, the notion of dropping everything for a cause that’s bigger than you. Of becoming animated for reasons that could f—k you, could be your undoing, but they are so big and so important and so much larger than your everyday life, that there’s not even a question about it.
Self-sacrifice is commonly associated with our karma-driven need to do the right thing do. When we choose to sacrifice ourselves, we are making a conscious effort to help someone else in spite of the cost. These altruistic actions often involve risk, discomfort, and consequences that are not always favorable. However, when we believe in a cause and feel justified in our actions, it is easily worth the exposure.
What we don’t’ typically consider is the effect our self-sacrifice has on those on our team. According to a study by Yeon Choia and Renate Mai-Dalton, followers attribute charisma and legitimacy to self-sacrificial leaders in addition to an enhanced perception of transformational qualities. Such leaders are more influential than those who do not exhibit these behaviors and, even more intriguing, observers reciprocate the leader’s altruistic mannerisms.
As the research shows, if you want a workplace culture that values team work and an altruistic mentality, it starts with you. Model the behaviors you want to see. You want to see extra effort? Sacrifice your time to help others. You want to see risk taking? Sacrifice your ego by being transparent in the chances you take, demonstrating both the good and the bad outcomes. You want a team who supports one another? Sacrifice your reputation by standing up for those who choose to follow you.
Next time you have opportunity to abandon or postpone your personal interests for the interests of others, consider the effects your altruism can have not just on those you are helping, but on those who will see you helping. Self-preservation may keep you safe, but self-sacrifice will ensure you have a clear conscience and an army of do-gooders.