Category Archives: Our latest books on HEROIC LEADERS

Heroes and Villains of 2020’s Two Pandemics: COVID-19 and Racism

Our latest student-authored book focuses on one of the most tumultuous years in world history — the year 2020. This calendar year featured two globally transformative events.

First, there was the March arrival of a murderous virus called COVID-19 that infected roughly 100 million people worldwide, killing 2 million of them. This deadly virus wreaked havoc on world economies and the emotional and physical well-being of billions.

Second, the US was subjected to the graphic killing by police of George Floyd in Minneapolis along with news of the home invasion murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Both deaths set off a firestorm of protest against institutionalized racism.

The purpose of our book, Heroes and Villains of 2020’s Two Pandemics: COVID-19 and Racism, is to showcase how the two pandemics of COVID-19 and racism brought out the best, and the worst, of human nature. The authors of this book, all students at the University of Richmond, review theory and research in heroism science. They then apply the science to an understanding of the heroes and villains who surfaced in response to the two pandemics.

Our book is now available at Here is the reference:

Allison, S. T., Behar, H., Huxtable, V., Kenny, I., Palfreyman, G., Popovich, E., & Saltzman, K. (2021). Heroes and villains of 2020’s two pandemics. Richmond: Palsgrove.

About the Authors

Scott T. Allison is Professor of Psychology at the University of Richmond where he has taught and conducted research for 35 years. He has published over 100 articles on positive social behavior, leadership, and heroism. His books include Heroes, Heroic Leadership, Heroic Humility, Handbook of Heroism, The Romance of Heroism, and The Heroic Leadership Imperative. His work has been featured in media outlets such as National Public Radio, USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine, MSNBC, CBS, Psychology Today, and the Christian Science Monitor. He received the University of Richmond’s Distinguished Educator Award and the Virginia Council of Higher Education’s Outstanding Faculty Award.

Grace V. Palfreyman is an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond. Born and raised in New Jersey, she will graduate with a B.A. in Psychology. Grace is a division 1 swimmer here at the University, and pretty much spends her free time painting her nails, as well as her friends’ nails, and figuring out her next meal. Her life goal is to travel to every continent, and use the knowledge she has from psychology courses to help people in other countries.

Victoria M. Huxtable is an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond. A Maryland girl, she will graduate with a B.A in Psychology and Health Care Studies. Victoria plays on the Women’s Soccer Team where she constantly learns important values about teamwork and self-discipline. She has a great passion for working with children and also loves volunteering at events for people with disabilities.

Elizabeth M. Popovich is an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond. A New Jersey girl, she will graduate with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys reading, hanging out with her friends, and volunteering at local schools in Richmond. On campus, she is a CAPS intern at the Wellness Center. In the future, Elizabeth hopes to go to graduate school to study further study the field of Psychology.

Kayla R. Saltzman is a Senior at the University of Richmond, and will graduate with degrees in Psychology and Leadership Studies. She plans to continue her studies in order to receive her MSW and work for prevention and rehabilitation for at-risk youth and youth within the juvenile justice system. Kayla loves her family and friends, her dog, the Earth, and music.

Hannah Behar is an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond where she will graduate with a B.S. in Psychology and minor that she is unsure of yet. Hannah loves to sing and is a part of the Off the Cuff Acapella group on campus. Although she is not completely sure yet, she hopes to one day work in a field that focuses on children and/or teenagers mental health.

Isabelle J. Kenny is an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond where she will soon graduate with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Communications Studies and minors in Psychology and Journalism. She is CAPS intern at the Wellness Center on campus and an active member of her sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time Isabelle enjoys spending her free time with close friends in Richmond!


Beth Harmon’s Hero’s Journey: The Psychology of Heroism in “The Queen’s Gambit”

This short booklet explores the heroic life of Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit. Why are people so drawn to her story? What is so powerful about her heroic journey?

Beth Harmon is a young woman living in a man’s world. She is dirt poor. She’s lost not one but two mothers. She’s addicted to drugs and alcohol, and because of the severity of her losses, she’s emotionally stunted. She may be a chess genius but she’s an American playing a game that has been dominated by the Russians for decades.

As we watch Beth’s life unfold, it becomes clear to us that Beth’s most formidable opponent in life is not her mother, her addictions, or even the male dominated world in which she lives. Her chief adversary is herself.

The ultimate underdog, Beth Harmon manages to climb to the top of the chess world. Harmon ranks among the finest and most inspiring hero characters in television history.

Beth Harmon’s Hero’s Journey: The Psychology of Heroism in “The Queen’s Gambit” is now on sale at

The Heroic Leadership Imperative

Allison, S. T. & Goethals, G. R. (2020). The heroic leadership imperative: How leaders inspire and mobilize change. West Yorkshire: Emerald.

Our next book describes a new principle that we call the heroic leadership imperative. We show how leaders who fulfill the imperative will inspire followers and initiate social change.


The imperative consists of the leader meeting individual, collective, and transcendent needs of followers. We describe examples of leaders, both good and evil, who have succeeded in meeting all three categories of needs, leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump, Martin Luther King, Jr., and cult leaders such as Jim Jones.

Imperative 1. The first level of the leadership imperative focuses on the necessity of leaders meeting the individual needs of followers. Successful leaders ensure the provision of lower-level Maslowian needs in the hierarchy, such as food, water, safety, and security. Heroic leadership also appeals to higher level individual needs involving esteem, compassion, and social unity.

Imperative 2. To fulfill the second level of the leadership imperative, leaders must meet followers’ collective identity needs. Leaders often gain power by exploiting followers’ need for a positive social identity involving race, country, gender, and religion. We review historical case studies involving Hitler, Napoleon, and Donald Trump as examples of leadership exploiting these collective identity needs for exploitative purposes.

Imperative 3. Finally, we show how the third level of the leadership imperative operates, with leaders fulfilling the transcendent needs of followers. Humanity’s most powerful leaders have been able to gain power by making followers feel they are part of something bigger, more mysterious, and packed with cosmological significance. Leaders such Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln were gifted in tapping into followers’ transcendent desires.

Here is an excerpt from the Preface of the book:

“The word imperative has always fascinated us. It suggests that something — some vital course of action — must be undertaken. Where there is an imperative, there is an urgency, a call, a mandate. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines imperative as “an obligatory act or duty.” The idea of a heroic imperative was first described by our friend and colleague Olivia Efthimiou, who argued that our well-being is a “personal and collective heroic imperative” (Efthimiou et al. 2018, p. 15).

“The imperative in this instance refers to the necessity of engaging in heroic practices aimed at promoting our well-being as individuals and as members of our communities. We dare not avoid the hero’s journey that calls us, heals us, and transforms us into our best selves. Nor do we dare sidestep the necessary practices of self-care that fuel the heroic journeys of the larger collectives to which we belong. Efthimiou et al. concluded with an intriguing thought: Perhaps both heroism and well-being are both best “understood as a means to and ends of wholeness” (p. 15). Please keep that word “wholeness” in mind as you read this book.

“In this current volume, we use the term imperative to describe another aspect of heroism, namely, the phenomenon of heroic leadership. It is our contention that any leader who aspires to change the world has the “obligatory duty” to satisfy three types of needs of followers. The first type of follower needs, which we call individual-level needs, refers to the needs of every distinct human being, ranging from basic needs such as food and water to higher-level needs such as esteem, love, and – you guessed it – “wholeness”.

“Whereas Efthimiou and her colleagues focused on everyday laypeople’s heroic well-being as an imperative, we argue in this book that it the imperative of heroic leaders to move and mobilize followers by taking steps to meet a set of very specific needs of followers. Notice that we’re not necessarily saying that it is the imperative of heroic leaders to ensure the well-being of followers. One might think that “meeting needs” and “ensuring well-being” go hand-in-hand, but it turns out that meeting needs and promoting well-being are independent goals.

“Consider Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. During this decade, he moved and mobilized his followers by meeting their important psychological needs of belongingness, individual self-esteem, and national pride. But we would never say that Adolf Hitler was the architect of his country’s well-being. Achieving “wholeness” was hardly the goal of the Third Reich. Wholeness is a state of utmost well-being in which all the parts within an individual or within a society are integrated. Hitler’s Final Solution was the antithesis of wholeness and well-being. The Fuhrer met some key needs of German citizens while actually poisoning their individual and collective well-being.

“From these considerations, it is important to keep in mind that when we speak of leaders who aspire to transform and mobilize followers, we could be referring to a heroic leader such as Martin Luther King, Jr., or villainous leaders such as Jim Jones, Adolf Hitler, or Kim Jong-un. Although the term “heroic leadership” appears in the title of this book, we know that history has taught us that many of history’s most egregious villains have also sought to move followers and change the world.

“And yes, those villainous leaders have the same imperative of meeting the three types of needs of followers if they wish to achieve their evil aims. The title of this book contains the phrase “heroic leadership imperative” because we prefer to focus on the positive application of these three secrets of game-changing leadership. The world desperately needs heroic leaders who answer their call to both meet followers’ needs and promote their well-being. As we will demonstrate in this book, wholeness may be the key. It is a central human need, identified decades ago by Carl Jung (1951) and by humanists such as Abraham Maslow (1954). Wholeness, we argue, may occupy the hub of well-being for individuals and groups, and thus is pivotal to understanding the heroic leadership imperative.” 

— Excerpted from Allison, S. T. & Goethals, G. R. (2020). The heroic leadership imperative: How leaders inspire and mobilize change. West Yorkshire: Emerald.

The Heroic Leadership Imperative can be ordered from Amazon right now by clicking here.


Allison, S. T. & Goethals, G. R. (2020). The heroic leadership imperative: How leaders inspire and mobilize change. West Yorkshire: Emerald.

Efthimiou, O., Allison, S. T., & Franco, Z. E. (Eds.) (2018). Heroism and wellbeing in the 21st Century: Applied and emerging perspectives. New York: Routledge.

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The Romance of Heroism

Goethals, G. R., & Allison, S. T. (2019). The romance of heroism and heroic leadership. West Yorkshire: Emerald.

In this book, heroism experts George R. Goethals and Scott T. Allison explore how the romantic conception of heroes is constructed, both in real life and in our heads.

Here is an excerpt from the Introductory chapter:

We adopt an approach that we call the romance of heroes.  Merriam-Webster defines romance as an emotional attraction, or special quality or feeling that comes from a person, place, or thing.  The verb form of romance is to exaggerate or invent detail.  This book explores these processes as they operate in our human perception of heroism.  We assume that people are motivated to actively construct reality from incomplete information.  There is a long history of theory and research in social perception and social cognition to support this idea.” 

“We also assume, based on our own research, that people are motivated to have heroes (Allison & Goethals, 2011).  Our contention in this book is that our love of heroes is so strong that we could call it a romantic longing.  Merriam-Webster reminds us that this longing is a strong emotional attraction that may cause mental exaggeration or invention.  Our desire and drive to designate people as heroes may be subject to distortion and to motivated perception under conditions of uncertainty.  We’ll also explore how this tendency to exaggerate or invent in response to strong motives can contribute to our construction of villains as well as heroes.”

Looking at the dichotomy of heroism and villainy, the authors offer insights into Donald Trump’s ascension to the US presidency, particularly detailing the correspondence between the needs of the US public and the promises the former reality TV star made in reply.

Goethals and Allison also consider how three highly charismatic men dramatically and fundamentally changed American society in the mid-20th century — Martin Luther King, Jr., Elvis Presley, and Muhammad Ali, called here The Three Kings.

This exciting and innovative book explores how charisma and human needs create romantic images of individuals as heroes and villains. For researchers and students of psychology and leadership, this is a fundamental text on the creation of both genuine heroes and false idols.

This book is now available for purchase at

Goethals, G. R., & Allison, S. T. (2019). The romance of heroism and heroic leadership. West Yorkshire: Emerald.


Heroic Transformation: How Heroes Change Themselves and The World

The human journey is brimming with opportunities for growth and development. This volume, crafted superbly by a talented group of young student-scholars at the University of Richmond, explores the myriad ways that human beings have evolved to become extraordinary heroes.

There are two types of heroic transformation. The first type refers to the process by which people undergo the significant change and growth necessary to become heroes. This transformation is a personal metamorphosis that often results from setback, transgression, and suffering.

The second type of heroic transformation refers to the hero’s ability to transform society. Once personally transformed, the hero is in a position to make her mark on society. “Transformed people transform people,” as Richard Rohr has said.

Most hero journeys feature both of these types of transformations. The heroes profiled in this book who have undergone heroic transformations include Audrey Hepburn, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, Muhammad Ali, Eleanor Roosevelt, Daenerys Targaryen, Dexter Morgan, Frodo Baggins, Bruce Wayne, and many more.

This book is now available at


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Heroic Transformation: How Heroes Change Themselves and The World
Edited by Scott T. Allison


Olivia Efthimiou


The Metamorphosis of the Hero: What it is, How it Happens, Why it’s Important

Scott T. Allison


Film and Television Heroes

Chapter 1. From Little Princess to Mother of Dragons: Daenerys Targaryen’s Heroine’s Journey

Hallie M. Whiting

Chapter 2. Elle Woods and the Hero’s Journey: What, Like, It’s Hard?

Reghan J. Ruf

Chapter 3. James “Sawyer” Ford: The Man Who Had to Become Lost to Find the Hero Within

Leo S. Troik

Chapter 4. “Let’s Get Down to Business”: A Handbook of Heroic Transformation in Mulan

Yun-Oh Park

 Chapter 5. Jack Bauer: The Heroic Transformation of the Ultimate Moral Rebel

Ethan Libo

Chapter 6. The Heroic Transformation of Dexter Morgan, Killer of Killers

S. S. Diaz

Heroes in Epic Novels and Stories

Chapter 7. How Frodo Baggins Became a Hero: An Analysis of a Hobbit’s Heroic Transformation

Lee M. Tyler

Chapter 8. Bruce Wayne’s Heroic Journey: The Everlasting Quest for Justice

Michael D. Loughran

Chapter 9. Batman’s Remarkable Hero’s Journey: The Dark Knight Trilogy

Declan H. Scanlon

Chapter 10. Harry Potter and the Hero’s Journey: An Analysis of a Wizard’s Transformation

Andrew J. Graham

Chapter 11. The Quintessential Greek Hero: How Odysseus Fits the Campbellian Monomyth

Julia M. Feron

Chapter 12. Sectumsempra: An Analysis of the Heroic Transformation of Severus Snape

Jake C. Cardwell

Chapter 13. The Heroic Transformative Journey of Aeneas, Hero of the Trojan War

Antonio M. Balducci


Civil Rights Heroes

Chapter 14. A Dream Becoming Reality: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Calling to Transform America

Daniel P. Golden

Chapter 15. Malala Yousafzai: How One Girl’s Heroic Transformation Forever Changed the World

Alexandra M. Maloney

Chapter 16. The Girl that Broke the Mold: Malala’s Inspired Heroic Transformation

William A. Delaney

Chapter 17. Thurgood Marshall: A Heroic Influence on The American Justice System

Jennifer L. Kramer

Chapter 18. A Catalyst for Change: How Susan B. Anthony’s Heroic Transformation Revolutionized Society

Megan G. Doran

Entertainment Heroes

Chapter 19. Muhammad Ali: Hands of Stone, Heart of Gold

Evan B. Shine

 Chapter 20. Alex Morgan: The Hero Who Changed the Soccer World

Emily R. Wigg

Chapter 21. The Heroic Transformation of an Entire Team: How the Swedish Women’s National Soccer Team Followed the Hero’s Journey

Olivia Sjoedin

Chapter 22. The Gates to Baseball: Jackie Robinson’s Courageous Transformation of an Entire Sport

Dustin J. Cook

Chapter 23. The Hat Trick Heard Round the World: Carli Lloyd’s Journey from Average to Best in the World

Cassidy N. Bennetti

 Chapter 24. Elisabeth Shue’s Heroic Transformation, as Told Through Gracie

Sydney R. Shah

Chapter 25. Audrey Hepburn: How a Misfortunate Girl Transformed into a Social Hero

Thomas J Michel

Legendary Heroes

 Chapter 26. The Heroism of Siddhartha: A Journey to Enlightenment

Isabel R. Nonemaker

Chapter 27. Desmond Doss: The Transformation of the Hero of Hacksaw Ridge

Mark D. White

Chapter 28. Sully Sullenberger: An Inspiring Tale of Two Heroic Transformations

Kara E. Cromwell

Chapter 29. Eleanor Roosevelt’s Heroic and Transcendent Role as First Lady

Joann Chongsaritsinsuk

Chapter 30. “This was a man”: Julius Caesar’s Sociocentric Transformation as a Hero

Jack R. Bergstrom

Chapter 31. The List That Saved a Thousand Lives: Oskar Schindler’s Heroic Transformation During World War II

Allyson S. Maner



Heroes and Villains of the Millennial Generation

FRONT_finalThis book explores the heroes and villains of an entire generation of Americans — the Millennial generation, defined as people born between 1982 and 2000.

Authored by Millennial students at the University of Richmond, Heroes and Villains of the Millennial Generation is based on a survey of 215 Millennials across the United States who were asked to list their heroes, and their villains.

To our surprise, a large number of people were listed as both heroes and villains.

These complex individuals are the focus of this book. They are: Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, parents, teachers, Edward Snowden, Batman, Mother Teresa, Severus Snape, and Mark Zuckerberg.

The questions that interested us were:

  • In what ways are these individuals heroes?
  • In what ways are they also villains?
  • Why did these individuals appear on lists of heroes and also on lists of villains?
  • What psychological processes are involved in perceptions of good and evil?

Heroes and Villains of the Millennial Generation provides an analysis of Millennials’ views of heroism and villainy, drawing from current research on heroism science. The book is now on sale at Amazon.

“A compelling analysis of the heroic values of an entire generation.”
– Professor Robert A. Giacalone, Ray Smiley Chair in Business Ethics and Director of the Ginn Institute for Social Responsibility at John Carroll University.

Here is the Table of Contents:

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Heroes and Villains of the Millennial Generation

Edited by Scott T. Allison


Brian R. Riches, Claremont Graduate University


Chapter 1. Millennials, Heroism, and Villainy: A Confluence of Generational Moral Complexity

Scott T. Allison, University of Richmond

Part I


Chapter 2. Sacrificial Heroism: Media Martyrdom for Inspiration from Kanye West

Matt B. Vandini, University of Richmond

Chapter 3. The Queen of Redemption: Kim Kardashian From Sex Tape to Female Idol

Kana V. Rolett, University of Richmond


Part II

Fictional Characters

Chapter 4. Batman as Caped Crusader: Gotham’s Savior or Undoing?

Alyssa Lynn Ross, University of Richmond

Chapter 5. Turn to Page 364: Deconstructing the Complex Heroism of Severus Snape

Madison M. Lawrence, University of Richmond

Part III


Chapter 6. Unconditional Love and Evil Stepmothers: How Parents are Heroes and Villains

Rebecca M. Fischer, University of Richmond

Chapter 7. Do or do not, there is no try: Is your Teacher a Yoda or a Darth Sidious?

R. B. Forsyth, University of Richmond

Part IV


Chapter 8. Hillary Clinton: A Controversial Lady of Firsts

Rebecca L. Nguyen, University of Richmond

Chapter 9. Donald Trump: Man of Charisma, Man of Insults

Sandy Yu, University of Richmond

Part V

Social Changers

Chapter 10. Mark Zuckerberg: Social Connector or Privacy Violator?

Zihao Liu, University of Richmond

Chapter 11. Mother Teresa’s Empire of Charity

Stephanie M. Ha , University of Richmond

Chapter 12. The Whistleblowing of Edward Snowden: Heroic Self-Sacrifice or Villainous Betrayal?

Arianna M. Guillard, University of Richmond