The difference between leader and hero is that you don’t have to be a leader to be a hero.
First, there is no doubt that they could be the same person. People like to follow heroes. That makes heroes leaders. We also find many leaders wanting to position themselves as heroes in our minds. They tell of tough upbringings, challenging lives, and selfless deeds. Courage is a main theme. This implies though that all leaders are not heroes. If leaders are heroes, why would leaders need to prove they are heroes?
One way to define difference between leader and hero is to use pictures. When I searched Google for images of leaders and heroes, quite a difference existed. Another way is to examine literature. Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Lone Ranger and superheroines help us too.
When leaders and heroes differ, we see groups versus individuals. We see actions of people versus actions of persons. We see public versus private. We see many routine activities versus single courageous ones. We see union of self and group interests versus sacrifice of self-interest for others’ interests.
It is hard to imagine leaders without followers, leaders who do not galvanize or command others. It is hard to imagine leaders who are anonymous, unknown to others. Leaders have daily responsibilities for their groups. They challenge us. They operate in the light.
Heroes do not need followers. We do not need to know heroes. They do not ask of us. Their interests do not need to coincide. They sacrifice. They neither ask nor expect to get anything from us in return. They operate in the dark.
My four-year-old niece was visiting. She lost her princess water cup. She always goes to bed with it. She cried when her parents forced her to go to bed without it. The next morning, while everyone was asleep and I was heading out to clients, I found it. When I returned at the end of the day, she hugged and thanked me before I had walked two steps inside. At that point, not for an instance, did that little girl see me as her leader.