It’s Inauguration Day in America. Some Americans wake up today energized. For them, Making America Great Again means a different kind of President taking the Oath of Office. Even more Americans wake up today apprehensive. For them, hope and change has morphed into a Trumpcalypse that leaves them disappointed and on-edge.

For all Americans, the Inauguration is worth reflection as to what this 45th Presidency means and why we wake up feeling the way we do about today’s transition of power.

I had an early start this morning, joining the team at BBC Breakfast’s studios in the UK. As I reflected on Inauguration Day in America throughout the segment, I couldn’t help but visualize previous inaugurations in the context of that moment on an aircraft when the plane has hit cruising altitude, the seatbelt sign is turned off, you’re allowed to scrounge around for larger electronic devices tucked underneath the seat in front of you, and the Captain’s voice delivers his update: the time of arrival, the weather, the winds, the comforting words thanking you for flying this particular airline, and perhaps a reminder that safety is the number one priority of captain and crew. Some people on that aircraft will not be particularly happy to be on board: they’d rather be home with their families than on another business trip, or grieving as they fly to attend to an ailing loved one who lives just too far away. Others will be delighted to be on board: they are off in high spirits to explore a new destination, taking off to celebrate a special family occasion, or maybe they can’t wait to start the new dream job in a city that captivates their imaginations. But during that cruising altitude moment, the Captain’s voice reminds them that they know where they’re headed and so whether grumpy or optimistic, morose or delighted, here they are. 

That’s the Inauguration Day feeling: a peaceful transition of power, a general sense of what will transpire looking ahead, a direction of travel. Though we are not the pilots and we can’t necessarily see the nuances of the cockpit’s controls, we are passengers in a familiar stage of the journey.

This year is different. As candidate Trump transitions into the role of President Trump, we wake up this morning not necessarily knowing whether we will be on a plane, train, or automobile to get to our final destination in the next four years. In fact, we could very well find ourselves on a cruise liner or a row boat, a treadmill or a hiking trail, a caravan or a hot air balloon. We just plain don’t know. We have absolutely no idea. We read pundit analysis and interviews, revisit old speeches and follow Twitter feeds. But where we’re going from here isn’t cruising altitude-speak: the script is somehow missing, and so as passengers on board our maps are useless, our attempts to identify our direction of travel isn’t visible from the middle seat, and we suddenly wonder whether safety really is the number one priority of captain and crew. That feeling is exactly what the Donald Trump presidency has set out to do from the beginning: disrupt the status quo, defy the norms of political diplomacy, and use unconventional tactics as a mechanism to convey authenticity. Our cruising altitude is in unfamiliar territory.

For the Americans who voted in favor of Donald Trump, that’s precisely the excitement of the next four years ahead. They don’t know the plan, but they believe that whatever the plan is, it won’t be “same old, same old.” For the Americans who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, that’s what is so darn scary about today. They don’t know the plan, and they believe that whatever the plan is, it won’t be nuanced or well-advised enough to earn America’s place as leader of the free world.

But there is opportunity in uncertainty. Today we are forced to change the lenses through which we have seen our country these past eight years. And in so doing, we might turn up some previously uncovered shifts in the patterns of leadership as they change before us. Donald Trump ran his campaign as an outsider businessman, pitching to the American people his belief that America needs a CEO – not a politician – at its helm. An Inauguration ceremony, however, is inherently a public sector rite of passage. CEOs don’t take an Oath of Office. Presidents do. Today, for the first time, Americans will get their glimpse of Donald Trump the un-President in his new, very Presidential surroundings. Will this work? Is Donald Trump capable of translating the CEO role to the Presidential role? Can a government operate as a business? How will the responsibilities of business and government shift under a Trump presidency?

We’re already seeing business leaders like Mark Zuckerberg gradually transition his office of the CEO into something that looks and feels rather like an office of the President. It’s not the first time in history that public and private sector organizations have swapped places. So if Donald Trump runs the United States as a CEO rather than a public servant, perhaps those who would have run for political office in the past will instead transform the world through the “Presidential offices” of their companies. None of this is outside the realm of possibility. It is already happening. A large-scale leadership swap is our country’s direction of travel, and as such we need to think more creatively, more broadly, and more analytically about what this means and how we can channel shifting patterns of public and private sector roles to fill a clear gap in American political leadership today.

In his interview published in The Times of London, Donald Trump says, quite bluntly, “I don’t like the concept of heroes.” President Trump may not like the concept of heroes, but Americans do. We need heroes. We value heroes. It’s heroes, however strong or humble, historical or contemporary, male or female, young or old, who remind us what it means to wake up every day and make a difference in the world around us. It’s heroes who give us values and ideas to believe in. It’s heroes who give us our unapologetic optimism. It’s heroes who are the characters from literature and film – Huck Finn from Missouri, Jo Marsh from Massachusetts, George Bailey from New York, Susan Bradley from Ohio – who are so deeply rooted in American character that we grow up as citizens in the United States knowing that we can be explorers and entrepreneurs, leaders and good-deed-doers who actually can change the world around us for the better.

It’s our Presidential heroes who remind us that the American Dream is bigger than a nation or a people: it’s an idea, a concept, a secular belief in liberty, equality, and justice. Living abroad these past six years, I am especially aware of the American hero as part of our national character. I cannot even count the number of people from Kazakhstan to Kinshasa who have remarked on the “can-do” spirit of Americans. “It’s like you grow up just knowing that if you wanted to change the world, you can,” they say. That’s because we believe in heroes. And more importantly, we don’t believe you have to be wealthy, famous, or well-connected to be a hero. Like George Bailey, you just have to make the right decisions for a purpose that is bigger than yourself.

Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield” begins with the unforgettable line, “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” Donald Trump doesn’t like the concept of heroes, and so it follows that President Trump doesn’t necessarily want to be one. That’s ok. In fact, for all his flaws, Donald Trump’s attitude towards heroes might, in fact, be a good thing. We don’t want Donald Trump to see himself as America’s hero. Even his most fervent supporters don’t. They want him to play a different role: one of disruption and change, one of the businessman who doesn’t get politics coming into the White House. They want him to just keep on being Donald Trump.

Yet in the office of the Presidency, heroes matter. They are the people who make decisions that save lives, who defend our freedoms, who remind us of who we are and what we stand for. Usually, the President embraces his role as American hero. Barack Obama championed messages of hope and change as applicable to all Americans. Ronald Reagan reminded Americans that tomorrow will always be a better day in our country, because that’s who we are. But given that Donald Trump doesn’t want to adorn the role of Presidential hero – and no one really wants him to anyway – a new set of heroes will rise around this unconventional inhabitant of the White House.

Will this experiment work, or will it fail? As Donald Trump takes the Oath of Office today, I’d encourage all of us to see President Trump not as the hero or the anti-hero of his own Presidential story. Assign him a different role. Focus less on Donald Trump himself and more on the spaces around Donald Trump from which new leaders and ideas emerge. In many ways, this is liberating. It frees us up to focus on the people around today’s central character who are capable of pulling us together and setting us on a course that is worthy of our place in the world.

In the arc of President Trump’s story, the station of hero – to use Dickens’ phrase – will not be held by Donald Trump. It will be held by someone else – or even more powerfully, by many others. After all, the hero in The Wizard of Oz isn’t actually the Wizard. It is Dorothy Gale, from Kansas. And a rather clever Scarecrow, a splendidly compassionate Tin Man, and a considerably brave Lion. But without the Wizard around whom to frame the story, our Dorothies, our scarecrows, our tin men, and our lions do not spring to life. The absence of a President-hero does not necessarily spell the absence of Presidential-style heroism.

We don’t know who the heroes of the next four years of the American story will be. But starting today, let’s find them, surround ourselves by them, and give them a voice. They could be next door, they could be in Washington, they could – in fact – be you. For a President-CEO who has named so much after himself, perhaps the greatest irony of his Presidency will be that President Trump’s rejection of heroism means that our bench of American leadership outside the Oval Office will be stronger, more robust, and more heroic than ever before. And that – to borrow the vocabulary from the man himself – would be a beautiful, a fantastic, a wonderful thing. It would be huge.

Elizabeth Linder is the Founder & CEO of The Conversational Century.  A California native, she is based in London.