In the begininning of the novel, Shukhov is a resourceful, hard-working, and intelligent person with a sense of self-worth and integrity. The opening pages show how he always gets up early so that he can earn a little extra before the day begin, but is not so desperate as to demean himself (by licking empty bowls, for example). He is sick but gets up anyway, showing his determination.
However, Shukhov is not heroic. It is the point that he be an everyman figure, and has little to separate him from any other man in the camp. He has personality and good traits, but he is not heroic because that would mark him as special, when the purpose of the novel is to reveal the everyday horrors that any camp worker experiences.