7 Leadership Lessons from Batman v. Superman

Lawrence and I had a date night a few weeks ago, and reluctantly I succumbed to seeing Batman v. Superman. I’m honestly a Marvel girl, over DC Comics, but it’s amazing what you do for love. Then we saw Captain America: Civil War last week, so we’re even. (More on that later)

Like the nerd that I am, I got to thinking about what sort of life lessons these two superheroes can teach me. Here are my top faves. There could be more.. if you think of them, I’d love to hear from you.

Don’t worry, there are no spoilers… nothing you probably already don’t know about these superheroes.

Lesson 1: Run with Full Force into Chaos, when others are running Away

Honestly, it sounds like what an idiot would do, and not someone who knew what was good for them. Often though, lessons in leadership are counter-intuitive to human instinct. As the story begins, Bruce Wayne is running into mass destruction in an attempt to save lives. (Relax, there’s way more to the movie.. this is just the opening scene remember?) This actually reminds me of what a friend (Frank Potter) once said: There is opportunity in chaos.

What kind of opportunity would depend on how you perceive it. Bruce had one thought in mind, and it was to save the lives of his employees, since his building was about to be blown up. We as consultants are often engaged to make meaning out out of a chaotic environment. That is the value that we provide. When we do this well, we are rewarded with longevity, and repeat business.

Lesson 2: Leaders Without Accountability are Dangerous Leaders

Bruce Wayne was concerned about Superman and his unchecked power. Not that Superman would have actually used his power for evil.. come on, it’s superman! Wholesome, farm-boy Superman. But when a leader has no one to answer, the perception is that he could become a danger to those he leads. Think of all the political leaders in history who started out being the saviour, and ended up being a terror to those they led.

Don’t let yourself become consumed by the power you wield as a leader. At the most elementary level, it’s why almost every organization has a PMO overseeing all that goes on among the projects. This really stems to more than people who have been placed at what John Maxwell calls the first level of leadership: Positional leadership.

Photo Credit: http://johnmaxwell.com

Positional leadership is where you have been put in the leadership position by the organization.. ie. Project Managers, leaders and managers as seen on the company org chart. What about at the micro-level among team members? The technical architects, the business analysts, the developers, the testers… Believe it or not, every team member is a leader in his own right, in their own area. Accountability needs to exist for every team member on the project team, every team member in the organization.

Lesson 3: Leaders Always Sharpen the Sword

They always continue learning, continue training. Batman went through a grueling training process to fight Superman.

Photo Credit: http://static.srcdn.com

At this point, I actually giggled a little, and was secretly impressed by how Affleck transformed his ‘Chasing Amy’ body into that which was Batman-worthy. I suppose the Chasing Amy movies were a generation ago though. Anyways.. there is truth to always remaining on the bleeding edge of your field. It’s not only about training in technology though. Especially in the Information Technology field, so much emphasis is placed on training technical skills, and too little is placed on soft skills. Yet it’s the people skills and the soft skills that inspire teams to move forward, and get the job done. I just went to a Get Motivated seminar recently. I got to hang out with people who are authorities on leadership, communication, conquering fear. It was free (sure, they were selling stuff), but as T.Harv Ekar put it in his book “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,”

at least 10% of your income should be dedicated to learning. The minute we stop learning, we start to mentally decline.

Lesson 4: Seasoned Leaders Care About Their Legacy

Leaders want to make a lasting impact with their lives. Wayne says, “Criminals are like weeds. Pull one up and another grows in its place. This is about the future. This is my legacy.”At this point in the movie, I turned to Lawrence and asked: ‘Is he talking about Hydra?’

Photo Credit: http://marvelcinematicuniverse.wikia.com/

(10 points if you understood this allusion! I told you I’m a Marvel girl)

Two perspectives here. Definitely in the short term, consultants are only as good as their last few projects. Your next gig likely depends on whatever is on that first, and maaaaaaybe second page of your resume. But truly, from a long-term perspective, when I think back to the consultants and leaders that I thought were great in their field, I can easily point out their strengths, and how they used their strengths to do an absolutely amazing job on their project. Whenever I need to ask a question in a particular subject matter area, I know exactly who to approach because I recall their area of expertise was and what they were good at, long after they have left that project, and moved onto something else. As consultants, we want to be known for what we are good at. The smart ones tailor their resume to one specialized field, so that they can be known as an expert in that field. A diluted resume that is all over the map is hard to place, and when compared against that of a specialist, all else equal, it’s no surprise that the specialist will win the gig 10 out of 10 times.

Lesson 5: Relationships Matter

“I’m a friend of your son’s,” Batman to said to Clark’s mom. Good thing, because she probably would stopped listening if he hadn’t started with that.

There are so many areas that I can apply this corollary, it isn’t even funny. Hell yea, relationships matter. Every area of your life! Our world so small everything is about the relationship you have… with everyone. My personal pet peeve are people who only reach out and connect when they need something from you. That’s not a relationship, you guys… no, wait. Actually it is a relationship: It’s user-friendly relationship. And not in a well-designed-app way. Relationships require constant care and maintenance. As the great Robin Sharma quotes in his book ‘Greatness Guide’.. break bread with your clients. Keep in touch with your friends.

With social media nowadays, there isn’t really an excuse not to keep in touch. Don’t be turned off by social media. It’s a communication tool. That’s all it is. Or pick up the phone.. or text someone in your network. Not that big an act, really. Ironically, in this technoligically advanced world, We are so thirsty for connection. It’s in our nature to connect.

Lesson 6: The Best Leaders Step up to the Plate

As my friend (Cat Chan’s) yoga teacher once said, “if you can, you must.”

As much as she wanted to stay out of it, and lay low, Wonder Woman saw what was happening, and evaded no more. She entered the fight with Doomsday. The result? Well, just go see the movie. Incidentally, she actually makes a good Wonder Woman.

Photo Credit: http://www.theguardian.com

In my previous projects, what I was brought on board as a QA lead. Being in that position, I found myself liaising with the developers, the business analysts, the subject matter experts from the business side, I was able to see a lot of the gaps in the project that needed to be filled.. that others weren’t noticing. I filled them wherever I could add value, while still performing my role well: creating user documentation, guiding the training team, sitting with various business users to understand the overall purpose of the project. I did this because that is what I was engaged to do. Sure my title was QA lead, but I was engaged to bring success to the project. Of course it wasn’t only me. I was obviously part of a larger team. But even though you were brought onto the do one role, the fact of the matter is that your fate lies with the success of the entire project team. Hence, you do whatever you can, find the gaps, and fill them with the help of your team, the business, and project team as best you can. That’s always been my philosophy. It has served me well.

Lesson 7: An Amazing Support Team

Photo Credit: http://parade.com

In times of need, you live to see another day when your support team arrives behind you. How many times does Lois save Clark’s ass because she arrives in time and clarifies the situation? What I drew from this, is sometimes and especially when the outlook is looking glum, the true sign of a leader is the solid support team. But it’s the leader who most often gets the credit. Nobody knows about little Lois, and the superhuman deeds she performs even when she ends up saving Clark multiple times.

Ok.. Action plan. Go see Batman v. Superman. Yes, it got beat up by the critics. But it’s still good old fashioned superhero action. Tons of eye candy (who can argue that Gal Gadot makes a super-hot Wonder Woman!) I’ve probably even piqued more curiosity with the corollaries I cited. Enjoy!