Leaders Rise: Real Life Lessons from Batman

Superheroes represent everything we want to be. We read comic books, watch television, and go to the movies as children wanting to believe in the best of the world, where good always triumphs over evil, where heroes believe people are still worth sacrificing everything for.

The Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy touched those chords while providing a deep meditation on the nature of society and some very important lessons for our own organizations.  Five were explored in a recent Forbes article.

  1. Organizations need to be built around ideas, not people. The downfall of District Attorney Harvey Dent makes clear why over-identification with a single individual is a bad idea. Part of the reason Bruce Wayne is so insistent on being Batman is because he wants to be a beacon of hope that cannot be torn down by one man’s indiscretions. Although we sometimes think of Keith Ferrazzi as our Batman, it’s the ideas he co-creates with the rest of the organization that really matter.
  2. Actions matter more than intentions. You are what you do. Bruce Wayne protests that he’s not the playboy he seems to be upon running into childhood friend Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins, and she replies: “But it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”  So act on your best intentions now. Fund R&D before that great engineering talent walks out the door. Promote that awesome but overqualified clerk you hired before he’s stolen away.
  3. Trust people with the truth. “Leaders often trick themselves into thinking that people can’t be trusted with the truth. ” That’s a bad idea, particularly when things aren’t going well with your organization. Trust your team, and you’ll find they redouble their efforts to solve the problem at hand, just as Gotham does when the city learns the truth about Harvey Dent.
  4. You need to risk failure in order to succeed. (Dark Knight Rises SPOILER) When discussing what seems to be an impossible jump required to escape prison in the Dark Knight Rises, Wayne says he doesn’t fear death. A fellow prisoner chastises him, pointing out that it’s the fear of death that will drive you to “move faster than possible, fight longer than possible.” Don’t focus on not losing what you have.  You’re just as likely to lose it by not risking it. Encourage your team to take risks when they’re required in order to succeed.
  5. When you do fail, don’t let it destroy you. Fighting harder after failing defines true greatness and courage. (Dark Knight Rises SPOILER) Batman rises above his defeat by Bane in the Dark Knight Rises and fights for Gotham that much harder. Forbes blogger, Alex Knapp concludes his post by pointing  out that great business leaders do the same. “In other words, Steve Jobs learned to pick himself back up. So did Bruce Wayne. And so can you.”

Can you think of any other Batman lessons? What would you add?

Ritu Walia is an FG Analyst.

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