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.

Relationship Roundup

This week in the roundup: a focus on leadership traits that will have you better relate to those you lead and hope to lead.

Leadership Highlight: The list of recipients for this year’s Top American Leaders Awards hosted by Washington Post Live, in partnership with Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership provides some nice nuggets of wisdom for leading today. Watch the video clips of Monday’s speeches here http://bit.ly/w4CWRU.

Empower the people: This HBR blog by Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald highlights how the use of social media ushers in new ways to enhance your greatest asset, your people, by empowering them to collaborate at unprecedented scale. Read the blog here http://bit.ly/sy8EJV.

3 habits of highly effective people: Assess your leadership strengths and gaps with this CBS Money Watch article. Read it here http://bit.ly/rVfBQt.

A simply amazing idea: Using the extensive knowledge base of the retired and soon to retire holds great promise for organizations that need more intellectual capital. The Amazings have created a unique business opportunity out of this underutilized resource. Read and view more here http://bit.ly/vJl46S.

Leaders must learn to change people – Change, a must to avoid corporate stagnation and the big bad wolf of executive requests to its employee base. This interview with Kevin Eikenberry author of Bud to Boss by Michael Figliuol of ThoughtLeaders, LLC summarizes some best practices for leaders who want to elicit positive changes from their teams. Read the interview here  http://bit.ly/rDsYU9.

Kibibi Springs is myGreenlight’s Community Manager.