Batman. Superman. Spiderman. Wolverine. The Hulk. Iron Man.
I love 'em. But they're horrible leaders.
Sure, they've got talent.
But if we looked at them in terms of leadership they come up short. Here's 2 big reasons why:
1. Superheroes don't care about leadership succession.
Think about it: that's why they often times don't age in comic books or have to get rebooted like the Batman franchise. They're never recruiting another Batman or Spiderman to take their place. They just run around from one crisis to the next. I want to walk up to Superman, pull on his tights and say: "Do you ever think about what's going to happen when you're old??" Superheros are super-shortsighted.
Leaders in the real world have to deal with leadership succession. Who is going to carry the baton after they die or move on? Don't you wish that whenever the time was ripe we could just reboot the Abraham Lincoln franchise or the series of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Don't you wish Gandhi's only weakness was a rock from another planet?
All those people prepared for leadership succession. Yet Superheroes rarely do.
2. Superheroes don't recruit a team.
If they do have a team the team members usually die-- especially if they're women. This usually gives the filmmakers the opportunity to hire new women (like Maggie Gyllenhaal after Katie Holmes didn't work out in Batman Begins) or new famous co-stars (a la Richard Pryor in Superman IV). Superheroes have friends (to humanize them) and they help in the storyline occasionally but superheroes rarely have teams that they actually need to work with. I mean, even Jesus recruited his 12 to rock his plan of making the world human again. But Superman and the other Fill-In-The-Blank Men are mostly solo acts.
Yet real leaders need teams. Not just for storyline but because real leaders actually have real weaknesses that need real help in order to serve humanity. It's not romantic-- it's pragmatic. While it's true that one superhero can save the world it takes a team to serve the world.
If anything, Superheroes are more like consultants. They come in, assess the damage, fix stuff and then fly away. You don't want them around all the time-- just when crazy people blow stuff up. Then we dust the bat signal off, plug it in and let them do their thing.
That's why I love ensemble cast movies more then superhero flicks. That's why I love films like Goonies, Ocean's 11, Braveheart and The Usual Suspects or TV shows like The West Wing and Band of Brothers. They're teams. Even though they have leaders on these teams, the leaders need the teams to succeed and they have to think about leadership succession.
It's what Superheroes don't. It's what real leaders do.
Posted on Wed, March 17, 2010