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Hint: Their Humanity

I have always loved superheroes.  When I was four or five, I was captivated by the television show Batman and spent many hours creating my own bat mobile and bat cave out of my grandparents’ sofa cushions.  As a teenager, I was fascinated and in love with Christopher Reeves as Superman. I dreamed of being Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman because I wanted her beauty, courage and power.  Now in my adult years, The Avengers are my “faves”. I have seen every Iron Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk and Avengers movie.  Oh, and Thor, “Oh my” I don’t dare miss seeing that fine specimen of a superhero! Recently, CBS introduced a new TV superhero, Supergirl. meet Kara Zor El Danvers Superman’s cousin who possesses similar super powers.

I never really thought too much about my fascination with these heroes as more than sheer entertainment and escapism; however, experts have spent years studying and speculating on possible reasons for people’s superhero admiration. Clinical psychologist, Robin Rosenberg, suggests that “superhero origin stories inspire us and provide models of coping with adversity, finding meaning in loss and trauma, discovering our strengths and using them for good purpose.”  In a piece done on ABC’s Nightline in 2013, reporter Terry Moran shared that “Superheroes are the Greek gods of secular modern life – otherworldly figures able to tackle the problems of this human world. Like the gods of Greek mythology, they can be flawed. In fact, some argue that we need them to be flawed. Part of their appeal is that we can relate to them, despite their being superhuman.”  At times, we attempt to model superhero behavior by taking on the demands and pressures of the world all by ourselves.  In my personal experience, trying to be this kind of superhero was nothing more than a recipe for disaster!

When I watched the first episode of Supergirl I had personal “aha” moment.  My fascination with superheroes became clear.  They teach us a lot about ourselves and provide valuable insights into how to become better leaders in our lives.  Here are four lessons that made a profound impact on me.

#1 Superheroes are true team players.

Kara Zor El was sent to earth to protect her cousin Superman.  Yet, she got caught in a space time warp and by the time she got to the planet, Superman had become the hero he was destined to be.  Not wanting to compete with her cousin, Kara chose to “fit in” and hide her special powers.  At first, I felt she was doing herself and others a disservice by not stepping up; however, I recognized that being part of the human world made her more authentic and relatable.  Almost all superheroes, except for Thor, try to fit in with us “mere mortals.” Often referred to as their alter egos, Batman was Bruce Wayne, Superman was Clark Kent, Hulk , Dr. Bruce Banner, wanted to appear normal so as not to be seen as more important than the rest of the world.  Superheroes understand they have special powers that are to be used for the highest good of the many and if only seen in that light they would be idolized and seen as more important than their fellow human beings. Fitting in is their way of connecting with the rest of the world while demonstrating that they are part of a larger team.

#2 Superheroes have fears.

Superheroes appear immortal which we sometimes mistake for fearlessness.  After all, their actions have them facing all types of crazy and deranged villains as well as exhibiting death defying acts of bravery.  The truth is superheroes have fears.  In Supergirl, Kara shares with her human sister that she is afraid to be a superhero.  She describes the feeling as a “good” kind of fear which causes her be unaware of what comes next or what she can really accomplish.  Despite her fear, Kara has a deep knowledge of her larger purpose and a significant role to play in the world.  Fears often push superheroes into action.  Most were initially scared and surprised by their superhuman powers.  When Iron Man tried to take his first flight, his saucer shaped eyes reflected his fear.  Spiderman was frightened when his “Spidey powers” shot spider webs out of his wrists.  And Supergirl feared that her strength might give out when she was attempting to land crashing planes or transport ambulances stuck in traffic.  Superheroes show their inner leader when they acknowledge and overcome their fears for the greater good of the world.

#3 Superheroes help people.

As Kara begins to tap into her super human abilities, her sister and friends advise her to stay hidden in the human world. Instead she feels compelled to help people and chooses to embrace her calling instead of running from it, a common struggle for other heroes.  .  Spiderman attempted normalcy many times but he could not sit back and watch bad things happen knowing that he could prevent them.  Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, grew from insensitive playboy millionaire to superhero who eliminated vicious criminals and aliens to protect people.  Superheroes demonstrate that real leaders understand their role in helping others be more successful.

#4 Superheroes, like leaders, are authentic.

In the closing scene of the first episode of Supergirl, Kara’s mom sends her a message in which she says, “Be wise, be strong and be true to yourself.”  Superman’s mother and father gave him similar advice as did Alfred for Batman and Spiderman’s aunt and uncle.  Superheores get that in order to save the world they must be smart and think about how best to use their powers.  They must be strong and not let anything or anyone stand in their way.  And finally, they must be authentic.  They cannot ignore or hide who they came into this world to be.  Superheroes show that leaders own who they are, the power they possess and change the world by using their talents to make the world a better place.

So that’s why I love Superheroes, because they inspire me to be a leader.  Their stories remind me that I have super powers inside of me that were given to me to make a difference on the planet.  In fact, each and every one of us is a Superhero with innate leadership skills that many times we ignore, because it seems easier and safer.  The reality is that we must own that power, not by bragging or making ourselves more important than others, but by collaborating with the team for a better end result.  Yes we will acknowledge and push through our fears, while encouraging others to do the same.  We must be wise, be strong and be true to ourselves.  Watch your favorite Superhero and start channeling your own unique leadership abilities.

Reflection Questions -Who is your favorite superhero(es)?  What leadership qualities can you learn from them?

Call for action:  Please leave a comment below.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask and I will respond personally.

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