Leadership Superhero: Is There Such a Thing?


When we hear the word Superhero we think of the fictional comic book, cartoon and movie creations.  These characters are larger than life and always find a way to use their powers to benefit people and defeat evil in the world.

And people everywhere often long for superhero powers!

Seeking Super Powers

In training sessions, a common ice-breaker and conversation starter is the question, “If you could have one super power what would it be and why would you choose it.”

My question is slightly different:

Is there such a thing as a leadership superhero? 

To answer that question I did some research on some better known superheroes as a basis of measurement.

Here’s the punch line:  There are leadership superheroes all around us, and odds are that you are a leadership superhero too.

Fictional Superhero

Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Iron Man have been some of the most popular superheroes over the past seventy-five years and are still going strong today.

Let’s examine the similarity between these fictional superheroes and real life leadership superheroes:

Super Powers:

We all know that fictional superheroes have super powers.  Real life leadership superheroes have super strengths.

Fictional superheroes all have superior intelligence, strength, agility, and stamina. In addition, they each have special powers.

  • Superman has x-ray vision
  • Batman has a photographic memory
  • Spider-Man can cling to most surfaces
  • Iron Man has a high-powered armor suit with built-in weapons

Leadership superheroes all have super strengths.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes the super strengths of leaders who had taken their companies to the top:

“Creates superb results yet is humble…Drives sustained results with inspired standards not their personality…Prepares the next generation of leaders for success…Accepts responsibility for mistakes while giving credit to others for success.”

Super Timing:

Fictional superheroes are most often seen as normal people who have normal jobs and bring out their super powers only when help is needed.  Real life leadership superheroes are involved in the same projects and tasks as everyone else, but they use their super strengths when called on.

  • Superman is Clark Kent – newspaper reporter
  • Batman is Bruce Wayne – industrialist
  • Spider-Man is Peter Parker – freelance photographer
  • Iron Man is Tony Stark – businessman

Leadership superheroes know when to act.

In his book Strength Based Leadership: Great leaders, Teams, and Why People FollowTom Rath says this:

“What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time.”

Super Perseverance:

Fictional superheroes have overcome significant setbacks in their lives that helped mold them into who they are.  Real life leadership superheroes have experienced failure and used it to be better the next time.

  • Superman was orphaned as a baby when his home plant self-destructed as he was transported to Earth on a spacecraft
  • Batman witnessed his parents death at eight years old at the hands of a mugger
  • Spider-Man begins his super hero career letting a criminal escape who later murders his Uncle
  • Iron Man builds his first suit of armor while being held hostage by an enemy army

Leadership superheroes finish strong.

John Maxwell, leadership expert and author of the new book Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn says this:

“Leaders recognize that they will likely fail, but that their perseverance allows them to stand back up after the fall and move forward with confidence.”

My Leadership Superhero

Based on all of my research, here is my definition of a Leadership Superhero:

A Leadership Superhero is someone who learns and grows from setbacks in their life, holds a regular job and uses their strengths when help is needed.

This is why I say, “There are leadership superheroes all around us and odds are that you are a leadership superhero too.”

So do you have what it takes to become a leadership superhero? Are you playing to your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who compliment them? Are you learning, growing, and developing other leaders? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Denis McLaughlin
Denis McLaughlin is President of Leadership GPS, Inc.
He is a Leadership Development Expert, Coach, Teacher, Speaker and Writer
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Image Sources: geek-news.mtv.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Jim Trunick on September 24, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Dennis, love the superhero angle! Absolutely right, and don’t confuse achievement (me centered) with Leadership (them centered.)

    Thank you for the article – a keeper!!

    Jim Trunick , author

  2. Denis G. McLaughlin on September 25, 2013 at 6:20 am

    Jim, thanks for your comment. Deep down I think the “them centered” themes are why the fictional superheroes are so popular. That is what we all strive for.

  3. dianapriceassociates on September 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Learning to be a leadership superhero takes focus and consistency; it is very important in this process to eject the superego. Thanks for the post!

    • Denis G. McLaughlin on September 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Diana, thanks for your comment. I like your thought on the superego.

  4. Gary Williams on September 27, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Great perspective, Dennis. One of the other aspects of this that almost all fictional superheroes have that also impact leadership is that they all had a wise mentor(s) or “normal” friends who supported them – Batman had Alfred, Superman had Lois Lane, Spiderman had Aunt Mae – people that, when push came to shove, they could go to for the a dose of “reality”.

    • Denis G. McLaughlin on September 27, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Gary, great addition. I agree, they each had a Super Mentor.