What does our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man have to teach us about leadership? Plenty, but I’d like to focus on just three lessons.
Before we get into that, a quick look at our hero: Peter Parker is a classic nice-but-nerdy teenager. The kind of guy who never gets the girl but ought to. He’s insulted and bullied at school. Poor Peter. Then a radioactive spider bites him, and WHAMO! He becomes a super hero.
You might think that becoming a super hero would be the answer to a put-upon teen’s dreams, but it’s not. If anything, being Spider-Man makes Peter’s life worse. His beloved uncle dies. Peter indirectly causes the death of his best friend’s father. Despite all of Spider-Man’s heroics, one of New York’s major tabloids, The Daily Bugle, constantly accuses him of being a villain. Worst of all: The girl he loves – Mary Jane, the gorgeous girl next door – is threatened by bad guys, and Peter has to give her up to keep her safe.
Things are so awful at one point in the Spider-Man saga, Peter gives up his super identity.
But of course, he dons the Spider-Man costume again and saves New York. No matter how bad things get, and they get pretty darn horrible, Peter always shows up as Spider-Man and saves the day.
So, what are the lessons we can learn from the amazing web-slinger?
– With great power, comes great responsibility. Peter’s Uncle Ben (his father figure) tells him this without even knowing that Peter is super-powered. Much as Peter wants to walk away from his responsibilities, he can’t.
Just as it’s true for Peter, it’s true for anyone in a leadership position. CEO’s have responsibilities for the business well being of their customers, shareholders, employees, and the communities where their companies operate. Even if the only thing you lead is a small department in a huge organization, you still have responsibilities to your internal and/or external customers, your colleagues, and the staff you manage.
No matter how much or little power you have, you always have responsibilities. Face up to them and succeed.
– Be who you are, do what you have to do. This follows from Spidey’s first leadership lesson. Recognize your power (abilities and talents) and use them. Since it’s unlikely you got your job because you were bitten by a radioactive spider, your abilities and talents probably got you there. Don’t forget that. Use what you have.
– You don’t have to go solo. If you don’t have a necessary skill, team up with someone who does. Peter/Spider-Man frequently teams up with other people to find information he doesn’t have or to cope with especially horrific bad guys.
No matter how much power and responsibility you have, you never have to go it alone. Your organization is probably full of people with talents that are complimentary to yours. Find ‘em and use ‘em.
Of course, you’re free to ignore these lessons if you want. But you never know if your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is going to be around when you need him . . .