I recently had the privilege of speaking with Michelle Pizer, host of the annual Crack the Leadership Code summit. We discussed the challenges of being a new leader, how leaders can utilize confidence and courage, leadership lessons from our current political climate, and the ways we can harness and maximize the five superpowers outlined in Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes.
I’m honored to be featured in the most recent Talent Management magazine. The following is an excerpt from the interview. Special thanks to Lauren Dixon for taking the time to speak with me.
Leadership Lessons From Superheroes
As Ben Parker, uncle of comic book superhero Spider-Man, said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
In “Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons From Superheroes,” author David Kahn, an academic and leadership author and teacher, tells the fictional story of another Ben, an executive director at POW! PR Inc. who rose in ranks but is failing as a team leader. His boss refers him to a leadership coach, Chief, who runs a comic book store.
Chief shares that good superheroes benefit from their actions more than their superpowers. The same goes for leaders in reality. And even though Kahn’s book is a work of fiction, its story provides plenty of credible and valuable lessons for aspiring leaders.
Talent Management spoke with Kahn about leadership skills and coaches. Edited excerpts follow.
How can prospective leaders find a coach?
I think there are a lot of ways to find a coach. There are a lot of professional coaches out there who are fantastic. That is definitely one way to find a coach. The other way is to find the people in your life who inspire you and who have experience and are smarter than you and are willing to share what they know…
Welcome to another editionof leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a gram of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a gram? Because it’s the weekend!
It’s easy to get into a rut. It starts with being too comfortable, then you’re resisting changes that challenge your comfort, and before you know it, you sound like a colleague of mine who told me yesterday, “Why bother changing my leadership style? This has worked for a long time so I’ll do it when the CEO directs the entire management team to do it.”
For a little context, she’s only 32 years old (not quite an “old dog who can’t learn a new trick”) and all I suggested was that she start asking more questions when she meets with her team. If she’s reading this, and I hope she is, maybe Bryan Cranston can provide a more convincing argument then I did.
You can either take a proactive or a reactive point of view. And we know a lot of people that are like, ‘Hey, do you need a job flipping burger?’ [And their response is] ‘Guess I’m flipping burgers now.’… You’re reacting to stimulus as oppose to forging ahead and saying, ‘No, I don’t want that.’
So if you put yourself in a position to increase your odds of having an experience, that’s where you want to be. You want to try something new. You want to be courageous and do something that you have not done before… As we get older, we have a tendency to say, ‘This is what I do and this is what I don’t do.’ We stagnate in our growth. Even if it’s a small thing, take a chance. Try it.
Find the courage to take proactive steps in developing you and your team. Don’t allow passive “Guess I’m doing _________ now.” Instead, generate a culture where people feel empowered. This will enable them to own their actions, not fall into them. And with empowerment comes engagement, increased productivity, and a team that thrives on continuous self-improvement.