How to Lead like a Superhero and Improve Employee Engagement:

Leadership Lessons from Our Favorite Caped, Tights’d, and Masked Characters

During the awards season for movies, many of us look back and think about the great films that shaped our year. Many of them, it seems, come from the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) or DC universe. And most of those films are rarely given a statue. (With the exception of Black Panther, and Wakanda Forever for costume design, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for Best Animated Feature in 2019). We digress.

That said, these films, especially in the last twenty years, have taken our hearts and imaginations, and they are filled with characters that show exemplary leadership.

We’re not the only ones who think so. There are thousands of websites, forums, and fan sites discussing the leadership qualities of our favorite characters. Duquesne University in Pennsylvania offers a class called, Using the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Become a Better Leader.

So to celebrate film and superheroes (and villains) and leaders, we thought we’d discuss the leadership lessons we have learned from our favorite caped, tights’d, and masked characters.

Leadership Qualities of our Favorite Superheroes

Black Panther:

Oh we love, LOVE Black Panther (King T’Challa). What makes him so outstanding?

Integrity: At no time does he sacrifice his values and morals to “get ahead” or hurt others. His words, actions, and thoughts are coherent and aligned. Great leaders walk the talk. Their actions reflect the organization's values.

Action-oriented: You do not see King T’Challa calling endless meetings. He listens to his trusted advisors. He makes smart, measured decisions, gets people on board to support those decisions, and then acts.

Capacity to adapt and change (change management): What has “worked” for his community needs to change, and he recognizes the silence of Wakanda has harmed many. He makes some radical advances, understanding that the choices from earlier generations are not relevant anymore. He doesn’t grasp onto the past. He values the lessons of the past and moves forward. He doesn’t fear change.

Shared knowledge: Regarding #3, T’Challa knows that the more knowledge shared, the better off everyone is. Great leaders don't build silos. Everybody should have access to the resources and information they need to get the job done.

Black Panther Leadership Quote: In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. – King T’Challa


Whether you’re a die-hard Miles Morales fan or a Peter Parker fan, they both share similar leadership traits that make us absolutely love them.

The Peter Parker Principle: Okay, we’ve all heard it and repeated it, “With great power comes great responsibility.” But that’s the deal. Spider-Man gets these incredible powers, and the first thing he does is help his community (“friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”). Great leaders take responsibility for their teams and their organization. They are in a position of power to help, to build people up, protect them, find development opportunities, and make them better.

Humanity and humor: The gift of Spider-Man to the MCU is a flawed, funny, and insecure leader who is able to face his insecurities and, well, save the world. Great leaders aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. They face those insecurities, surround themselves with good people who challenge them to be better, and continue to be humble. And, they simply don't take themselves that seriously. The broody leader thing is out.

DEI Leadership: Marvel’s creation of Miles Morales broke the mold, bringing a diverse cast of Spider-People (Girls, Boys, Robots, Animals, and more) … you name it … to the screen. It is exciting to have new faces to old heroes, and this brings us to another leadership skill – inclusive leadership. Great leaders recognize the need to build diverse teams, integrate diverse perspectives, and have the capability of transforming conflict into collaboration. Measure your organization's DEI initiatives and programs, implement meaningful changes, and succeed.

Spider-Man Leadership Quote: We are who we choose to be. – Green Goblin (Surprised you there, didn’t we! You were expecting the aforementioned quote. Even those Super Villains have some insight.)

But in this vein, we have a Peter Parker quote from 2007, It’s the choices that make us who we are. And we can always choose to do what’s right.

Wonder Woman:

When Wonder Woman was released in 2013, she brought DC back out of the dark. It wasn’t because of special effects and battle scenes, which were spectacular; it was because she captured our hearts.

Honesty: Yes, we know, she has the “lasso of truth”. But truth is power. And honesty matters. Leaders who are transparent and honest about the good and the bad inspire trust. They take away the mystery out of the workplace, and this strips away toxic water-cooler gossip.

The drive to improve: Wonder Woman searches out mentorship and is always striving to grow. This drive to succeed and learn is inspiring. Great leaders are great learners. They walk the talk.

Appreciation: Wonder Woman pays attention to the details and appreciates not only things she tries (like ice cream) but the people who make those things possible. And she expresses her gratitude and appreciation. Great leaders provide real-time feedback, meaningful appreciation, and recognition for the people on their team.

Wonder Woman Leadership Quote: What one does when faced with the truth is more difficult than you’d think. – Diana Prince

Today, we wanted to have a little fun. But there's something powerful about on-screen and comic book heroes. So, enjoy the season of movies and awards and lead like a Superhero to engage your team! (But you might want to forego the cape and tights.)

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