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Do you Need a Leader or a Superhero?

leader superman hero
Leader or Organizational Glue?

How often as a leader do you feel like it is your responsibility to hold your whole organization together? Do you strive to keep it together through thick and thin so that no one will see anything other than a fearless leader? You are not alone if those questions hit home. 

When leaders put on the persona of a superhero with their imaginary capes serving as impermeable shells, they really don’t exhibit the unifying forces that a leader needs. This facade of strength and power distances a leader from their employees more than it brings them together as a team. 

Leaders who are too concerned with maintaining their reputation and holding it together miss out on important details, relationships, and development opportunities. Think of it this way: if you were actually a superhero flying above your organization, you might have an apparent view of what’s often referred to as the 30,000-foot view, but you won’t really be down there in the midst of it with your employees. 

All about Balance

Good leadership is all about balance. It’s about knowing when to observe from above and when to get your hands dirty with your team. It’s about knowing when to appear strong and courageous and knowing when to let your walls down so your team can get to know the real vulnerable side of you. 

The Center for Creative Leadership came out with a list of 10 qualities that good leaders embody:

  • Integrity
  • Ability to delegate
  • Communication
  • Self-awareness
  • Gratitude
  • Learning agility
  • Influence
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Respect

These are not in any specific order, but the second one immediately jumped out at me. I’ve seen this in myself, and I’ve seen this in leaders I’ve worked under. Leaders who rely on their strong outer shell and persona can get so caught up in their own world—their often lonely world—because they don’t let anyone in. Then, when a challenging workload or a problem bigger than even their superhero-sized ego rolls around, they struggle to see when they need real assistance and help. 

Vulnerability is Key

Leaders, be vulnerable. We can go to the movies to catch an extraordinary display of strength and power. But in our workplaces and our homes, we need examples of real people. We want to see the humanity of our real-life heroes and leaders. We want to understand that they have flaws alongside their gifts, that they can ask for help. Great leaders recognize their limitations. They choose to delegate their work to find that balance and free up some time to catch a glimpse from 30,000 ft. 

Being a leader is difficult. I don’t think anyone would challenge that. But I assure you, opening up and showing up to work every day without a cape or a mask, as the real you, is infinitely more powerful than being a superhero. 

For more information, listen to my podcast with Cori Burbach, “Leaders with Heart Understand that Leadership is about Courage and Vulnerability”.

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Heather R. Younger, J.D. YouTube Channel