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Leadership Lessons from Batman

1.  Use Actions as your Voice

The essential outlook from Batman’s point of view is to use actions instead of voice to achieve a vision.  Too many people often speak a great deal, and wing up doing very little.  While stating visions to others is very important, failure to follow up with action may make these words hollow.  Batman does not simply go around talking about how bad things are, nor does his make wild claims about what should be done better.  Instead he uses his resources to build high tech tools and weapons so he can do something about.  In fact, he does this without any public knowledge of his true identity, Bruce Wayne.  I am sure that most people in any organization have seen upper level management make all sorts of claims about what they will do for their employees, but in the end may not be able to follow up on those promises for a wide variety of reasons, not all legitimate.  From my point of view, the less is said and the more is done will benefit everyone.  Batman is a doer, not a talker.

2.  Be a Force for Good

Batman is a force of good.  In the world of Gotham, this means fighting crime and keeping the citizens safe.  In the business world, this usually involves supporting members on the team.  Instead of focusing on the good of the company or organization as a primary responsibility, sometimes leaders and managers need to focus on the individuals.  Life happens, and when it does, if the employees know that they will be taken care of, morale will always be higher as a result.  I am a firm believer in the mindset where I focus my efforts on the members on our staff first, and worry about the organization second.  While at first glance, this may seem to be counter-productive to the organization, in fact it generates higher performance from a highly motivated team with good morale.  From the organizational perspective, meeting the needs of customers is met as a result of a team that is motivated and with high morale.  At times, the organization may be suffering and workforce reductions may be experienced, but most of the time, putting the good of the employees first will allow for many rewards both in the near term, and also long term.  When employees know that the organization will support them, the relationship between the individual and the organization is strengthened.  This will keep employee turnover to a minimum, thus reducing the costs associated with retraining and indirect costs associated with lesser experienced workers performing the same jobs as those who had left.

3.  Sacrifice for Others

Leadership expert and author John Maxwell has used the concept of leaders sacrificing for the good of those they are responsible for.  I fully agree with this.  Too often upper management executives may put their own needs first, and use the employees to achieve it.  This can also include someone trying for a promotion by finishing a project ahead of schedule.  However, this individual may have mandated that all workers work extra and on the weekends to achieve this goal.  While the goal may have been met, in many respects it may have been at the expense of those doing all the heavy lifting.  Following Maxwell’s example, a good leader will not use others to push their own agenda forward, but would allow the employees to take the credit.  These individuals will routinely take responsibility when things go bad, but will always allow the team to take credit for successes.  Batman is a symbol of sacrifice.  He may be independently wealthy and lives in a mansion; however, Bruce Wayne has taken a life of solitude in order to fight crime as Batman.  In a sense, he is sacrificing having a family and happiness in his efforts to help out others.  The citizens of Gotham may see Batman and feel safe as a result of his exploits, but the cost of this safety comes from the sacrifices that Bruce Wayne has made on a personal level.

4.  Trust Those Close to You

While fighting crime in a costume with a hidden identity allows Bruce Wayne to be able to operate normally in his every-day life, sometimes he needs help of those close to him.  The burden of his mission weighs on his shoulders, and every manager and leader needs to have a close circle of supporters whom they can trust.  In the Batman movies, this supporter is his long-time butler Alfred.  Alfred knows of his identity and helps to keep him grounded and is there when Bruce Wayne may be in low spirits.  Bruce knows he can trust Alfred with his identity, and therefore his own safety, and can gain strength from this.  Any manager knows that it is very difficult and not wise to confide in those they supervise.  It is always good to have a positive relationship with everyone on the team, but this cannot include personal admissions or confiding personal information to those that should not have knowledge of.  The concept of “it is lonely on top of the mountain” comes to be realized in this scenario.  Having higher levels of management that you can fully trust with personal information can help keep a manager or leader grounded, inspired, and open to learning new ideas from others.  No one person will have all the information, so it is always good to have those who can listen and give advice for situations that may be confusing or in moment of indecision.  Having a good family, close circle of non-work friends and a supportive group of fellow managers (or upper management depending on the organizational chart) can keep a manager from burning out or making bad decisions.

Batman may not be a polished or refined leader.  He just as well save your life, and disappear before you can say thanks, or he very well may go outside the law to punish criminals.  However, his examples of sacrifice, work for the common good, and his lead by example style can be a good lesson example for anyone in the work force today.

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