Anatomy of a Superhero

Anatomy of a Super Hero

Holy Bruce Wayne, Batman. In the last 75 years there have been 14 Batman movies. That’s almost as frequent as the Olympic Games! Don’t forget Superman, Spiderman, other individual superheroes, the Avengers and Justice League franchises, and the list goes on. There are spin-offs of spin-offs, and characters unite in weird and wonderful combinations. What is our perpetual fascination with the superhero? The man/woman who in endowed with super human powers and abilities. The latest box office hit of Thor: Ragnarok is no exception. Ok, ‘technically’ Thor is a god, but the same applies. There are many layers to the mythology of these larger than life characters which resonate with us. But why?

We invite you to consider your organisation as sitting within superhero ranks: with your leaders as the Wonder Women and Tony Starks of the corporate world. These could be your formal, organisational leaders (Executive Leadership Team), or your informal leaders: those who sit amongst the mere mortals, yet wield the influence of a titan.

So what is it about the ‘magic’ of the superhero? There’s the duality of the character in regular life versus emergency/crisis; the costumes or uniforms by which these characters are recognised; the leadership capabilities of an influential figure; the frequently common athletic prowess (or at least high performance in one way, shape or form). And then of course the superpowers. Superheroes are often operating in a high stakes environment, and so the impacts of their actions and decisions will be important, and enduring.


Performers. The parallel between superheroes and athletes and super business people is not a very long bow to draw. They are all performers; they are executors; they are do-ers; they do things. They achieve objectives that are visible, tangible and often admirable. Superheroes are mentally tough and often have physical prowess – not unlike an athlete. The common thread of ‘mind over matter’ can be seen amongst many top business leaders alike.

In asking the question of ‘where do superheroes come from?’ we encounter the age-old psychology debate of nature versus nurture. Are we a product of our DNA, or our environment? Most people would argue that superheroes, and leaders, are made not born. The matrix of life’s experiences build upon, develop or create patterns of thinking, behaving and responding.

Superheroes are the figures who rise to the occasion in an emergency or crisis. They come in two flavours: heroic and stoic. Heroic superheroes, and leaders, save the day; they are busy saving people and cities (organisations), and pride themselves on protecting the vigour of a vision, and maintaining high standards. They are zealous and represent ideals. Stoic superheroes on the other hand (think Batman), and leaders, believe that reason – without the interruption of negative emotion – conquers challenges. Each has a role to play in a crisis: whether it be motivating others (heroic), or taking a step back for objectivity (stoic). Both are strategic thinkers who can arrive at results, albeit via different means. There is certainly room for diversity amongst superheroes and in leadership.


Turn coal into diamonds. The ability to manage a high-pressure situation in an advantageous way is a hallmark of a superhero, and super-leader. Superheroes respond to call to arms – for example when the Bat Signal is raised over Gotham city, Batman knows there is either something urgent or important that requires his attention and skill. This may be in the form of an emergency (requiring immediate response), or a situation which calls for a more tactical or strategic set of responses.