Boardroom Superheroes

Some of the biggest block busters churned from the film industries across the world are centered on superheroes with fantastic powers. Is it possible that there are some leadership lessons we can derive from these popular superhero movies? Since in our work spaces, strive as much as we want, we cannot always be the smartest, wisest or the best.

Watching the movie ‘Doctor Strange’ from the Marvel house of superheroes was a recent addition to my list of ‘things to do’. This list was started to draw up 10 things that I normally don’t do and see if I could push myself to do it. I am not a superhero movie fan to say the least and have often wondered what draws people to them with such fervour. I was soon to find out with this one.

Dr. Stephen Stranger’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a practising Neurosurgeon. His life changes after a car accident leaving his surgery performing hands useless. He is grappling with ways to heal himself. With western medicine offering him no cure to his condition, he reluctantly threads down the path of mysterious enclave and finds himself in Kathmandu seeking his Karma-Taj. He soon learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence. As someone who is not obsessed with superheroes and Marvel Comics (unlike so many people I know) it is easy to brush it off as violent, unrealistic and clichéd. Over the years I have learnt that a movie holds only as much meaning as we make out of it. What we can imbibe from it can make all the difference between good and bad.

In my view that there are there are some great leadership lessons we can learn from it.

1. Our pride limits our possibilities.
Dr Strange is an accomplished doctor and is “full of himself”. With no means to a living, he is forced to give up his pride and look for new ways to find a cure, a new identity and to really find himself again. He must give up his pride and ego and surrender to the ways of his new mystic world to learn about it and become a sorcerer. Although confidence is a necessary thing for most of us to succeed, an excess of it makes us believe that we are invincible. As we see with the outcome of this car accident, Life has its ways of forcing us to step down from the mantels we place our selves upon. The swift and tactful blows it offers, force us to reinvent ourselves. This is inevitable and clearly out of our control. Yet, keeping our pride at bay and etching clearly the line between confidence and vanity will define how quickly you can realign and adapt to new circumstances.

2. Learn from others who threaded the path before.
The good doctor needed to learn at every step of the way. He was not born gifted with his skills to save the multiverse from the dark forces. He had to ask and receive. He had to admit that he did not know it all. And he had to understand that there were others who have faced the strife that he has. We often tend to believe that the whole world revolves around us, our experiences and our feelings and thoughts about it. We forget that this universe if a few million years old. There is more than a good chance that some one has had to go through the same thing before. Others have suffered before what we suffer now. Others may strive to overcome and surely a few would have.

This awareness will also help us realize that we may not always have to create solutions; we merely have to discover them or learn them from someone else. Seeking guidance from those with similar experiences saves us precious time and will offer insights which may elude us while we are in the midst of our journey. As they say “Seek not just the answer but its keeper as well”.

3. Determination Determines your destination:
As is quintessential to most superheroes, Doctor Strange is set apart from his peers by his resilience and unvarying determination. I believe that the factors that determine our failures are the ones that can define your success as well. Like how entrepreneurs fail because their passion blinds them to reason. They also succeed because of their unfazed passion and “Never Say Die” attitude . Our failures and our success are two sides of the same coin.

Doctor Strange is determined and never loses sight of his goals. While he may not be the most knowledgeable sorcerer or the wisest of them he clearly hits a home run with determination.

What we can be is the most determined and the one that puts in the most effort with the goal in mind. We must keep pushing to overcome barriers and find solutions and tackle the challenges on hand to take us a step or two closer to the goal. Solutions tend to present themselves by the very virtue of having relentlessly tried.