7 Things Batman Can Teach Us About Power

batman and joker

Photo: Flickr via BrandontheMandon

You know who totally gets collaboration? Batman.He didn’t do the world-saving-things himself; he understood the power of a Robin and an Alfred and he collaborated well with the police.

He got collaboration. And I think it made him more powerful. As I get ready for a talk on power through collaboration on Saturday, I’ve been studying the issue.

Really. I studied Wonder Woman some more. Then I watched Batman Again.

CEO, Author, and Strategist, Nilofer Merchant helps leaders to win markets. She combines strategic models, market insight, and a deep understanding of the human condition, to provide practical advice that works. Her book on collaborative work is called The New How and you can read more about her at www.nilofermerchant.com.

Believe in something

Get the right tools

For superheroes, it might be cuffs that can repel bullets, or the mighty lasso that revealed all truth.

And for us mortals at work, it is our knowledge, our education, our experiences that help us build up our tool set.

We cannot have power without having the ability to think, to take in new ideas, to develop new insights, to create new outcomes. Notice that I did not point out rank or title as the key to the right tools. While those can be helpful, they are not necessary to creating great power. And in some ways, they get in the way of generating value.

That's what great tools should do -- help us to create more value and pursue our mission.

Get good sidekicks

Batman had Robin and Alfred, and in doing so, he got people who worked with him to create change. Robin did major work, and Alfred got the cool tools ordered.

Having the right people on our teams always matters because it is when many people work together they can create more momentum towards a goal. Plus, of course, it can be fun to work with other smart and creative people.

We live in an era of creative work. Unlike the era of production where we produced cars and we valued physical power or the era of information where we valued mental powers and produced computing chips. We live in the era of creative work where we what we produce is often a product of co-creation and uses emotional power in that effort.

Don the cape

Once you have power, what do you do with it?

Handle adversity

Know your weaknesses

We all have Achilles heels. It could be physical, mental or emotional. Superman's weakness was Kryptonite. It was physical. And he really couldn't escape this weakness of his.

Mine can be binaryism-- to see an answer and think it is the only answer. That is clearly a mental weakness.

Whatever that is for you, it's OK to have it. You just need to know you have it. And to know it is to also accept it. Because I know mine and have to befriend it, I can see when I'm doing it and therefore manage around it.

Take off the mask

Superheroes are on call a lot, and it can be awfully demanding work. After all, a lot of things need their fixing.

But there are times when they also need to restore. Superheroes have masks so they can take them off in their downtime. We need to learn how to do that, too.

Everyone needs some downtime; a time when we are vulnerable. We need to retreat to our batcave where our loved ones know us by our real, and often messy identities. Where they love us not for what we do, but for who we are.

We play characters in life -- mum, CEO, Director, Leader --- but those are roles we play. They are not us. We need time to rest, take off our masks, and just be. It's how we'll have the energy to do our mission another day.

Power comes from our belief in a mission, getting the tools, gathering people for the cause, and then donning the cape. Wisdom comes from how we handle adversity, accept our weaknesses, and know when to take off the mask. These are simple concepts yet complex in application. But they are ordinary and ancient in principle.

But be careful, with power comes great responsibility:

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