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Leadership Lessons Learned from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Please note: this article contains spoilers.

DC Comics has arguably the two most well-known comic book heroes in existence in Batman and Superman. And the interesting part about these heroes despite both being orphans is that the way they manifest their talents takes very different forms. Batman, being mortal, has always had to balance brains and brawn when tackling his diverse and colorful cast of enemies. Superman, in contrast, is basically immortal but still is quite adept at finding more inventive ways to use his arsenal of powers to put away the baddies. In this film, DC has pit these great heroes against each other.

The synopsis of the film goes: It's been nearly two years since Superman's (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel.

This movie ultimately is about the use (and abuse) of power. Heady stuff for a superhero movie sure but very compelling in the context of the film's co-protagonists. Superman has tremendous physical power and Batman/Bruce Wayne has significant political/financial/will power.

Those with power must learn to effectively wield it or they risk the manipulation of others trying to leverage that power for their own ends.

So with this thought in mind, allow me to present 5 key leadership lessons I gleaned from this megafilm.

  1. Apologies are powerful: True leaders never lose sight of their humanity. Look at Tony Ferndandes' response to the Air Asia tragedy of 2014 and the world's response to him. Yes, Superman saved humanity from General Zod in Man of Steel, but I couldn't help but wonder watching this film if the mood might have been significantly lightened by a genuine and hearty apology from Supes as well as him playing a significant role in the clean up of Metropolis - but then again if this simple, human task had been done, you don't get Batman v Superman!

  2. Doing good deeds is all the reward you need: After working for a corporation for twenty-years, usually a colleague is awarded a gold-watch or some other significant reminder of their value to their company. After doing the dirty work of Gotham for twenty-years, the only reward Batman gets is to watch someone younger, faster, and more talented take the world by storm. He forgot that as a leader you have to grow to a place where the work itself is its own reward. At a certain stage of a leader's career, the constant seeking of approval can be quite detrimental and lead you astray - which is exactly what happens in Batman's case.

  3. Run your own race: It's natural to analyze a competitor's activities in order to firm up your own strategies. But when this curiosity becomes jealousy, fear, or hatred of the competitor then you have wandered down the wrong path. Clark Kent is not a fan of Batman's subversive and torturous methods and wants to use his Daily Planet platform to force him into retirement. But Clark should have been more focused on resolving his own problems and issues versus trying to regulate how his competitor/compatriot in crime solving got things done. And if it bothered him that much, the direct approach of constructive conflict would have been much more productive than passive aggressively badgering Wayne at Lex Luthor's charity event. The truth is they have a lot to learn from each other and this could have come out if Clark had taken a different approach.

  4. Know and mitigate your weaknesses: Leaders are tasked with developing people and then leveraging these developments into great outcomes. In order to do this, you as the leader must first know yourself inside and out - strengths and weaknesses. Leaders must potentialize strengths while actively mitigating weaknesses. If not, these weaknesses may derail your ability to accomplish your objectives. In the film, Superman has four obvious weaknesses - his love for Lois Lane, his love for his mother, his need for constant adulation, and his physical reaction to green kryptonite. Batman has never cultivated a serious romantic relationship, only has Alfred to concern over, and lives in the shadows so therefore has only one weakness to mitigate, but it's huge because his weakness is fear itself. Lex Luthor cunningly exploits his enemies' weaknesses at every turn in the film - manipulating them into trying to kill each other. I blame Batman for not mitigating his fear because this is fully within his control. Had he focused more of his attention (and substantial detective skills) on learning about the good that Superman did, about his positive relationships, and about his history and upbringing, the fight once again would have been avoided altogether.

  5. Don't abuse your power: Being a leader comes with real positional and influential power. But to quote another well known superhero property - with great power comes great responsibility. Likely, your subordinates will follow whatever direction you lead them in - blindly accepting that taking this course is in their own best interest. The shadow you cast is something of which to always be mindful. In a leader's shadow - dreams, visions, and ideas can flourish or die. In this film, both Batman and Superman are manipulated into abusing their power. Superman reduces Lois to a damsel in distress despite her being more than capable of taking care of herself. It's not his job to be the world's police and because he doesn't trust her - the international incident that kicks off the film occurs. Batman, instead of using his considerable resources to stopping the REAL threat - Lex Luthor, focuses his energy and power on battling Superman. Meanwhile, caught in the balance are too many people who die and suffer because their heroes are embroiled in a pointless grudge match.

Overall, BvS was an entertaining movie with significant issues in terms of character motivation, narrative structure, unnecessary future film setup, and major plot holes (3 out of 5 stars from me). That being said, I still want to see it again but this time in IMAX - that battle was AMAZING! And yes, Wonder Woman is as awesome as you have undoubtedly heard!

What other leadership lessons did you glean from the film? Let us know in the comments below. And please give the article a share if you enjoyed and got anything out of it.

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