You may have to look closely, but even a superhero’s cape gets tattered. A quick Google search of the word tattered produces the result, “old and torn; in poor condition.” Synonyms include worn, ragged, run down, and frayed.
In the movies, a cape can be an identifying mark of a superhero. It can represent one of many superpowers such as the ability to fly. Some of the most legendary superheroes of all time wore capes. Batman, Super Man, and Wonder Woman just to name a few (look…I found a couple of pictures of Wonder Woman wearing a cape, plus she can fly, just run with it).
Great leaders are our real-world superheroes. They wear invisible capes made out of an ability and willingness to better others and the world they live in. These real-world superheroes look just like you and me. Great leaders have the special powers of listening, empathizing, encouragement, and inspiration. They are Interceders, someone that redirects your journey. They see more in you than you see in yourself.
What Superheroes and Great Leaders Have in Common
Here is one thing superheroes and great leaders have in common. Just like a superhero’s cape can tatter, so can the spirit of a leader. That ability and the willingness to better others and the world they live in. The ability and willingness can get worn, ragged, run down, and frayed. Leaders get tired. Leadership is demanding, challenging, and can be just downright exhaustive.
Let’s spend some time looking at five reasons why the capes of superheroes and leaders tatter:
The Villain is Persistent
Every superhero has a nemesis, a villain. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex Luther, and Wonder Woman has Ares. The superhero never defeats their nemesis easily. Every time you think the villain is finished, they rise from the ashes. They are persistent and will not rest until they take the superhero down.
The villains in our leadership journeys are critics. These people are cynical, harsh, negative, and toxic. They will rest at nothing until they have drawn people into their black hole of misery. Dale Carnegie said “any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn and most…do.” Critics are persistent, but the great part about the story is the villain never wins. Ever.
They Are Supposed to Have It Altogether
The superhero appears to have it altogether on the outside. They have special powers, get to save the day, are in great shape, and wear a cool outfit. The question is though, what lies below the muscles and the cool outfit? Even superheroes do not have it altogether. They struggle with having to be something to everyone, their past, and the moments where they fail to save the day.
As leaders, we believe this crazy lie that we need to have it altogether. Here is a news flash. None of us have it altogether! Not you, not I. But, we choose to continue to carry this burden that wears us down. Towards the end of every leadership podcast, Craig Groeschel says, “Be yourself. People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.” Real is relatable. Relatable means being vulnerable.
We All Have a Kryptonite
Kryptonite was a substance that came from Superman’s home planet, Krypton. The seemingly invincible Superman weakens at the very presence of Kryptonite. The superpowers, the strength, gone in a flash. It drains him.
I strongly believe one of the best things you can do as a leader is to utilize one of many personality profile indicator tools. Tools like Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, and DISC just to name a few. These tools teach you way more about how you are wired than you could ever imagine.
I have chosen to study DISC. It tells me what I am naturally gifted at and those areas that are not so natural to me. For me, my natural strengths are being steady and detail orientated. People interaction on the other hand, can exhaust me. Which was crazy for me to accept the first time I got the results.
My Pastor, Mike Linch, is a certified DISC trainer. He led me through the results of my assessment over breakfast one morning at Steak ‘n Shake. As we started with a question, “what did you disagree with?” I went straight to the part about preferring to work by myself or in small groups. I explained to him that I had built a career out of working with many individuals and groups.
He asked me another question I will never forget. It was, “do you take naps” All I could think is what does that have anything to do with this? Then I confessed I am a frequent napper! He explained to me that just because people can drain me, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t be good with people. It just requires more energy for me to adapt. That was a game changer for me, now I can manage it better. A heavy people day can be offset with solitude to recharge, or a good old-fashioned nap! What is your Kryptonite that drains you?
They Walk in When Everyone Else Walks Out
Superheroes head in the direction of the crisis. As everyone else runs from the danger, they head towards it. For it, their capes get tattered. They could easily practice avoidance and do nothing, but they CHOOSE not to.
In leadership, great leaders do the same thing. When crisis happens, great leaders CHOOSE to run towards it. Avoidance is a terrible strategy for a leader. If we are being honest, avoidance is the easier path. Sometimes we just want to close our eyes and hope the problem goes away. Unfortunately, that is not how the world works. Great leaders walk in when average people walk out.
They Bare the Weight of the World
The people of Gotham City are dependent on Batman to save the day. Whenever and wherever something goes wrong, they expect him to be there to save the day. He is expected to fight on their behalf, keep the city safe, and destroy the villain. They expect his presence.
Leaders bare the burdens of their people. They fight on their team’s behalf to create opportunities for growth, to provide the resources necessary to do the job, to equip them with skills, and to fix problems. The leader cannot meet every need of every person, but never underestimate the power of your presence. When people see great leaders in their time of need, they know everything is going to be okay. Help is on the way.
Is your cape tattered? You are not alone! We can all agree the last two years have been crazy. None of us had a blueprint laying around on how to lead our organizations through a pandemic.
You had every excuse to fail, but you chose not to. In spite of everything, you pressed forward with your ability and willingness to better others and the world you live in. You walked in when everyone else walked out.
Here is something I can promise you as we close out. A tattered cape means you fought the good fight. You emerged from the rubble, you saved the day. You live to fight another day. People will always remember how you led during this crisis.
Those that led poorly need to prepare to be obsolete, the greatest fear of a leader.
The ones that led well have tattered capes. Their tireless efforts put people first, loved them, and cared for them. Maya Angelou once said, “that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
We are all merely human. When your ability and willingness is waning as a leader, just remember that even a superhero’s cape gets tattered. Ordinary, every day people can be a superhero in someone else’s world. Be that person and keep fighting the good fight! Our world needs more superheroes.
Ordinary to Extraordinary Intersection
How tattered is your cape? Are you tired? What is your kryptonite that can zap your energy? How do I lead during a crisis?