Lessons from Choosing a Superpower

“Mum, which superhero would you like to be?” was a question my son regularly asked me during the holidays when he was younger.    Playing along, I stepped into his superhero world and we debated for a while which superhero characters were better and why.

Superwoman, or Wonderwoman were immediate favourites of mine, whereas my son often went to great lengths to tell me why he had chosen characters like Superman or Spiderman.

But what does this Superhero debate have to do with leadership and Executive Development I might hear you ask…?

Well, Forbes carried out a study in 2015 which caused quite a stir when they published the results in a blog which subsequently attracted over 30,000 views. The study asked some 7,000 global leaders across the globe which superhero they would prefer to be, in particular would they prefer to fly or be invisible.

The data, collated by Forbes, revealed that regardless as to the Seniority level, or job function, most leaders, (an average of 73%) chose to have the ability to fly over the ability to be invisible.

Interestingly, when I asked my then eight year old, which superpower he would choose, his response was the same.  He would prefer to fly over the chance to be invisible.  He said the ability to fly would enable him to feel powerful and free. Whereas being invisible was more about being quiet (which is difficult for an eight year old at the best of times!), secretive and sneaking around.

His comments mirrored those in the study with ‘fliers’ being much more confident and in control.

So, next time when you are in your management meeting or you want to inject some alternative reflective time in your Board meeting then why not strike up the debate and ask your colleagues ‘which superhero they would like to be?’  ‘Would they prefer to fly or be invisible?’ and wait to hear what they share with you….

Responses to what might seem silly and sometimes childlike questions in fact reveal interesting insights into attitude and personality traits including someone’s engagement and commitment at work. The blog concluded: “…to one degree or another, everything that you do and everything that you say represents you. As you move throughout your workday and even in your recreational activities, everything counts.”

Indeed it does, so think carefully next time someone asks you a seemingly innocent question!