I Need A Hero: What Can Summer’s Superheroes Teach About Female Leadership?

Female superheroes on view this summer are demonstrating what it takes for all of us to be powerful in the workplace. Without the weapons, of course.Zoe Saldana is rocking it as Gamora, the powerful green character with super strength, agility and healing powers in the huge blockbuster hit now raking in ticket sales, “Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2.”The uber-anticipated “Wonder Woman” movie directed by Patty Jenkins at a cost of $100 million to Warner Bros. is opening in theaters June 2, the first-ever major Hollywood investment in a lead female character. The expected opening draw is at $65 million at the box office, with new trailers just released to increase antiicpation.[bctt tweet=“The new #WonderWoman movie from Warner Bros. may teach us lessons in leadership” username=“takeleadwomen”]True, these are comic book fantasies, but the lessons offered by the female characters can be applied to any woman leader or CEO, entrepreneur or manager. They are also role models for narrowing the gender gap as women are so rarely the stars in superhero films.“As the first big-screen superhero film starring a woman in more than a decade — and the first time in the character’s 75-year history that she’s had her own live-action film — Wonder Woman is under a microscope that, say, Beauty and the Beast, another recent release aimed at women, was not,” writes Kelly Lawler in USA Today.This is all good news, and can be applied to the workplace. The dynamics are shifting.“What makes most female comic characters so unique is that they often break stereotypes that negatively affect their outlook.  Women are no longer just the ‘damsel in distress’ waiting for male superheroes to come save them and clean up the mess. Now, women in comics are seen to be strong, independent and completely capable of saving the day,” Tom Moore writes in Ramaponews.A line of clothing— including a leather jacket you could wear to the office and a t-shirt you couldn’t—is rolling out for the movie’s premiere.According to Chief Creative Officer for Warner Bros. Consumer Products Soo Koo, “Wonder Woman has always empowered fans by embodying what it is to be powerful, confident and heroic, while also expressing her grace, compassion and femininity – in her upcoming feature film and for the last 75 years. With fashion as a daily form of self-expression, we’re thrilled to bring together some of the most well-known and exciting designers in the world to create a diverse collection of high-end collaborations and street-ready apparel and accessories for fashion devotees, casual shoppers and everyone in between,” Bleeding Cool reports.Whether you dress like Diana or not, super heroes are about power, super talents and the power to do good. Female leaders need this indoctrination.[bctt tweet=“Super heroes are about power, super powers & the power to do good. #FemaleLeaders need this.” username=“takeleadwomen”]At Take The Lead, the 9 Leadership Power Tools developed by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, are rooted in a sophisticated concept of power. Embraced with intention, women shift from the outdated, oppressive notion of “power over” to the expansive, positive and innovative “power to” in order to crack the code that has held women back from leadership parity. The 9 Leadership Power Tools give women immediately usable ways to navigate the world as it is, while leading the changes that need to be.For the last century, superheroes—and more recently female superheroes—have shared similar traits. Borrowing from this definition of what makes a superhero, here are some characteristics we can take to the professional space to prove to the world we can conquer anything because we have the power to lead and create change.

  1. Know your super power. This can be your talent or affinity that is one of your trademarks. Are you highly efficient and organized? A good speaker? Make sure that your colleagues and your team know what they can count on you to do and perform at a very high level all the time. Let it be known what you enjoy doing and what above all else you are really good at doing. You are skillful, you perform at peak, you have an ability and power to create and perform.

  2. Fight for fairness. Every superhero worth her cape or body paint knows she has to fight for justice. So speak up when someone in the office is “mansplaining” or speaking over a female colleague.[bctt tweet=“Be an office #superhero: speak up when someone is speaking over a female colleague.” username=“takeleadwomen”] Make ethical choices in every aspect of your work and be known as a person of integrity who will always choose to do the right things. You may not be faced with life and death save the world justice, but you can make ethical decisions every day that will become part of your persona.

  3. Be motivated. Superheroes are not slackers. They arrive on time, get the job done and defeat the evil enemy. You will not be slaying dragons or aliens, or even costumed Jokers, but you will be working hard and completing projects on time. Be known as a female leader who is reliable and has ambition for the next move up the ladder.

  4. Align your network. Every superhero has a cast of supporting characters, so be sure you have your posse of reliable confidantes, female leaders and peers at work and outside of your workplace to advise you and cheer you on. Build your network so that you have smart people for collaborations and inspiration.

  5. Develop a theme. You do not need to wear a costume, but you may want to have a go-to look that can be as simple as a blazer and a straight skirt, or the color blue, but think about the possibility of creating a certain look that is yours and that you are known for professionally. Madeleine Albright wore large decorative pins on her lapel as her trademark, that and her power to negotiate.

  6. Know your backstory. Every superhero has an origin story. So be aware of your history and how it contributed to make you the leader that you are now. As Feldt of Take The Lead, reminds us in Leadership Power Tool #1, “Know your history.”

You can also know the history of other female superheroes — who may be more extreme- -as well as the trailblazers in your field.In her new book, The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, “journalist Hope Nicholson devotes each chapter to a different decade, proceeding from the seedy ’30s pulps, via the femme fatales and undercover agents of the ’50s, to the alien avengers and supermodels of the ’70s,” according to Games Radar.  Nicholson also writes about “radioactive cosmic queen Superbitch and demonic warrior princess Maika Halfwolf.”Maybe we can learn some other lessons from them as well.