It’s been said, “Geeks rule the world.” It’s a euphemistic sentiment laced with truth. Maybe it’s our obsessive enthusiasm or dashing good looks. I’m not sure. But I am sure that geeks occupy many leadership roles in our world. I’m one of them, in fact. As a geek, I’m obsessively enthusiastic about my effectiveness as a leader. Sadly, though, there’s not much leadership advice that speaks to my inner geek. That is until now.
Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes speaks directly to the ink-paneled souls of geek leaders. This book teaches through geekdom’s kindred icons, comic book superheroes. Written by David Kahn, PhD, Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes is a leadership parable telling the story of a character named Ben. Ben is a superstar Account Executive at POW! PR. His performance, passion, and determination lands him the role of Executive Director. Ben dreamed of running a department since starting at Pow! PR, but Ben is overtaken by the role’s challenges and his limited leadership experience. Failed proposals mount and team members grow frustrated. To cap it off, Ben’s team is presenting to Pow! PR’s largest client. Presentation day arrives and the team missteps. Ben is sideswiped and fails to win the account. He’s now responsible for losing the firm’s largest client. Ben, his department, and his career teeter between merely ineffectual and a total collapse.
Enter Chief. Chief owns the local comic book store. Chief is recommended to Ben as the best leadership mentor around. He’s also the most unusual leadership mentor Ben has ever met. Chief’s grip on comic book lore is impressive. Ben finds Chief’s obsessive enthusiasm for comic books unnerving. Ben doubts that superheroes can teach him anything about leadership. However, Ben gives Chief a chance despite his reservations. I really should say Chief gives Ben a chance. As the story unfolds, Chief uses superhero mythos to teach five leadership superpowers that have the potential to resuscitate Ben and his fledgling team.
From a geek’s perspective, I’m not sure what could be better than learning leadership principles from the stories of Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and even Lex Luthor. Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes interweaves many heroes and villains into its narrative. Their integration is refreshing and the leadership lessons are intelligent. For example, superpower number three is the “Power of Persuasion.” Chief teaches Ben how Captain America’s influence during World War II was driven partly by his character and willingness to fight alongside his team. Captain America led by example. He gained influence in support of his cause. Captain America’s leadership effectiveness was based on his ability to influence others. Each of the five leadership superpowers is cleverly personified in a similar manner. It’s smart and made Ben’s journey engaging and relatable.
From a leader’s perspective, the subject of leadership could fill a warehouse of comic book boxes. Cape, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes is not written to be an exhaustive leadership dissertation. There are no new leadership revelations or silver bullets offered. It’s a parable relating foundational leadership principles–solid principles all leaders can leverage to be more effective. It delivers in a fresh and insightful way, and I highly recommend it to geeks and non-geeks alike.