This picture of my grandson triggered thoughts of how we sometimes view leaders – as superheroes with superhuman abilities.
I am a leader. I have studied leadership, served leaders, been served by leaders. I have collaborated with leaders. I have hierarchically reported to leaders, been a leader with direct reports. I have coached, and been coached by, leaders. I’ve had influential, collaborative, humble leaders. I’ve had the opposite. I’ve been an influential, collaborative, humble leader. And yes, at times, I’ve been the opposite. I’ve experienced leadership at work, at home, spiritually, academically, and during my lifetime, in various forms.
I am continuously learning about the many facets of leadership, however confident in making a generalized statement that LEADERS ARE NOT SUPERHEROES. Superheroes are superhuman. The Merriam-Webster definition for superhuman: “Being above the human: DIVINE”. Leaders are not above human – they ARE human.
Being a leader does not make you any less human. You will still feel pain, have good and bad days, achieve success and experience failures, make good and bad decisions, have personal and professional challenges, and celebrate personal and professional wins. You will grieve when there is loss, and experience ranges of emotion as every other human.
Why, then, do some organizations have ‘above human’ expectations for leaders? This is not a question of competency or skill level. Of course leaders are expected to meet higher standards of performance to differentiate their contributions and impact. Leadership has a definite role that positions them to inspire, motivate, influence, engage, empower, co-create vision and strategy, and other expectations we could all list as important for the role leaders play.
The question of superheroism is targeted when leaders are expected (consciously or unconsciously) to experience, display, demonstrate or deliver superhuman outcomes. Those outcomes could be mental, physical, emotional or performance based. What is your leadership culture? What is the leadership narrative that is being interpreted on a daily basis? How are you nurturing your leadership as humans? What form of ‘kryptonite’ are you inadvertently injecting into your leadership culture?
 Merriam Webster (2020). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superhuman.