I would love to say that I was strategic in setting the launch date for my superhero-themed book, Agents of Change, right in the midst of some prime Superhero movie madness. First, “Batman vs Superman” and now the release of “Captain America Civil War”… clearly I must have known what I was doing in picking this theme and in setting this date, right? If only that were true… but I guess sometimes it truly is better to be lucky than good. What I like about these new movies is that not only are they superhero themed, but that they particularly tell the tales of the tensions that superheroes face… both those heroes from the pages of comic books as well as those from real life.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” As Spiderman’s Uncle Ben so wisely proclaimed, power does not come for free… it comes with a price. I believe that for most of us, our greatest weaknesses come from an extension of our greatest strengths─ either exaggerated or abused. And this isn’t just true for individuals, but for teams and organizations as well. An individual may be able to “leap tall buildings with a single bound”, but also cause some collateral damage as she hits the ground. A team might be loaded with super passionate individuals, but then become over run by fruitless and unrelenting debates. An organization might promote a risk-taking culture, but punish individuals when a risk leads to consequences. Or worse… in any of these situations, the super powers might be kept under wraps to avoid any negative side effects that might occur.
Much of what Agents of Change is about is recognizing these tensions and overcoming the obstacles to realize our full innovative potentials. The following tensions represent some of the key challenges that exist in trying to unleash our superpowers and some of the equally super-charged conflicts that arise.
- Perfect is the Enemy of Amazing. To do something truly amazing requires pushing boundaries, taking risks, and a willingness to fail. The demand for perfection, while potentially with super intentions, will limit the boldness needed for breakthrough. “The maxim ‘Nothing but perfection’ may be spelled ‘Paralysis’.” -Winston Churchill
- A Culture of Empowerment in a World of Regulation. Superheroes want to be free to change the world how they best see fit. On one hand, the world wants to sit back and see that power unleashed; on the other hand, the world wants to control and stifle it. “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” -Theodore Roosevelt
- Lead through Serving. We often think of Superheroes as “leaders”, standing heroically in front of the room primed to save the day. While this may sometimes be true, often the most heroic individuals are quietly doing what needs to be done behind the scenes… fighting for good and not for glory. “Servant-leadership is all about making the goals clear and then rolling your sleeves up and doing whatever it takes to help people win. In that situation, they don’t work for you, you work for them.” ― Ken Blanchard
- Discipline comes before Freedom. We want instant freedom… to live as we want, to express our powers as we best see fit, and to control our own destinies. But the foundation of freedom is discipline, as even superheroes need to eat their vegetables before having dessert. “In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves? self-discipline with all of them came first.” Harry S. Truman
- Operate out of a Purpose versus an Obligation. While operating under a strong sense of duty is an admirable principle and can change the world, a person’s full potential cannot be unleashed without a strong sense of purpose. It can sometimes feel selfish to focus first on your strengths and second on the world’s needs, but I believe that God gifted us our strengths for a reason and that our utilization of them will thus inherently enable a maximum impact. “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.” ~Howard Thurman
When striving to do something super, we will be assaulted with a series of challenges and tensions. And these can cause an internal battle and civil war within ourselves, our teams, and our organizations. We must know what powers that we have been given, have the discipline to develop them, serve others, and change the world. If we can tap into that potential, our true superpowers can be unleashed.