From caped crusaders to men of steel, superheroes have had a strong draw on people for generations.
Not only because they're intriguing and cool, but also because most of them face complicated struggles.
Entrepreneurs are much in the same.
Many notable founders have gone through arduous experiences to get to where they’re at today. In the way our favorite hero stories inspire us to do and act better, extraordinary entrepreneur stories are equally captivating.
Whether someone is just starting or growing a business, here are six timeless business lessons to take from classic superhero characters:
1. Know your weaknesses
Superman’s self-awareness saved him countless times against Kryptonite. And while Kryptonite is most well-known, he actually had three additional weaknesses: a red sun, high gravity and magic. In business, it’s not always so obvious to see every weakness that could potentially hold someone back, so it's worth taking inventory early on and asking things like:
- Are you a leader or a manager?
- Do you follow your gut or are you process-oriented?
- Do you like spending time tinkering with tech or diving into creative brainstorms?
- Prefer creating pitch decks or financial modeling?
In the process, you may find that while you might be really great at networking, you're terrible at managing financials. Or, that you’re more comfortable selling than you are building a product. Taking note and understanding these things is a great starting point to help you, as well as help bring on the right people for your team to build your business.
2. With great power comes great responsibility
This is 100 percent Spiderman’s credo and it should be at the center of a leader's thinking. Founders make choices between doing what’s right for a business and what’s in their own best interests—day in and out. The greatest leaders know their employees and businesses thrive as a result of this commitment to the responsible use of power.
3. Sometimes you really have to push the envelope for your business
The best example of this is none other than Bruce Wayne. Even as his business, Wayne Enterprises, fell into mass corruption after his parents were murdered, Bruce went on to aggressively take back control of the family business, steering it away from its shady dealings and increasing profits. He pushed his forward-thinking plans and went on to build power generators that ran on algae to creating high-spec engines. Above all, he dared to be bold and went to great lengths to advocate his ideas when many others would not.
4. Live and breathe your mission and values
Ever since his creation in the 1940s, Captain America has been someone who truly exemplifies what the United States stands for—with traits like individualism, justice and fairness. Entrepreneurs are similar. They don't just write up a mission statement; they hold their employees—and themselves—accountable for putting it into practice.
5. It’s ok to not get things right the first time around
Tony Stark was possibly one of the greatest inventor, tinkerers and entrepreneurs of all superhero time. Whether it came to his personal life or his business, he rarely got things right on the first try. In fact, he made three iterations of the Iron Man suit, learning each time from his past mistakes. The net result? He continued to improve until he finally built something better.
6. Know when to pivot
Wonder Woman is the most popular female comic-book superhero of all time. Like every other superhero, Wonder Woman has a secret identity. Unlike every other superhero, she also has a secret history.[^1]
Her origin story is one of the most complicated, and it wasn't until she was mid-fight in one instance when she realized what she’s always known about her birth and parentage was incomplete—and it changes everything for her going forward. While it didn't stop her from fighting mid-battle, the lesson here is that sometimes the original plan won’t work. In business, sometimes you have to rethink your original strategy, on the fly, to win. Pivoting in crucial times and being able to adapt is what will make your business work.
In the End
We all love an incredible tale of an underdog turned superhero. When it comes to business, a good rule of thumb is understanding that no one needs superhero strength to do superhero things—like being an impactful and inspiring leader.
As a founder, look for some of these key attributes in yourself and in the team you build. If you need help assessing candidates or finding the right superhero to add to your growing team, see how we can help.