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How to Be a Superhero to Those You Lead

This year, my 8-year old son, Tommy, made a Father’s Day card for me in his second grade class.  On the cover was the body of the Incredible Hulk with my face superimposed on top of his superhero body.  The inside of the card contained the Top 10 Reasons My Dad is a Superhero.  I’d like to share these with you:

10. He gives me more screen time than I’m supposed to have.
9.  He loves me.
8.  He teaches me new things.
7.  He is awesome.
6.  He is loving.
5.  He gives me hugs and kisses.
4.  He is cool.
3.  He lets me be his sidekick.
2.  He doesn’t embarrass me like my mom!

After having this touching card on my desk for the past few weeks, I began to think about Tommy’s rationale for why I am a superhero to him.  I’m not really that awesome or cool, though it is true that I am cooler than his mom!  However, I believe I am awesome and cool to him because I love him and have his best interests at heart.  I listen to his needs, want to see him grow and care about his happiness.  This made me think about the leadership lessons I learned from someone who was a real-life superhero to me and many others.

Many years ago, Father Jack McDermott was the pastor of my church.  He was an authentic, values-based leader who was a role model for his beliefs. I was always amazed at his leadership ability and how people would do absolutely anything for him.  Whenever something needed to be done, all he had to do was ask and dozens of people would show up highly motivated to help him.  While I admired many things about Jack, this one aspect of his leadership always got my attention.

I had the opportunity to have dinner with Jack one evening and I shared my observations about the commitment and dedication of his followers.  I said “People will do anything for you.  They’d run through a brick wall for you.  How have you been able to develop that type of support?”  His response was brief but it has stayed with me for all these many years.  He said, “Eddie, you have to find out what’s important to people and help them get their needs met.”

While leadership is certainly a broad topic and encompasses many skills, attitudes and behaviors, helping people get their needs met lies at its heart.  It is the essential ingredient in obtaining people’s commitment rather than mere compliance.  It is what builds trust, develops esteem and creates mutual support.

Do you want to be a superhero to those you lead?  If so, help your followers get their needs met – even if it means occasionally giving them more screen time than they’re supposed to have.


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Avoid the five most common failures that can derail your career.