Leadership 101 With The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight – A true leader. So much we can learn from him.

Whether you’re leading your team for a college project as a student, company project as a professional or business project as an entrepreneur, building and honing your leadership skills will go a long way in ensuring success for the project, the team and yourself. While many claim that individuals are just born to be leaders or not, I feel that leadership is an attribute, in fact a set of attributes, which can be inculcated, accrued and developed over time. After all, in the words of John F. Kennedy – “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.

Some key elements of Leadership

The final movie in Nolan’s remake of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises, was a dramatic and brilliant finale. It lived up to the expectations and eagerly awaiting fans were left content but heavyhearted that this epic trilogy was over. Upon reflection of this trilogy, I realized that the character as well the story are very well-suited and modeled to provide great leaderships lessons to those looking to become forerunners and pioneers in their respective domains. After all, Batman was just a human, with no superpowers like Spiderman and Superman, but he built himself to be the leader and savior of his team, Gotham City, during times of trouble. So, I present to you Leadership 101 with our beloved Dark Knight.

  • Don’t be afraid to take the blame

When Harvey Dent went bad, Batman realized the need to keep the faith in the good and keep hope among the citizens of Gotham. He readily took the blame for Dent’s murder. He portrayed himself as the bad man in the situation even though Batman had simply no choice but to kill Dent before Dent would have killed Commissioner Gordon’s son. He was a true hero, a true leader, willing to sacrifice himself for his cause, his team, his people, his Gotham.

Batman took the blame for Dent’s death

Now, I am not suggesting you take the onus for every small or big mistake that goes wrong in your school or company project, especially if you have not committed the mistake. However, as a leader, you need to realize that most of the team’s actions are under your control and responsibility. You are the direct point of contact of the team with the superiors that you are answerable to. So, maintain face and unity of the team in the situation of any errors and blunders. Do not turn on your team mates in such situations. A true leader sticks his neck out for his team and ensures that the steps to make up for the errors committed are immediately carried out. Playing the blame game is the sign of a weasel, not a leader.

  • Dig deep

When Gotham was in danger of being annihilated by Bane, Batman was stuck in a pit in the middle of nowhere. However, in these trying times, he found inspiration and motivation, dug deep and made the jump to get him out of trouble. Needless to say, he came back dramatically to rescue Gotham from its plight. More than anything, Batman had a persona. People felt safe. They knew that he would take care of them.

The Dark Knight oozed a persona akin to most successful leaders

Similarly, when your team is running short of time or resources dig deep and keep them motivated. They will be look to you for inspiration and answers. Be sure that you provide them with ample quantities of both. As a leader, you need to exude a persona which will command influence just as Batman’s did. Or most successful leaders for that matter. A great leader finds the driving force within him or herself to be the sole rudder which is driving his team on, especially during those testing times when everything seems to be going against you. And he drives the ship on even when the sails (other team members) are flailing. Keep believing, even when all hope is lost, just like Batman did.

Develop your persona and empower your team

  • Lead from the front as well as the back and trust your team

Batman was a great solo hero and leader for Gotham. In fact, he became the symbol of safety in Gotham City. However, he trusted people who were in his team with several tasks, many of which were vital to save Gotham. He trusted Alfred with his entire, life. He trusted Mr. Fox with handling Wayne Enterprises in the correct fashion. He trusted Cat Woman to blow the pile of cars blocking the exits from Gotham City. And, he trusted Commissioner Gordon with doing the right thing where it came to the welfare of Gotham. Finally, his trust did pay off as all these individuals contributed massively to the safety of Gotham.

Alfred and Mr. Fox – Some of Batman’s trusted team members

Similarly, when you are a leader in your professional team, you must learn to trust team members with certain responsibilities. Taking up all required tasks will drive you over the wall. Delegating and taking a back-seat for several tasks, even important tasks, is a must for successful teamwork and a successful project or venture. Give your team members the reigns or complete control of a few tasks or assignments. And, in order to ensure that your mind can focus on other tasks as well as co-ordination of the big picture, you need to be able to trust your team completely. So, it is essential to build healthy communication, trust and rapport with and within your team. Trust this advice by trusting your team. And trust me, it’ll help in the short and long run.

Be a good leader and work with your team, not over them

  • Be there when your team needs you

Batman was always there. Regardless of what the people of Gotham felt about him, when the city needed him, he was always on duty to rescue its citizens and guard the city. After all, he was a true leader and hero. The people of Gotham wrongly despised Batman for the murder of Harvey Dent. Regardless of this, he was there to save the city from the menacing grasp of Bane and The League Of Shadows. Even without being asked to be there, he was there, to save his team from the clutches of death.

Batman literally rose from the depths of hell to save Gotham from the clutches of Bane

Even though you trust your team completely, as a leader, it is important that you are there for each of them when they need your help, assistance and expertise. Even if they do not ask for it! After all, there is a reason you are leading them. So guide them when you perceive that they require certain guidance and a little push. Remember, sometimes your team members may be hesitant to ask for assistance because of the very trust you have bestowed on them. So, know when you need to be there for them and how subtly you need to guide them.

  • Don’t hunt for credit

Batman was the most unselfish, giving and humble leader Gotham could have ever had. The very fact that he did not disclose his identity emphasizes the fact that he was more concerned with getting the job at hand done instead of receiving credit for the same. Whether it was saving the city and its citizens from the Joker, Bane, Harvey Dent or even saving them from The League Of Shadows twice, he gave his 100% to the cause and expected 0% credit and recognition for his valiant exploits. Such was his humility.

Even though he did not get personal credit, Batman was there every time he was summoned

No one likes a credit monger. The reason your project or venture team is called a “team” is because all the members contribute towards success of the project. Even if you are the project leader, there was no way you could have completed the entire project on your own. So, give credit where credit and recognition is due. I am not suggesting that you stoically waive any credit for personal efforts which contributed towards success. However, be sure to regularly appreciate and recommend members for doing their tasks with utmost quality when it is due. The benefit is two-fold. You will elevate team harmony as well as honing your personal relation with the corresponding team member.

  • Have a plan and effective management

Batman always had a plan. When The League Of Shadows was annihilating Gotham City with the Scarecrow’s fear-inducing toxins, Batman had a plan to evacuate the citizens while simultaneously capturing Ra’s al Ghul and the Scarecrow. The Joker was threatening to blow up two ships of Gotham citizens while Harvey Dent was threatening to kill Gordon’s family. Batman, unfazed as usual, had a plan to counter both these threats as well as capture The Joker, albeit with a little help from Mr. Fox (a part of the team he TRUSTED). Bane was threatening to annihilate Gotham and its citizens with a nuke and he had trapped Gotham’s entire police force in the underground sewers. As usual, Batman was there to save the day and free the police force as well as save the city from the clutches of death once again.

The Batman and his plan rescue the day for Gotham City

No matter what the situation, have a plan. The responsibility of being a great leader largely involves always having a plan, regardless of the task and situation. Your team members will be looking to you to decide what action or steps to take next in order to ensure success. They will be looking not only for motivation, but also a plan of action. As a leader, it is vital that you have a flexible plan which can adapt to changing situations and circumstances and accounts for several permutations and combinations of decisions and results. Planning well for success is vital.

Always have a plan!

  • Expect the unexpected

Everyone fails. Batman can too. After all, he’s only human. Till now, we have gained much from the exploits of Batman. However (SPOILER ALERT), Batman failed to recognize that Miranda Tate was the mastermind behind the entire plan created by The League Of Shadows. She wished to avenge her father’s death by completing his desire to destroy Gotham. Batman had foolishly trusted Miranda with access to the equipment which could stabilize the nuclear weapon, thereby putting Gotham in further danger. As a leader, Batman should have considered and been prepared for such an unexpected circumstance. Nevertheless, even in the face of this failure, he recovered to save the day and we can forgive him for this one mistake. After all, we do love him dearly.

Batman failed to see the danger from Tate

Similarly, in the professional world, a lot of things will be beyond your control. The application program used to design a software project may be buggy. Or the delivery boy getting the grocery for your culinary venture may be late. Well, account for the unexpected. Analyze what could go wrong, and make sure you know what your plan of action will be if and when something does go wrong. Your project or venture could be prone to innumerable unexpected and unfavorable circumstances. As a project leader, make sure you try and account for or foresee as many of these as you can, especially the one’s which can have a major negative impact. Devise a plan of action and plan of recovery for each circumstance. Remember, no one lost anything by being over-prepared. And, a part of your duty as project leader involves making sure the team is ready for everything that comes its way.

Learn from Batman and be a great leader!

The above-mentioned tips will greatly help you in achieving success for your project. Additionally, it will help in team as well as personal success and enable you to build healthy relations with and between team members. A parting thought. As a leader, you will be at the top of the power pyramid. However, do not ever forget – “With great power comes great responsibility” (Batman’s good friend Spiderman). So, make sure that you use your power wisely in order to successfully accomplish all your responsibilities.
For all you movie buffs who enjoyed this read, don’t forget to check out ‘Marketing 101 With V For Vendetta’.

Images courtesy Google.