09 Nov “Defining our Role Models and Superheroes” by Martin Wright
Advance’s Peak Performance programme often asks delegates to discuss who their role models are. Nelson Mandela, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Winston Churchill, Mum and Dad are a few of the people who are often mentioned.
A few months ago, as I was standing in the queue to see Wonder Woman, I was listening to some children enthusiastically discussing who is the best superhero: Captain America or Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman. Surely these characters’ actions shouldn’t be emulated by others, do their personal stories and attitudes really align themselves with our view of the modern world?
Thanks to the power of Marvel and the huge film companies that make and promote them, each one being bigger than the last, our children are bombarded with these mythical superheroes. I remember my own children dressed in Power Ranger costumes and my oldest son’s best friend, who wouldn’t wear anything but his Spider Man’s costume for weeks on end. We, of a certain age, were astounded by Adam West’s Batman in the 60s who was almost incomparable as a character from the most recent offering when Batman was fighting Superman. Just as we saw the superhero of our generation as our role model, it’s hardly surprising this generation’s Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman are named as the ultimate role model and heroes by our children.
As parents and movie goers, should we consider these fictional characters to be true heroes and role models?
The situations that face these superheroes may seem extraordinary. They often involve warring aliens, the evil nemesis, and even disruptive time travellers, but if you look deeper most of their issues relate to the same issues each of us face on a regular basis. We all need to consider how to manage our interactions with other people, given the various ways we can affect them – both good and bad.
We may not have super strength, have fire bolts from our eyes or be able to fly, but we can still use our very human abilities and the tools at our disposal to help other people as well as ourselves. Just like Superman or Wonder Woman, or any superhero, we need to consider the most appropriate means of offering help for the most effective and positive outcome.
When and to whom should we offer help? What should we do to help, and when should we step back? These ethical dilemmas are the type of problems that we face in the real world all the time. Our dilemmas are really not so different from any Superhero’s day.
In the new Thor film (spoiler alert!), when faced with the destruction of his planet he remembers his father saying that his ‘planet’ is really anywhere where his family and his people are. Today, when we see the thousands of people trying to escape their world of devastation feeling disenfranchised, could we help them feel that their world is truly where their family and friends are?
Where are our Superheroes? Who will lead us to a better place and help us shape our lives. Who will be our Captain America and stand up for and fight for what they know to be right?
We all have the potential to be a Superhero and role model by helping others, standing up for those who are less fortunate, by taking courage to make a stand in our society. We look up to other individuals in our lives, and other people look up to us. Therefore, we all need to be aware of our mindset and behaviour.
Just as Thor’s values determine how he behaves in dealing with his dilemmas, our values also define who we are and what we stand for as leaders in the business world, or in our private lives. Our heroes or role models are important as they are a reflection of who we are. These are people we look up to and emulate. Their values should be recognisable as defining their actions, and we also need to behave according to our values so others can follow.
The younger generation learn how to behave through role play, and therefore, by emulating Thor or Captain America or Wonder Woman, they can practise values of helping others, being courageous, making a stand against an injustice, expressing diversity and battling for equality. When you look at it like that perhaps Thor, Wonder Woman or Captain America aren’t such bad choices as role models.
So, which Superhero are you going to be today?
For further discussion on developing your values, listen again to our Values in Business podcast.