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Are You Superheroing Your Team?

April 7, 2022

Superheroes. We all love them. Maybe you’d even like to be one. But when it comes to leading your team to greatness, you need to leave that notion in the (star) dust.

That’s because Superheroing, (or intervening with your direct reports more than you should), actually strips them of their power to step up, trust their own knowledge and insights, and lean into the vision and values of the company independently.  

As a modern leader, empowering your reports is the key to personal and company growth. Yet, many of us have a tendency to undermine that empowerment, by taking actions that others should be taking. While this might fix short-term problems, it creates – or perpetuates – long-term ones, and that’s what we want to help you avoid.



Are you the one who is always bringing a fresh idea or perspective to the conversation? Do you dismiss other people’s ideas too quickly because they're not fully formed?

A diversity of thinking is critical in any organization, and the best ideas often come from people closer to the customer or project than you are. The challenge is to see the value in the idea itself and not let missing context or tentative delivery throw you.


Do you find yourself making or finalizing day-to-day decisions that others should be owning? Does your team wait for you to give the final seal of approval rather than take a risk, even a small one, where they might get it wrong?

When your reports own a decision, they are more likely to feel responsible for its success. The challenge is to create an environment where people have the experience of making decisions and not being punished when that decision turns out to be wrong or imperfect. Can you give your team the same benefit of the doubt that you give yourself?


When it comes to seeing and fixing tactical or technical problems, do you step in rather than leaving your reports to take action? Be honest with yourself, can the team feel your anxiety and urgency in a way that they throw the work back to you too quickly?

Demonstrating a trust in your team to identify and take care of any issues will give them the accountability to do exactly that. The challenge is accepting that there’s often more than one way to do great work on a task, and that it doesn’t have to mirror your method.


Do you regularly check in on progress and deadlines, making sure everyone is on track? Do you feel that if you don’t hold people accountable, nothing gets done?

It’s your team’s responsibility to proactively communicate status reports. When you become known as the manager who is always checking in, you send a not-so-subtle message that you don’t trust your team and that they don’t really own the task at all.


Are you the person people come to when they can’t work situations out with a teammate? Has your office (or your kitchen table via Zoom) become the place where people get to talk about the same problem over and over?

It’s fine to let people vent. Once. The challenge is to turn people back to themselves, and to support them in leaning into difficult conversations rather than taking on the work of mediation (except where you truly need to, of course).

Ok. So you’re nodding your head as you read these and recognize yourself in one or maybe all of these overreaches. But what do you do about it?

Start tracking these actions and behaviors. For the rest of the day, keep a list of the moments where you do one of the five things above. Notice if there’s a pattern to how you play the superhero. What types of situations trigger you to overreach? With which people?

Our leadership coaching and manager training programs can help you kick these habits for good.

We look forward to chatting soon.


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