Leadership Styles of DC and Marvel

DC and Marvel

Written by  Ed Nathanson | Originally published at Meridian Knowledge Solutions blog.

Ed Nathanson
Ed Nathanson, Founder of Red Pill Talent LLC

Since the good folks at Meridian Knowledge Solutions understand that: A) I am an unabashed dork and B) If I am going to write for them I need to make constant references to said dorkiness, I have been able to write posts referencing everything from Star Wars, The Bee Gees, The Karate Kid and The Walking Dead. To say this is the best gig going is a massive understatement. Well, here I am again mixing the worlds of learning, leadership and geekdom, as I give you the “Leadership Styles of Marvel and DC.”

Marvel and DC have some hugely anticipated movie releases coming this year, and because I literally cannot stop thinking about them I felt compelled to weave them into a post where we can both have fun and have some takeaways, too.

“Batman V. Superman,” “Captain America – Civil War” and “Suicide Squad” all drop this year – and if we look closely enough we can see very different leadership styles from these characters.  As I have written before, if you understand who and what you are dealing with as a leader, it is much easier for you as a colleague, employee or fellow leader yourself to navigate these relationships successfully if you understand their motivations. We all have worked with leaders we admired, loathed, respected or feared, but whether you loved or hated them, if you understood them it could have made a world of difference in your ability to work successfully with them. With this post, I will pick certain characters of the DC and Marvel Universe from the upcoming and past movies and comics, and I will rate them on a scale of 1 (lowest effectiveness) to 5 (highest effectiveness) in terms of Batarangs, because Batman.

Let’s do this!


Disclaimer – I am a huge Superman fan to the point of, (cannot believe I am admitting this) I have a Superman tattoo on my leg. Now, with that out of the way, even I can admit that Superman is one big boy scout. He believes in “Truth, Justice and the American Way” – whatever that means. He is very binary in is thinking and actions – good and evil – there is no in between. Supes is all about doing “what is right,” and feels he has a responsibility to be a hero in every sense of the word.

We know this type in the office all too well. The dogmatic leader who sees things very much in black or white. They are typically well liked on the surface because they are usually kind, but they are also often seen as too rigid and reluctant to pivot or change with the needs of the business. Their belief system is so core to what they do and they think that they often struggle with outside opinions or suggestions.

Yes – we trust these folks because they are honest and mean well, but it pains me to say that leaders like Superman are tough to deal with in fast moving, ever changing environments because they just don’t want to believe or agree with anything that doesn’t match their own beliefs. Kal-El – I love you man, but I wouldn’t want to work for you.

2 out of 5 Batarangs


The Dark Knight has this moniker for a good reason – the dude is seriously twisted for a superhero. His parents die in front of him as a child, and he sets out for the rest of his life to make EVERY criminal pay. He doesn’t kill, but he sure hands out beat-downs like you read about. Batman as a leader, though, is a pretty interesting topic. He likes to work alone. Even as a member of the Justice League, he often works outside of the team when he sees fit – although to his credit with usually excellent results. Easily one of, if not THE smartest hero in DC and rivaled only by Tony Stark (Iron Man) in Marvel, his smarts often prove to come through in the toughest of situations, but he often does his thinking in a silo.

Leaders like Batman are not team players. They often are visionaries and undoubtedly really smart, but like Batman don’t play well with others on the team. People skills are not usually their strong suit, and the way they communicate ideas or goals are very top down in style. Basically – this leader “knows better than you,” and has very direct communication styles – you won’t be seeing an emojis in their emails.

Batman leaders are often very innovative and creative in their ideas and work – but need a lot of work when it comes to letting others execute on their ideas. To say they have a trust problem is an understatement. We see these types of leaders a lot, whether in startups or large multinational organizations. Whatever the environment – just know when working for or with a Batman they think they know better than you and don’t trust easily.

3 out of 5 Batarangs

Captain America

Marvel’s version of Superman, minus all the really gnarly powers. Even more so than Superman, Captain America is incredibly resolved and firm in his belief system. For Christ sake, his name is Captain America and he wears red white and blue. He comes from a different time in American history. Because his whole body was frozen for 50 plus years, his views on the world remain the same as they were back in the 1940’s when he was fighting Hydra in World War II.

Captain America leaders are slow to adapt – regardless of the good intent behind their thinking. They are slow to embrace new technology and new processes. When they do embrace change, they want to know there is not only results, but who and how each and every person or customer is affected by said changes. They can be over-thinkers to an extent, as they are so compassionate and caring for their teams.

People love working for Captain Americas because they are genuinely nice and caring people who will show a lot of understanding and compassion, but this type of leader can also frustrate employees who want to move fast and embrace the latest trends and tactics. These leaders are definitely motivators though, and unlike a Superman leader these leaders are always trying to rally the team as opposed to just doing it themselves.

4 out of 5 Batarangs

Black Widow

Natasha Romanova does not have any superpowers, but she more than carries her own with The Avengers. Trained and raised as a superspy with incredible combat and tactical skills, she can kick major butt and manipulate whoever she needs to for her advantage.

Leaders like Black Widow are hard to trust because they can play office politics better than anyone. They are master manipulators of people, and can often be ruthlessly doing so while simultaneously smiling in your face. They are tough when needed, but can also be empathetic if it serves their purpose. They use information as a weapon in the leadership – whether in the latest project presentation and they speak out with statistics and data for or against your argument, or in performance reviews where they will have every bit of your performance documented and rated – including lunch break times. As a hyper political and savvy with people skills as a weapon, they can be both simultaneously well liked and detested – depending on who and when you speak with someone on the team. Trust is obviously the biggest issue here with these types of leaders. As with any leadership style, the more you know who and what you are dealing with, the better prepared and successful you will be. Just know that as prepared as you are, this type of leader will be equally if not more so – so have your stuff together.

2 out of 5 Batarangs

Iron Man

Tony Stark is a multi-billionaire, playboy, wise-cracking genius – and that’s why we love him in the comics or movies. He exudes charisma and charm, and is a natural born leader with incredible smarts. Of course, he also has a really awesome supersuit too.

Leaders like Tony are the ones who are very public facing and incredibly strong public speakers who lead changes and trends – internal or external of the company. They are risk takers, but the kind of risk takers who make all who work with or for them excited and bought- in to the risks so much so that they don’t seem like taking risks at all (if that makes sense). These leaders are incredibly charismatic and charming with natural people skills. However, underneath all the adoration and buy-in there is also an inherently selfish drive. They often care more about themselves and their ego than they do the team, but they sure are awesome at hiding it. They can be impulsive and also very emotional. Yes, they are very smart and natural born leaders, but their emotion can definitely force them into bad decisions with big consequences too (Ultron anyone?).

We all have worked with or have known a Tony Stark in our experiences, and chances are you really admired that person or at least were somewhat inspired by or charmed by them at a minimum. The catch – all the headlines were about that person and not the team. 

4 out of 5 Batarangs

The Joker

The scariest (and thus the coolest) villain in both DC and Marvel hands down. A maniac, heartless, unpredictable and simultaneously a genius all rolled into one – this character has been a mainstay antagonist for Batman in the comics and movies for years. No one gets one over on Batman, but the villain with biggest success rate was and continues to be The Joker.

As a leader, we have known these jerks all too often too. They love power, and once they have the position of power they use every last drop. They are merciless in employee dealings, and will terminate employees based on little, if anything. Yes, they will work through the system with a performance improvement plan to keep it above board (or in Joker terms, undetected), but their intent is never to improve the employee but to get rid of them. They are wildly unpredictable, One day they could be your best buddy and the next your worst enemy. They are socially challenged and often highly inappropriate in inter-office communications. They love making people uncomfortable or embarrassed. They trust no one and lead by dictatorship – power is the key to their success. When you are the top dog – what are you gonna do about it?  That asshole boss who made your life hell and you could not figure out how to make them happy? Yep – Joker city.

0 out of 5 Batarangs

Star Lord

I loved comic books as a kid (ahem – still do), but I never read the Guardians of The Galaxy comics growing up. The movie, however, was fricking awesome! The breakout character was easily Star Lord. Funny, daring, strong, caring and reckless all rolled into one. Picture Han Solo with more sarcasm and a tad more swagger to boot.

Like Iron Man, these types of leaders are first and foremost charismatic. You WANT to work for someone like this – initially on the pure charisma and charm they constantly display. Star Lord is selfish, but not on the same level as an Iron Man leader, and thus has more ability to inspire and work well with teams. While not a genius like Batman or Stark, these leaders are instinctually smart. They trust their gut and the people and situations around them to make the right choices, and often their instincts are right.

For the data driven, hierarchical types, this leader is not for you because they don’t believe in data. They believe in what they see and touch and what their instincts tell them, and definitely do not believe in pecking orders. These leaders are massive risk takers but empathetic to the team members who are reluctant and will work to persuade them to come along and not chastise or ostracize them if they don’t. Cue the “awesome mix tape” because these types of leaders inspire lots of folks.

5 out of 5 Batarangs

Until next bat-time, same bat-channel.

Source: Leadership Styles of DC and Marvel | Meridian Knowledge Solutions