You Don't Have to Be Superman

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8

In August 2009, Disney bought Marvel comics, and all of their costumed superheroes. An aggressive schedule of movies, TV series, video games and other media followed, and over the next decade, Disney’s superhero family earned more than $17 billion worldwide.

So successful was the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” that other franchises and studios jumped into the fray. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern—any and every caped character got a $100 million reboot, complete with new toys and licensing deals. For more than a decade we have lived through a constant bombardment of storybook heroes with extraordinary powers and fictional foes. It seems like a great escape from a mundane life to the movies. But is that all that it’s really done?

Pop culture is now filled with superheroes. A nonstop barrage of fictional characters that are more than human. It makes being just a man much lesser by comparison. And the reality is that our culture really doesn’t need more supermen. It needs men, real men, who know how to lead their businesses, their families and their marriages. You don’t have to be Superman to be the man you need to be in life. But you do need points of character that help define an effective leading man in today’s world. Consider these “superpowers” of godly character:

Honesty. Be a man who is truthful in all respects. The reality is that most people do not lie very much. A recent study on American culture cited that half of all lies are told by just 5% of all people[1]. Sincerity is still the norm for the majority of men. Let your words be true, and you will be known as a trustworthy individual, the kind of person who can handle responsibilities because you will give an accurate account to all involved. This character trait comes from an innate understanding that you do not have to use false words to build up yourself or your reputation. Let your actions speak for themselves, and let your words reflect accurately who you are and what you do. This is vital in business, but is also critical for your family and your marriage.

Initiative. To go anywhere in life there must be a self-motivated desire to accomplish your responsibilities and seize on opportunities. Don’t spend your life passively waiting for everything to happen for you. Act or take charge before others do. Other valuable characteristics in business such as inventiveness, creativity and imagination are related to your sense of initiative. It also shows your ability to self-manage, which is among the top desired character traits for rising young professionals[2]. Are you the kind of person who must always be told what to do, or can you figure that out for yourself, based on your skills, talents, and responsibilities?

Authenticity. Are you purposeful in your priorities and actions, and a willing, engaged participant in the lives of your family and coworkers? Authentic men are first and foremost self-reflective[3]. Do you have a sense of your own weaknesses? Are you transparent with others about what you are working towards? Are you secure about the person you are and where you are going? Authenticity is having a healthy sense of ego—confident in your own skin, but not arrogant or condescending. A knowledge that you are flawed and have weaknesses, but that won’t keep you from reaching your goals. Others like being around authentic people because they feel valued by a genuine person, versus being used as a tool or stepping-stone by a lesser individual.

Resolve. Do you follow through on your decisions? Resolve takes persistence, determination and patience. While most leaders can set goals and make decisions, it is a sense of resolve that separates the top tier of leadership—your ability to care about your goals, to ignore those challenges stacked against you, and to endure through those challenges, even struggles, to see your goals met despite obstacles[4]. A man of resolve is intent to act, rather than wait and wish that some outside force would grant the goals and objectives he feels are important. Men of resolve are seldom sidetracked, and can recognize not only in business but in family, what things will be most important in long term success.

Longevity. Most men live in the moment. What must be accomplished today, or even before lunch? Longevity is the ability to view the long-term implications of your actions and lifestyle. Are you living in a way that can be sustained for 30, 40 years? Can you make a career out of the way you are living right now? Or, are you set on a tempo that has you growing on a regular basis? Most people over-estimate what they can accomplish in one year, but underestimate what they can do in ten. Many of the world’s most brilliant scientists, artists, engineers, do their most impactful work in their early years, at a frenetic pace, and then sputter out as they face middle age. Part of longevity is understanding that you must really enjoy what you are doing daily, at some level, in order to sustain it for the long term[5]. Your life should be viewed not as a series of quick, independent days, but as seasons of the whole, the story-arch of a person who is living for meaning.