12 Project Management Lessons We Can Learn from Our Favorite Superheroes

June 30, 2022
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Superheroes!! The Muscular. The Brave. The Strong…………….. The qualities are endless.

The DC (Detective Comic) series and the Marvel Movies have defined what superheroes are made of that shaped the childhood imaginations of many.

However, did you ever imagine superheroes to exude project management skills along with super powers like telepathy, teleporting, speed, etc.?

Indeed, the thought is unusual, but it is undeniably true.

From methodical time and task management to adaptability and effective risk mitigation, superheroes can give commendable project management lessons.

That’s not to say that project managers are not real-life superheroes. Wearing multiple hats and fulfilling numerous roles and responsibility is no easy feat.

This exciting read elucidates the superpowers of some of our favorite superheroes and how they inspire various project management skills. So, let’s get started!!

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1. How are project managers superheroes in real life?

If you are efficiently single-handedly managing 8-10 meetings, replying to dozens of emails, resolving team conflicts, and regulating multiple projects, you are a real-life superhero.

While superheroes have Thanos to fight with, scope creep, budget, and schedule overruns are the Thanos of a project manager’s life.

Here are some more analogies that explain how project managers are iron man, Superman, or Batman in real-life:

  • They address numerous challenges and risks and sail the project to completion like any other Marvel hero. Just like the X-ray vision of Superman, managers have eyes for details to analyze project bottlenecks and find the right solution critically
  • Managers have a remarkable ability to manage time and accomplish tasks swiftly like Captain Marvel.
  • While superheroes are able to read minds, project managers exhibit emotional intelligence to lead their teams.

So far, we have discussed how project managers are superheroes in real life. Now let’s dive deep into what we can learn from the skillset and behavior of these characters.

Project Manager Personalities

2. 12 project management skills to learn from superheroes

There are superheroes like Spiderman who think about others and do good things. And there are powerful giants like the Incredible Hulk, who show empathy at times. In short, there is always something to learn from each superhero. Here are the qualities that project managers can inculcate.

A. Plan and strategize thoughtfully – Batman

‘The Tower of Babel is one of the most memorable stories in the Batman series, where he used his wit and resources to form a power-packed strategy and make his way as a leader in the Justice League allies. Batman paid immense attention to detail and formulated a contingency plan as an avid planner.

The major takeaways from the project manager’s lens are meticulous planning and strategizing. To ensure a project’s success, managers must be great planners and build strategies to prioritize tasks, mitigate risks, schedule resources, etc.

B. Be proactive and make quick decisions – Flash

Flash- the scarlet speedster, the name speaks for his qualities explicitly. Did you know Flash is faster than Superman? Flash can surprise you in multiple ways, from moving at lightning speed to inter-dimensional travel. But that’s not it; the rate at which Flash can study the surroundings and act swiftly is what distinguishes him. He exhibited these exemplary skills in Justice League while taking down superman-level opponents.

Of course, project managers don’t need to use extreme velocity punches like Flash, but they can adopt proactive and quick decision-making prowess. For instance, managers can take quick decisions by analyzing the project progress/bottlenecks and taking corrective measures ahead of the curve.

Project Resource Management

C. Leverage the power of emerging technology – Iron man

Technology is Iron Man’s superpower. For example, the jet-powered roller skates- his stable armor accessory left every fan awestruck. It could propel at a speed of 60 miles per hour. Apart from that, Tony Stark left everyone astonished with cutting-edge technologies to face the rivals such as the Disintegrator Ray, Jupiter Landing Vehicle, Iron Spider, Anti-Gravity device, Sentient Armor, Ultron, and Badassium.

So, what does it teach us? Like Iron man, project managers can leverage the power of technology to manage and plan projects at ease. Of course, tools might not give you the ability to fly. Still, they can undoubtedly help automate mundane tasks, procure precise reports on project KPIs, schedule resources, mitigate risks, collaborate with the team, etc.

D. Motivate team through effective communication – Captain America

“All right, listen up. Until we can close the portal, our priority is containment………….” Does this remind you of how Captain America took charge and communicated every Avenger’s responsibility? He is known for his leadership, communication, and problem-solving abilities.

So, just as the project manager of the Avengers, you can inculcate these skills in real-life, convey the roles and responsibilities effectively, motivate the team as and when needed, and lead the projects to succeed.

Importance of project communication skills

E. Be adaptive and flexible – Incredible Hulk

Smashing, Bashing, and Crashing! This is what we know about the alter-ego of the scientist Bruce Banner. However, his personality traits go beyond just being impulsive. Hulk stands out for his unique adaptability and flexibility. To begin with, he can resist fire, absorb gamma radiation, survive in space, and even combat fatigue poison. One of the memorable fables is when Hulk fights his biological father, the Absorbing Man, underwater; he molds himself as the water tornado and adapts to the environment.

Like Incredible Hulk, project managers need to be agile and flexible to adapt to the changing circumstances in a project. The adaptive mindset of a project manager reflects their ability to integrate different moving parts of the project, conform to the agile methodology, and deliver a quality product within the budget and time.

F. Have a risk/mitigation strategy for all critical activities – Wolverine

Wolverine is one of the strongest superheroes in Marvel comics. However, he dealt with a large number of failures throughout the series. His ability to get up after being knocked down is what really distinguishes him. With a solid knowledge base and world-class mental capacity, it is safe to say he is a superhero with brain and brawn.

As Wolverine knew how to face setbacks, project managers needed to respond to the project risks appropriately by making informed decisions and creating a mitigation plan ahead of time. No project is threat-proof, which necessitates risk management skills. This will help them avoid scope creeps, project failures, etc.

Mitigate Resource-Related Risks in Project Management

G. Take responsibility for your actions – Spiderman

Most of us remember the famous words from Uncle Ben “with great power comes great responsibility.” After losing his uncle and tracking his murderer, Peter Parker understands that being a superhero is much more than just wearing a fancy mask and defeating villains. Understanding the true value of his spider powers, he takes the responsibility of protecting the people of New York City from evil.

Similarly, project managers must take the onus on their team, project success, and failures. Owning up to the project bottlenecks or setbacks will help managers lead by example, gain their team’s confidence, solve problems, and prevent them from occurring in the future.

H. Practice humility and inclusiveness – Thor

“That’s pride and vanity talking, not leadership. You’ve forgotten everything I taught about a warrior’s patience.” This dialogue reminds us of the scene when Thor Odinson, the founder of Avengers, foolishly launched a strike against the Giants of Jotunheim and Laufey, proving himself unworthy to be the king. He was then deprived of powers by Odin (his father) and sent to earth to learn a lesson. While on earth – he learned humility and saved his new friends from the Destroyer sent by Loki, redeemed himself in the eyes of his father, and got his powers back.

So, what makes humility a vital quality in project managers? Well, managers need to be humble and not behave as a ‘know-it-all’ with everyone in the team. Those who practice humility empower their subordinates, win their trust, and lead them to show expertise in their respective domains. This will eventually enhance engagement and satisfaction. When they ensure every voice is heard, and opinions are considered, it will foster an inclusive work culture.

Importance of Diversity in Project Management

I. Develop empathy and compassion – The Thing

The Thing (Ben Grimm) is the heavily muscled and rock-skinned guy in Fantastic Four Series (Reed Richards, Jhonny Storm, Ben Grimm, Susan Storm) with durability, strength, and endurance. However, that does not take away his empathetic side, making him a reliable leader who doesn’t kill for revenge. To recall one of the instances, The Thing did not kill the Molecule Man, instead showed compassion even when he wreaked havoc with his powers.

Just like ‘The Thing’ is considerate and compassionate, project managers should practice it too. The team members often admire managers who lead by example by stepping into the team member’s shoes to understand their perspectives before making critical decisions or forming opinions. The more you put effort into understanding your team’s needs, the greater the chance of the project’s success.

J. Be creative and innovative – Superman

Superman has every power you can imagine, from the power of flight to high speed, strength, and X-ray vision. To quote him, “you will be different; sometimes you’ll feel like an outcast, but you’ll never be alone.” This explains how he always thought out of the box but never felt out of place. He is skilled at long-range thinking and is always ready for disruptions that come his way. For example, he once used telekinesis, the ability to move objects with one’s mind, to reassemble the Great Wall of China.

So, a project manager can learn one thing from Superman: they need to be extra creative during fierce competition to get ahead of it. For project managers, creativity and innovation play a crucial role in achieving the project’s objectives and maintaining a competitive edge in the hyper-competitive world.

Innovation management and its importance

K. Cultivate self-discipline and strong work ethic – Wonder woman

As Wonder Woman said – “you are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.” She is portrayed as a strong-willed character who does not back out from a challenge. Her strength lies in the fact that she can recognize the potential of others and give them the dues when the occasion demands. Her admirable trait is the grit that propels her to pursue what she believes in and surprise everyone with her actions. This princess of Diana comes with a great sense of purpose and finds a balance between her old and new life to fight injustice.

This goes without saying that project managers should cultivate strong ethics and discipline, just like Wonder Woman. They should balance micromanagement and foster autonomy to steer the team in the right direction. Strong self-discipline helps visualize goals and develop solid plans to accomplish them. Managers with strong work ethics keep their teams on track, avoid non-compliance with company policies, etc.

L. Be a mentor and lead by example – Doctor Strange

Doctor Stange, the master of mystic arts, is amongst the most powerful heroes in Marvel Universe. Recalling the statement “action speaks louder than words,” he believes people follow what others do rather than what they advocate for. In Spiderman: No Way Home, Dr. Strange mentored Peter Parker on his journey to embrace his identity, differentiate between right and wrong, and consider the world as a whole instead of thinking about oneself. He is also seen mentoring some younger heroes in Marvel’s latest blockbuster, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of madness.”

Like Doctor Strange, project managers need to understand their team members and push the individuals to get the work done faster and better without alienating them. Project managers are team leaders who should support the team members in need, guide them through the project’s course, and lead by example. When the resources see their managers practice what they preach, it garners a positive and disciplined work environment.

We hope you enjoyed the action-packed and thrilling movie spree with us!

Manager vs. Leader

3. Conclusion

As mentioned, project managers are no less than superheroes and vice versa. It is a perfect blend of leadership and management skills that help you thrive in the project management landscape. The individual unique skills that every superhero possesses are the capabilities a project manager is expected to have. This article will help you equip them.

The next time you run a Marvel movie marathon, we are confident you will learn more project management skills from these superheroes.

So, which superhero did you relate to?

4. The Glossary

the glossary

5. The SAVIOM Solution

SAVIOM is the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable solutions for managing enterprise resources efficiently and effectively. Having more than 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence in over 50 countries. It is also popular with more than 100 customers and helps them achieve their business goals. SAVIOM also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software which can be easily customized as per business requirements.

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Nityashree Yadunath

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