This weekend was the annual Comic-Con event that’s held every summer here in San Diego. Nearly a 130,000 people visit the convention that celebrates a variety of comic arts and pop culture elements like animation, horror, science fiction, television, and movies.
Having attended a few Comic-Cons myself, I can say that you never know what you might see or experience, but one thing is certain – it’s always an interesting, unique occasion. In a very warped, twisted sort of way (which is appropriate given the topic), Comic-Con has many similarities to the workplace and can teach us valuable lessons about leadership. Here’s a few things I’ve learned about leadership from my Comic-Con experiences:
- People Like to Wear Masks — Comic-Con is like an early Halloween. Attendees often wear the outfits of their favorite comic/TV/movie characters and over the years I’ve seen Wonder Woman, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Storm Troopers, Zombies, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, and just about every other “___man” character out there. In the workplace people like to wear masks to hide their fear and insecurities. Leaders have the responsibility to develop trusting relationships so their people aren’t afraid to be authentic and vulnerable.
- Passion is Powerful — Why did tens of thousands of people mindlessly go through the motions at work this past week and then suddenly turn into excited, engaged, and passionate (obsessed?) participants at Comic-Con? It’s because Comic-Con taps into their optimal motivational state by allowing them to demonstrate their competence (everyone is an expert at Comic Con), develop a sense of relatedness with others who share their interests, and celebrate their autonomy and individuality (hence the freedom and encouragement to wear costumes). Workplaces that want to tap into the discretionary energy of their employees should look to incorporate these same principles into the work people perform and the organization’s culture.
- Everyone Wants to Belong — People from all walks of life are not only welcomed and accepted at Comic-Con, they experience a sense of belonging. Two weeks ago I wrote about the difference between fitting in and belonging and Comic-Con is a real life example of where geeks, nerds, kids, adults, industry experts, and Hollywood stars are all on equal footing. A primary goal for leaders is to develop a team culture where their people feel they are valued for who they are, not just what they can do.
Comic-Con is a one-of-a-kind experience that always offers something new and unique. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could design our workplaces to offer the same sense of excitement, commitment, and engagement? Feel free to leave a comment and add to the discussion.