I grew up watching the cartoons and reading the comic book exploits of the "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man." I guess I would say he was hands down my favorite superhero. And when he came out on the big screen I was, like so many others, reminded of my fascination of this complex character. Now don't get me wrong, I'm no comic geek! But I do appreciate the powers of the Webslinger! And hey...who wouldn't want to climb walls, shoot out webs and swing from building to building, and have the relative strength of a spider?
Without question, the Spider-man power that I have most appreciated is his "Spider-sense." Not only do I appreciate it, I think I too have this power. Not as much as I'd like but...I have it. And I bet you do, too.
Wikipedia defines Spider-Man's "Spider-sense" as a "tingling feeling at the base of his skull, alerting him to personal danger in proportion to the severity of that danger." It is the sensation that something bad is about to happen. It is his unique ability to sense peril ahead, sort of his early warning system that he needs to take action to avoid trouble...or meet it at a position of advantage.
Leaders must have "Spider-sense." It is what tells us that danger is ahead. It tells us that something is unsafe, that a failure is imminent, or that an employee is in trouble. Shaped by experience, it is the safety net that can prevent personal or professional calamity.
But we have to listen to it. When our "spider-senses" are tingling, we have to pull back and assess the situation. That intuitive feeling that something just isn't right demands a response. Like Spider-Man, leaders have to take the necessary action to avoid trouble...or position themselves or other key leaders at points of friction or locations where they can seize an advantage, prevent catastrophe, or stop an unsafe act.
In combat scenarios, I have always relied on my "Spider-senses" to determine where I should position myself on the battlefield. I have listened to my intuition to help eliminate alternatives that I know won't work, are too demanding on our resources, or are unsafe. My senses have tingled when an employee said something that I knew suggested they were having issues and I needed to talk it out. And the base of my skull has been the source of more than a few sensations about people who I knew weren't up to the task, tasks that were not aligned with our purpose, and missions that had no hope for success.
Now I will also admit to my share of shortcomings...where I have failed to listen to my "Spider-sense." The scars still remain from a recent occasion where I signed a document without reading it, causing a major firestorm in the media and with some important stakeholders. My intuition said the document wasn't worded right and that my signature could have major ramifications. Yep...I felt the tingling...but I did not listen. And that one hurt.
Our "Spider-senses" are there to help save our reputations, our businesses, and sometimes even our lives. It is not something that should cause paralysis from the fear of the unknown but rather is a professional advantage to those who leverage it to out-think competitors and outmaneuver danger. Leaders have to be sensitive to that tingle and know that it is the suggestion that something is not quite right. It is a leadership "super power!"
So what about you? When your "Spider-senses" are tingling, do you listen? Do you step back, assess the situation, call on a trusted agent for another opinion, or sleep on that email before sending it? Do you pay attention to that inner voice that warns you about safety issues, client concerns, or market trends? If you are not good at this, practice. Listen to your inner thoughts. Follow up on your intuitions and understand what is causing the tingle.
If your "Spider-senses" are strong, you share a power held by my favorite Superhero. And when you follow up on that tingling, like Spidey, you will stay one step ahead of danger and one move ahead of your enemies. It's a leadership super power that can take us to the highest of heights. But take the elevator. Leave the wall-climbing to the Webslinger! That's Leader Business!