Saturday, February 6, 2010


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!


Jo Ann said...

I have to take issue with your choice of superhero. Superman is a far superior choice for a superhero because he possesses extraordinary powers such as superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, senses, intelligence, regeneration, longevity, super breath, heat vision, x-ray vision and flight. He is "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." Spidey can only swing from building to building!

Now what you refer to as a “spidey sense”, yes, it is quite a remarkable skill to have. Many women have this skill but we call it “woman’s intuition” or it is also called having a “gut feeling”. All kidding aside, along with having a spidey sense, one needs to have emotional intelligence. We humans (without superhero powers) are genetically programmed with a lifetime of knowledge that equips us with the ability to make good decisions daily. Having good instincts is about how our past experiences and mental assumptions shape our immediate intellectual decision-making reactions. The key to success is acting on our gut instincts, trusting that part of ourselves that collects the information, the most important information, and making the best decisions.

Unfortunately, for some of us, the spidey sense can often come as a whisper instead of a shout. I t requires us to develop a more acute sense of listening and acceptance in order to hear it. We all have this built in intuition and personal language, and we need to be listening to the cues we are given. The saying, “go with your gut” is overused, but we sometimes forget that it is right most of the time. Yes, all of us need to learn to trust our spidey senses. We all come equipped with this cool super power and we have within ourselves powerful but hidden natural powers that we can develop and use for the “good.”

Sunny said...

I'm glad to see this post and couldn't agree with you more! It's such a great sense to be intuned with and a lot of managers/wanna be leaders are so blind to this sense or better yet a lot of them in my opinion avoid it thinking it's almost hokey to act on your gut or as you call it "spidey sense". Thanks for being bold and extraordinary. A true leader goes outside the bounds of the norm and the ordinary and uses creative tools and thoughts to make intelligent decisions! Now let me ask you this, what are your thoughts on prayer and leadership? Do you think it has power in leading as many presidents we have had openly referred to it in their decision making/getting clarity.

Thanks again for yet another good write up, keep em coming~Sunny

Anonymous said...

Isn't that intuition?


Tom Magness said...

Cim,'s intuition. But more than that, it is shaped by it is incredibly accurate. Much more than the normal "hunch." Thanks for the comment!

Tom Magness said...


Great comments, as always. Yes...many women have good "spider senses!" But you are right that it requires action to make it into a super power!

Oh...and as for's a clue. HE'S NOT REAL! Spidey is just an everyday JOE who is not afraid of heights. With real good intuition! :)

Tom Magness said...


Thanks for your feedback. Brilliant as always. As for leadership and prayer...definitely. Unless we have all the answers (which we don't), it always helps to consult with the One who does! :)

Sounds like a great topic for a future blog!

Kimberly said...

I think you hit it when making the point that yes, we all do have a "spidey sense" of some level, but oh the times I have ignored it! Sometimes the repercussions are mild and we forget, sometimes they're major and we swear we'll never forget again. Intuition, sensitivity, awareness, spidey sense - they all are a result of a bit of God-given ability, knowledge and experience. But sometimes it takes a bit of gumption to act upon it. Great post!