Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Leadership, Like Lightning: Norman Osborn's Thunderbolts Management

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

Before getting started, I wanted to put out an open call to other bloggers, comic or otherwise. I would love to increase my own exposure to the community by doing a guest post for you on a mutually agreed upon topic. I’ve got an MBA and an undergrad in Sociology, plus some diverse work experiences, so I can pen a piece on a number of different topics. Please contact me through the email link in my profile and let me know what we can set up. I’ll also happily offer you the same guest post opportunity, and a link from here.

Today’s blog post is going to touch on Norman Osborn, popularly known as Marvel’s first Green Goblin. Best known for killing Spider-man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy, Norman was given control of the Thunderbolts (a government sponsored team of supervillains who were charged with enforcing the Super Human Registration Act after the Civil War crossover event). Team leadership is never an easy task to start with, and Norman is amazingly poorly suited to that. Let’s talk about why.

Source: via David on Pinterest


Green Around The Gills:

The first big problem comes with vision. Leaders are expected to bring a certain vision of the future to the table, and their task is to marshal their followers together to bring about that vision to reality. However, the leadership of the Thunderbolts clashes hard with Norman’s ongoing obsession with Spider-man. This is, in turn, exacerbated by the fact that Mr. Osborn is pretty mentally unstable. He has to mix and match a lot of pills in all the wrong ways to try and keep a grip on reality. This causes some stability problems for him when one of his more ambitious underlings, Moonstone, causes Norman’s medication to get randomly replaced at times with placebos. Hallucinating that his Green Goblin mask is in his desk speaking to him, and continuously erroneously mentioning Spider-man as the target of missions, causes the rest of the team to wonder how tightly screwed on Norman’s head is. Doubt in the stability of the leader leads to unrest and dissent amongst the group, which fractures the overall agenda.

A Hard Man For Hard Times:

Norman is also not what one might call “a people person”. In meetings with the Thunderbolts team members, he threatens Swordsman, Moonstone, Songbird, and Bullseye with varying levels of punishment for not going along with what he wants. In team briefings where he loses his cool after being called out on mentioning Spider-man in unexpected manners, he loses his temper and yells them down. That’s not to say he can’t hold a reasonable discussion, as he does with Penance, Venom, and the Radioactive Man. But in those few situations, he does it because he does not perceive a direct threat of disobedience from them. This also demonstrates how Osborn is strongly focused on getting things done his way and tolerates no discussion on the execution of his plans.

Hands-On Management:

Norman does demonstrate one excellent leadership trait here though, and that is a willingness to get his own hands dirty. As telepaths infiltrate the Thunderbolts headquarters and start messing with the team’s heads, Norman’s included, he heads to the basement and suits up in his old Green Goblin outfit.

Now, the issue with his hands-on attitude is that his plan to personally solve the problem is to brutally slaughter Venom and the Swordsman as they are the team members that the telepaths have gotten to go on a rampage. The other problem here is that a good leader would be willing to get the job done, whereas Norman is a bit openly annoyed at the incompetence of his security forces and insults them for their failure to get the job done. We’ll call this one a wash, since he’s doing a good thing in all the wrong ways.

Closing comments:

Norman does do a fairly good job of cleaning up the situation. He finds, and thoroughly brutalizes, the Swordsman for his attempted takeover of the base. Venom was previously incapacitated when he ran into Swordsman before he was taken down by Norman. The telepaths are all killed by Bullseye, with Norman taking the credit after the fact by claiming he intentionally placed Bullseye in position to accomplish that task. This bolsters his position as Thunderbolts leader and, during the events of the Secret Invasion crossover, he further boosts himself in the public eye by killing the Skrull queen on live television. All this is to say that being a horrible leader isn’t that huge a barrier to success, as long as you capitalize on key opportunities and find ways to hide your terrible failures.

I hired some really dumb security forces. Guess I’ll have to kill them all now. I have to do everything myself.–Norman Osborn (Thunderbolts: Caged Angels)

Final Rating: Bad business!
Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

P.S: The story arcs covered here can be found in the ThunderBolts: Faith in Monsters and Thunderbolts: Caged Angels trade paperbacks. Check out my Pinterest board for more scans!

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