3 Leadership Lessons from Movie Characters

Leadership has been found in movies for decades. And the usual suspects are often on the list: Abraham Lincoln, Forrest Gump, Maximus, William Wallace, etc. But here are three leaders and three lessons I’ve learned from three movies in recent years:

Movie: Moneyball
Leader: Billy Beane
Principle: If you can’t win the game, change the game.

Billy Beane. The man who famously shook up baseball a decade ago by introducing analytics.  This was a major deal because baseball talent had always been selected by the trained eye of the scout and the feeling he had in his gut about a player.

Billy Beane not only changed the game – he endured humiliation in the process. But he had to. He found himself leading the Oakland Athletics, a team with one of the lowest payrolls in a game where the more money you have, the more rings you produce.

He could have played "the game” the way it had always been done, and few would have complained. After all, the expectations in Oakland were low – but instead he changed the game, leading to a historical 20-game win streak.

How do you need to shake it up and change the game?

Movie: Captain Phillips
Leader: Captain Richard Phillips
Principle: Anticipation leads to preparation.

Richard Phillips was the captain of a cargo ship passing by the Somali coast known for its threat of pirates. Not the Captain Hook kind. The kind with automatic guns.

Phillips, knowing the threat of attack was only moderate, had his crew continuously doing drills in preparation for an attack. When the attack came, the crew had just wrapped up a drill, leading them to simply repeat what they had just practiced.

And while no drill can simulate a real life attack, the anticipation and preparation of attack is what Phillips attributes to the eventual rescue of his crew and boat.

@@The difference between panic and perseverance is preparation.@@ At the moment of any sort of attack, you will either work the steps previously planned out or simply freak out.

What attack do you need to anticipate and prepare for?

Movie: Monsters University
Leader: Mike Wazowski
Principle: Failure can lead to greater influence.

In the prequel to Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski enrolls in the Scare School of Monsters University with the hopes of becoming a Scarer. Mike eventually learns that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a scarer in the sense that he hoped to be – in the way his friend Sully was cut out to be.

Mike didn’t have the size or ferociousness to be a scarer directly, but what he did possess allowed him to make other scarers better. He had brains. He spotted unique gifts. He could strategize.

Crushed dreams and personal failure should – and often do – lead to giving up and running away. They rarely lead to an opportunity of greater influence. The way it happened for Mike – and often does in life – is by admitting how you are and how you aren’t wired to lead.

What failures and shortcomings must you face to lead in greater ways?