27 Leadership Lessons From X-Men

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Let me start by saying, X-Men: Days Of Future Past does not disappoint at all. From the beginning moments of the movie, I was glued to the screen. Seeing X-Men characters I had never seen on the big screen before was breathtaking. Facing a global extinction of both the human and mutant races, Wolverine, played for the seventh time by Hugh Jackman, must go back in time to stop a war with machines called Sentinals before it ever starts. The opening scenes with Bishop, Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, Ice Man, Blink, Warpath, and other mutants helped the movie ride in on a high note. From there, the movie only got better, along with the leadership lessons.

1. A Good Leader Raises Other Leaders: Logan (Wolverine) who once could barely lead himself was influenced by Charles Xavier (Professor X) to hone his gifts to lead others, to a point where he is entrusted with the task to reverse the destiny of his whole species. It is so great to see the full arc of Wolverine’s character from where he was when Professor X first met him (in X-Men 1) to the kind of leader he becomes, largely by Professor X’s guidance, by the end of this film. What an interesting thought test: have you raised a leader in such a way that if they could go back in time they could help you become a leader?

2. A Good Leader Isn’t About Their Greatness But About Bringing Out Greatness In Others: If a leader is only about their greatness that greatness ends with them. This is true in at least two senses. in one sense, a leader about his own greatness diminishes in greatness because whatever work they are about dies with them. But when greatness is called out in others, it is no longer limited to an individual, but there can be countless more to contribute to the work and vision can multiply. Charles vision for consecutive generations is realized in his students who will go on to become teachers in their own right.  In another sense, a leader ceases to be great when they are about their greatness, as this self-centeredness is the way of most of the world. A leader stands out when paradoxically they’re not about standing out.

3. Let Others Help You: In the opening scenes of Days Of Future Past, you see Bishop get supercharged by the other X-Men that were left. He was able to gain power when others hit him with their energy. Even a leader at his best needs a team, which is why it is called X-Men not X-Man.

As young leaders, you can do the same. Let others help you. When they make an offer to help, don’t deny them. And don’t deny yourself.

Take all the help you can get. You’ll need it in your leadership.

4. The Common Good May Prevail: As the last remaining mutants are fighting, you see Magneto and Charles Xavier (Professor X) join forces to help protect and send Wolverine back to the past. These longtime enemies decided the common good was more important than their differences.

You may find there’s a time to join with others whom you feel are your enemies. All because you know something much better will be created if you’re willing to put aside your differences.

5. Find The Common Ground: Professor X, Wolverine, and Beast go to meet a young mutant in the past. Their job was to convince him to join their cause to help free Magneto from his prison. The young mutant was hesitant to trust these men he’d never met. Eventually he asked: “How do I know I can trust you?” I believe it was Wolverine who responded with “We’re just like you.” With that, he joined their cause.

To gain the trust of those on your team, you will have to open up. You’ll have to show vulnerability. You’ll have to show them you’re just like they are.

Find the common ground and fight for it!

6. Mistakes Can Be Costly: Wolverine was sent to the past to stop Mystique from shooting Bolivar Trask. Not only did shooting Trask boost him to martyr status, it also allowed for Mystique to be captured and her mutant ability to be recreated in the sentinels.

Once Mystique was stopped from shooting Trask, Magneto thought it would be a good idea to take out Mystique so her powers couldn’t be used to create the sentinels of the future. Only he made a mistake and shot her. Thus leaving her blood on the ground for the government to collect and still use on the sentinel project.

A simple mistake can be costly and change the course of your leadership. Try to minimize the mistakes you make along the way.

7. Action Doesn’t Require Certainty: In one scene Charles Xavier was asked if he was sure of what he was doing. His response? “Absolutely not.”

Many times in your leadership you’ll find yourself at a point you’re unsure of. You may want to know for certain what the outcome will be.

Unfortunately, you won’t always have the guarantee. Yet you can still take action. Take action!

8. Our Differences Make Us Powerful: Mutants in the Marvel universe each have a special ability that makes them different from the regular homo sapien. The mutants can accomplish feats that regular humans only could dream of.

Much like mutants, every person has something special deep within them. Stop fearing what you’re good at and do it. This is what makes you special and powerful.

9. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help: Two of the major characters, Wolverine and Professor X had to make a plea for help. They knew they weren’t above asking for help.

Your leadership will require you to ask many others for their help. Don’t be scared to ask. Step up to the plate and take on your leadership responsibility to ask for help.

10. We All Have To Sacrifice Something: If you’ve watched the previous X-Men movies, you know that Professor X was confined to a wheelchair due to a previous injury. In X-Men: Days Of Future Past, the past Xavier was up and walking when Logan was sent to the past.

We soon discover that Xavier has been taking a drug cocktail that allowed him to regain the use of his legs while losing his telepathic powers. The same telepathic powers he would need to help change the future!

Xavier had a choice to make. Sacrifice his ability to walk or sacrifice his telepathic ability.

You’ll come to many crossroads where you’ll have to make a choice on what to sacrifice. Be sure to sacrifice the right things.

11. Pain Clouds Judgement: We will all feel pain. Bolivar Trask felt the pain of power slipping away. Magneto felt the pain of seeing his race being targeted for extermination. Both of these characters reacted poorly because of the pain they were feeling.

Whenever you’re feeling pain, try to hold off on making a judgement call. The pain is more than likely clouding your judgement. Wait till you’ve had time to cool off and think things through.

12. Be Optimistic: In a slightly funny scene Hank McCoy (Beast) asks Logan if he’ll survive. Logan answers truthfully with a No. Yet he also stays optimistic and provides hope things could change by saying “we have a chance to change that.”

Sometimes things will look dark and you’ll see no chance to come out well on the other end. Never doubt there’s the possibility things could change.

13. Inserting Talented Young Leadership Upgrades Your Organization – Other than Wolverine, the movie’s primary characters are the younger versions of Xavier (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).  Fassbender and Lawrence, in particular, steal every scene they are in.  The insertion of younger talent upgraded an already successful franchise.

14. Leaders Must Know Their Limitations – Wolverine acknowledged, “Patience is not my strongest suit.”

15. The Naivety Of Youth And Its Potential – Young leaders are often high on passion but low on life experience.  Patience and a long-term view is required.  Showing his concern about Wolverine’s having to interact with younger versions of themselves, Magneto tells Xavier, “We were young.  We didn’t know any better.”

16. Leaders Must Be Given The Tools For Success – Dr. Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinals, says, “When you sent your soldiers to Viet Nam without the necessary weapons, you underestimated your enemy.”

17. Leaders Seek To Serve Rather Than Be Served – The best leaders are committed to the success of those they serve.  Wolverine says, “The professor I knew would never turn his back on someone who lost their way.”

18. Leaders Cast A Big Vision – Great leaders give others a great vision for their lives.  Xavier tells Quicksilver, “You’re going to break into the Pentagon.”

19. Leaders Find A Way – Leaders are resilient and keep pressing forward.  Wolverine tells Magneto, “You’re like me.  You’re a survivor.”

20. Leaders Bring People Together By Creating Common Ground – Despite their disagreements, Magneto and Xavier sat down to a game of chess to rebuild their relationship.

21. Leaders Can Become Dangerously Misguided – Trask tells President Nixon, “Never before has there been a cause to unite human history.”  There are many great causes to unite people.  However, the destruction of a race of people will never be one of them.

22. Failure Is Not Final – Leaders are people of second chances and extend grace to those who need it.  Xavier says, “Just because someone stumbles doesn’t mean they lost their way.”

23. Leaders Are Dealers In Hope – Xavier says, “The greatest gift we have is to bear their pain without breaking and it comes from your most human part – hope”

24. It Often Takes A Leader To Talk To A Leader – Because of the commonality of their journeys, it often takes one leader to encourage another.  Other leaders have credibility because they understand the struggles which come with leadership.  Wolverine gives Xavier confidence by telling him, “Your best is enough.  Trust me.”

25. Leaders Are Bridge Builders – Magneto says, “Humanity has always feared what is different.”  While this may be true, successful leaders are inclusive and continually building bridges.  Leaders find ways to bring people together.

26. Leaders Have A Responsibility To Understand The Impact Of Their Decisions – Leaders make decisions and decisions make leaders.  The most successful leaders have developed a quality grid for decision-making.  “Countless choices define our fate…Enough ripples and you change the tide.  For the future is never set.”

27. Honor The Past – Leaders understand you cannot move people into their future without first touching their past.  This movie provided a nice touch by bringing back all of previous film’s most popular characters.

 

I love X-Men and what they can teach us about leadership. I hope you do as well. If we look hard enough, we can always find the leadership lessons buried within every superhero movie. Never let anyone else tell you otherwise.

What leadership lessons have you learned from The X-Men and other Superhero Movies? Share one or two in the comment section below.

To your success!

Olanrewaju Oniyitan






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