Photo credit: Pat Loika | Flickr
By SARAH LIM JIA HUI
The movie Captain America: Civil War entered cinemas in a blaze of glory truly befitting of a superhero film of its calibre. Moviegoers left more than satisfied, if a strong 90% Rotten Tomatoes score is an indication.
This time, instead of fighting against one main villain that threatens the world, they are fighting against each other. The movie leaves viewers with a sense of dark foreboding for the events to come, especially with the Marvel movie-verse heading towards the ominous-sounding Infinity Wars. The civil war that occurs between the major characters of the Avengers ultimately splits the team apart.
Let’s explore the true cause and effect that lies within the internally damaging Civil War, and what leaders can learn from it.
Captain America vs Ironman
Steve Rogers: Tony, we used to be a family.
Tony Stark: I don’t care.
The premise of the movie hinges on the upcoming battle between two of Marvel’s greatest heroes: Captain America and Ironman. The root of their conflict is this: the world has become afraid of the Avengers, and is demanding that the Avengers submit to a treaty which would put them under the control of the United Nations (UN).
This puts Captain America and Ironman on opposing sides: the former refusing to sign, and the latter all for it. This leads to an epic battle between the two; first in words, then in a violent game of evasion and capture, and finally in a clash of fists and high-powered weaponry.
This begs the question: how could team players in organisation become so torn apart from a single disagreement? Are we willing to agree to disagree on something to move forward as an organisation? Or do we hold on stubbornly to our own opinions until it affects our relationships with others?
The cause: Lack of a unifying vision
Steve Rogers: We’re outside the law on this one, so if you come with us, you’re a wanted man.
What is a civil war? Checking out the term brought up the definition as: people of the same country fighting against each other.
In every business, it is ideal that people work together, with every member a cog in a machine that runs smoothly and powerfully. If one thinks of a team as a small country, then the leaders are the ‘government’ who strives to bring their ‘nation’ to greater heights. To do that, a leader must have the ability to encourage cohesiveness amongst the members, bringing the whole team under a single unifying vision.
Captain America is a visionary leader who possesses great strategic skills paired with a strong moral compass. He may not have the wealth and technological resources that Tony has, nor is he especially charismatic or persuasive, but he succeeds because his team is constantly aware of what is going on, what the end-goal is, and why it is worth putting their lives on the line for.
This is shown throughout the film when Captain America rebels against what amounts to the entirety of the UN, and becomes a fugitive of the law. The people on his side remain loyal to him, even though most of them have much to lose, be it their family, or their own personal freedom.
However, this vision does not extend to the rest of the Avengers. Ironman certainly does not share Captain America’s perspective, and this differing vision splits the group apart.
Ironman is motivated by his sense of responsibility towards the victims of the Avengers’ world-saving activities. His side shares the same guilt, and the same determination to be held accountable for their actions.
Both factions have their valid reasons. Their mistake is that both sides refuse to compromise and find a middle ground. Without one leader to unify the team, nor a single external enemy to pit their efforts against, the Avengers choose a side against each other.
In the same way, teams who don’t have a unifying vision nor leaders who share the same goal will eventually break apart.
The effect: The consequences of civil war
Tony Stark: I’m trying to keep you from tearing the Avengers apart.
Captain America: You did that when you signed.
The saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ is not just an overused cliché for when our mothers want us to get along with our siblings. This is true for any entity that wants to succeed.
Leaders, therefore, have to consciously put in efforts into preventing such devastation to keep their team united. An internal conflict within a business can be exponentially more damaging than an external factor from competitors. A team which is divided cannot be as productive as when they are united.
The Avengers have been split apart by the events of Civil War. It is no longer ‘good’ versus ‘bad’, but ‘good’ versus ‘good’. This is not only saddening, but also holds serious implications for the future of the world, especially with a greater evil being hinted in the movie-verse.
The villain, in the end, is taken captive and imprisoned. However, he has won, because he has succeeded in breaking the Avengers apart. The strongest team on earth has been all but disbanded, and their future heroic efforts will not be nearly as effective.
Now it’s your turn. Are there conflicts brewing within your organisation that need to be addressed and resolved courageously, transparently and diplomatically?