Leadership Lessons from Captain America
By HYMA PILLAY
If you are familiar with my writings (if not, it’s okay I’ll go cry in a corner now), by now you would know that I am a huge fan of superhero movies, and that I enjoy finding values and lessons in movies, and of course, thrive on sharing them.
It wasn’t any different when I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier recently.
In my opinion, this was one of the better movies I watched this year, and no, not only because of how ridiculously good looking Chris Evans is (in my good friend Effie’s words, “Oh! Those cornflower blue eyes!”), but because of the many leadership lessons embedded in the movie.
One thing I realised is that Captain America, also known as Steve Rogers, is one of the more humble superheroes and there’s so much to learn from him, from both the Captain America movies as well as from The Avengers.
Before I go on, as usual, I am obliged to warn you of spoilers. Here are leadership lessons from the Captain himself:
1 If you truly believe in something, don’t let anything get in your way of achieving it
The first Captain America movie was set around World War II. There, we are introduced to a young, small and timid Rogers. It was a time where all young men were eagerly signing up for the army. Rogers, who was very passionate about fighting for his country, also tried to sign up.
However, because of his small build, Rogers wasn’t able to pass the physical exam, therefore his application was rejected. Rogers didn’t let that get him down.
He persisted and tried every time he had the chance, and even though he kept getting rejected and laughed at, it didn’t stop him.
Rogers’ passion and heart for his country is finally recognised by Abraham Erkine who recruits him for the “super soldier” treatment – thus creating Captain America.
Col. Chester Phillips: Our goal is to create the greatest army in history.
Steve Rogers: I should be going with you. Look, I know you don’t think I can do this…
Bucky: This isn’t a back alley, Steve. It’s war!
Col. Chester Phillips: But every army begins with one man.
I believe this is something most of us resonate with. We all have passions and dreams we strive to achieve.
Take a minute and ask yourself, how many times have you let go of something because you were told you couldn’t do it? I am personally guilty of this.
It’s so easy to let people get in our way and our dreams. Let’s take it from the Captain: if you set yourself up to achieve something, persevere until it becomes reality.
The only person who can decide whether you can or cannot do something, is yourself.
2 Step up and lead, when there is a need
In The Avengers, Captain America takes on the role to lead the Avengers in battle against Loki’s destructive army.
Rogers doesn’t focus on himself to get all the glory. He understands the dynamics of his team, understands each of them for their different strengths, and uses it to the team’s advantage.
He delegates and sends each of them to take care of different things. Even though it was getting overwhelming as they were largely outnumbered, he didn’t let it get in the way, and pushed through till the end.
Captain America: “Hulk, Smash!”
Whether you are working or studying, you will be placed with different teams consisting of different types of people, and there will be times when there is a need for someone to take the reins.
Don’t be afraid to step into the leader’s shoes. Understand your team, how they work, and be the “Captain America” of your team.
3 Always stay true to your beliefs and principals
In the second movie, our Captain is placed in a difficult situation when he realises that the person he is fighting is his best friend, Bucky.
Even though Bucky didn’t recognise Rogers, and was still determined to kill him, Rogers stood his ground and chose not to go against his friend.
Steve Rogers: You’re my friend…
Bucky: You’re my mission!
Steve Rogers: Then finish it… because I’m with you till the end of the line…
We find distractions and obstacles at almost every corner, and they lead us away from our destinations.
There are also many negative elements which can be discouraging and cause us to give up our beliefs and principals.
If what you believe in is something good, then you should never let go, no matter how tough it gets. That’s what keeps us true to ourselves.
4 Surround yourself with people who share the same vision
From his human soldier’s team in the first movie, to his superhuman Avengers team, to Falcon and Black Widow in The Winter Soldier, Rogers always manages to seek help from people with the same aim and vision.
Even with his superhuman abilities, he knows that he would have a better chance of winning if he had help from trusted people.
It’s easy to feel alone and work on our own most times, but this can leave us drained in the end. When you surround yourself with individuals who share the same vision, you will be able to achieve great things as a team.
The editorial team of Leaderonomics is a good advocate for this. We all have our own columns and pages we are each responsible of, but we always find ways to help each other in any way we can.
That is because we all share the same goal, which is to provide first-class leadership material to our readers.
So let’s all be the Captain Americas of our teams and our organisations, wherever the opportunity arises for us to take the lead.
“Whatever happens tomorrow you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.” – Abraham Erskine