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Leadership Lessons from Venom

Please note: this article contains spoilers.

Venom was first introduced in the original Spiderman Trilogy from the 2000's as one of a trio of bad guys persecuting Spidey during Spiderman 3. Because of "too many villains syndrome", Venom didn't really make a strong mark as a terrifying adversary. So now 11 years later, Sony and Marvel are trying to transform Venom from bad guy to anti-hero with mixed results.

The synopsis of the film goes: Journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is trying to take down Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), the notorious and brilliant founder of the Life Foundation. While investigating one of Drake's experiments, Eddie's body merges with the alien Venom -- leaving him with superhuman strength and power. Twisted, dark and fueled by rage, Venom tries to control the new and dangerous abilities that Eddie finds so intoxicating.

This paint by the numbers super hero origin story is elevated somewhat by the jittery confidence Hardy puts into his Eddie Brock and the obvious glee with which he plays Venom. As the film progressed I was far more intrigued by the concepts of ego, identity, and self-acceptance presented. As James Baldwin says:

An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.

With this thought in mind, allow me to present five leadership lessons gleaned from this sometimes entertaining flick.

  1. Have the courage to act: At the beginning of the film, Eddie Brock has an opportunity to interview billionaire Carlton Drake regarding a major rocket ship crash and he detects that there is far more to the story than meets the eye. By pursuing this lead, however, he jeopardizes his career and the career of his fiancé. On the surface he appears impulsive, brash, and truly egotistical in his need to bring down someone who goes against his morals. But Eddie Brock is motivated by something deeper than surface motivations and ignores personal ruination and embarrassment to courageously confront a bad person. Leadership Lesson: In the leadership book, ‘Head, Heart & Guts– How the World’s Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders’, experts David Dotlich, Peter Cairo and Stephen Rhinesmith explain that leaders who operate only from the head are ‘incomplete’. To truly lead successfully in today’s complex social and business environments, ‘whole leaders’ must learn to fully leverage the true intelligence of their head, heart and guts. The gut is a different type of intelligence that leads to the courage to act.

  2. Know your weaknesses: As Eddie and Venom begin to intermingle and know each other better, there is a key moment when venom reveals that sound between certain frequencies can severely damage it as well as fire. This information becomes crucial in the climactic battle of the film between Venom and Rampage as Venom is able to dispose of his enemy by exploding the rocket ship and engulfing Rampage in fire. Leadership Lesson: Developing weaknesses will not lead to breakout performance or significant results. But neither will ignoring them. Acceptance of what makes you strong and what areas of weakness you possess is the key to becoming a more humble, human, and relatable leader. The sooner leaders can acknowledge that there might be areas of lesser competence, the sooner they can cover those gaps through smart hiring and leveraging the talents of others.

  3. Micromanaging does not inspire confidence: Throughout the film, it is obvious that Carlton Drake doesn't trust anyone but himself. And this constant meddling and micromanaging and autonomous decision making literally leads to many deaths than would have occurred if he would have allowed the scientific method to bear itself out. Leadership Lesson: As a leader you should concentrate more on building frameworks and reinforcing a positive, productive culture than being involved in every single decision your people make. It's exhausting for you and saps the energy out of your people by crippling their sense of confidence.

  4. Be aware of trust breakers: Because of Carlton Drake's overbearing boss personality and ego, he breaks the trust of his lead scientist, Dora Skirth, which leads to her seeking out Eddie Brock in the sequence that results in Venom being unleashed. Had Drake been aware of Dora's trust guard rails, he could have managed the situation in a way that would not have resulted in her looking to betray him and the company for which she worked. Leadership Lesson: Leaders don't assume that they know what attributes build or break trust with each team member. This is a crucial discussion to be held with each person and part of a social contract between colleagues that minimizes the chance for future conflict therefore insulating a positive work environment.

  5. Never back down: Venom acknowledges to Eddie that Rampage is superior to him in every way yet goes into battle anyway and ultimately prevails. At first it appears that Venom pays for this decision with its very existence but shortly thereafter we learn that Venom and Eddie will be battling together for a long time. Leadership Lesson: Understanding the brutal facts of the decision and odds of success but acting anyway are attributes of extraordinary leaders. When you can openly acknowledge the barriers stacked against you, only then can you build a plan that contemplates each and begin the process to navigate toward a successful outcome.

Overall, Venom is a very flawed super hero movie with some moments of excellent action and themes that work on multiple levels (if you are willing to dig for them). Due to some laugh out loud moments and how cool Venom and Rampage look I give it a thumbs up. I (3 out of 5 stars).

What other leadership lessons did you glean from the film? Let us know in the comments below. And please give the article a thumbs up and share with your network if you enjoyed and got anything out of it. please feel free to follow me on Linked In, keep the conversation going on twitter, and share in my journey on Instagram.

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