Leadership Lessons from Aquaman



Please note: this article contains spoilers.

Aquaman has had a long torturous road to getting his own DC Extended Universe solo adventure. Development of an Aquaman film began in 2004, with several plans falling through over the years. But after a strong turn in the poorly reviewed Justice League, Jason Momoa's fish speaking superhero is finally getting top billing. And unlike DC's current incarnations of Batman and the Man of Steel, he's here to make a splash!

The synopsis of the film goes: Once home to the most advanced civilization on Earth, the city of Atlantis is now an underwater kingdom ruled by the power-hungry King Orm. With a vast army at his disposal, Orm plans to conquer the remaining oceanic people -- and then the surface world. Standing in his way is Arthur, Orm's half-human, half-Atlantean brother and true heir to the throne. With help from royal counselor Vulko, Arthur must retrieve the legendary Trident of Atlan and embrace his destiny as protector of the deep.

This traditional hero's journey is greatly improved by Jason Momoa's swagger and director James Wan's stunning visual language. The film, like almost all superhero origin stories, is about identity, although as Aquaman has known of his powers and been trained to use them since a child - this movie is all about self-acceptance. This quote by Marianne Williamson sums this concept up perfectly:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

With this thought in mind, allow me to present five leadership lessons gleaned from this action-packed adventure.

  1. Know when to take a loss: Arthur Curry (Aquaman's) mother Atlanna is the princess of Atlantis and his father Thomas is a lighthouse keeper. After deciding to leave Atlantis for the surface world so she wouldn't have to commit to an arranged marriage, she and Thomas fall in love and start to create a life together. Years later when the Atlantans locate her she agrees to return home in order to save the life of young Arthur. By sacrificing herself she ultimately guarantees the survival of Atlantis. Leadership Lesson: Leaders have to calibrate the risk-benefit ratio of many decisions. And despite the desire to drive results, sometimes the cost does is not worth it for a myriad of reasons. Your values and moral compass must be finely tuned so that you make the best judgement calls in these situations. As one of my favorite leaders once said, "if you have to choose between doing what is right and losing a sale, lose the sale every time."

  2. Consistency is king: After Atlanna returns to the sea, Thomas Curry vows to come to the end of the pier each day at sunrise to wait for her return. And he sticks to this promise come rain or sunshine. Ultimately his discipline is vindicated when Atlanna finally makes it back to his arms. Leadership Lesson: In the book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins describes the concept of fanatic discipline as one aspect that has distinguished successful companies despite the external volatile conditions. Fanatic discipline can be explained as a set of specific, methodical and consistent rules you follow and make decisions by. Real discipline is about full adherence to these values in both good and bad times; and as a leader - injecting your team with this sort of discipline guarantees that no one over-focuses on only short term gains.

  3. Gratitude is latitude: Sometimes even heroes need a little help. When Orm's tidle wave nearly kills his father, Princess Mera saves his life by using her own special powers. Arthur is immediately grateful which begins their journey together. Leadership Lesson: Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools of leadership in that it permeates a positive, in the moment vibe in your team. People understand that you appreciate their efforts leading to the doubling and redoubling of these by your recognition of the same.

  4. Serve the greater good: Aquaman's journey leads him to the trident of Atlan and a test of his courage and resolve. He ultimately retrieves the powerful weapon because of his humility in the face of his task to unite the seven kingdoms and stop a war between the sea and the surface. Then he uses it to complete his transformation into the one true king of Atlantis. Leadership Lesson: True leaders need to be servants to their organizations and teams. Serving a team means checking your ego and using your position to remove barriers and obstacles to performance and excellence. This is the blend of humility and intense personal will described in Good to Great as Level 5 Leadership - a quality the most successful leaders in the most successful organizations possess.

  5. Don't gloat: After the huge battle for Atlantis, Aquaman has the chance to kill his step-brother Orm, but spares his life instead hoping for a reconciliation. This act demonstrates a new brand of leadership for the Atlantan people and earns him significant trust points with his people. Leadership Lesson: As a leader, it's important to embed in your team the concept that winning is its own reward. And then set new goals for the team to achieve moving forward. Gloating is unnecessary when winning is simply a consequence of discipline and focus.

Overall, Aquaman is the second best DCEU film after Wonder Woman. The spectacle is truly incredible and the action is some of the most incredible put on screen this year. I give it 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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