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Leadership Lessons from Captain Marvel

Please note: this article contains spoilers.

Just in time for International Women's Day, Marvel studios FINALLY released their first female-led superhero film, Captain Marvel. In addition to carrying that burden, Captain Marvel also had to satisfy all the fans hungry for any shred of information related to how the Avengers will defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame next month. Quite a heavy load to carry, but Carol Danvers is more than up to the task!

The synopsis of the film goes: Captain Marvel is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury, Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the Skrulls.

This nonlinear origin story is a bit jumbled in the beginning but really finds its stride in the final act. The film is about knowledge of self but it also contains powerful themes related to self-mastery and awakening. Or as Lalah Delia puts it:

“She remembered who she was and the game changed.”

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

  1. Falling is Not Failure: When we first meet Vers (Captain Marvel), she is suffering from nightmarish memories about her past. She goes to her mentor and commanding officer Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) to work out her frustration through fighting. Although clearly more powerful than her leader, he bests her again and again while admonishing her to keep her emotions under control. Falling and failure recur again and again in her story. Leadership Lesson: You've heard the old adage, fall down seven times, get up eight. This is the DNA required of a leader. Resilience, intense spirit, and an undying belief that you will ultimately prevail are qualities that inspire people to follow you.

  2. Be Proactive: After crash landing on planet C-53 (Earth), Captain Marvel asserts her confident, cocky brand of leadership time and time again. She is resourceful enough to repair her communicator device, escape capture, and even gain the confidence of a young (and two-eyed) Nick Fury. She steps up time and time again in the film even though on the inside she is wracked with insecurity about her identity and place in the universe. Whether using her powers or not, her proactivity in the face of challenges drives the film to its exciting conclusion. Leadership Lesson: Stephen Covey writes that there are two types of people in the world, proactive and reactive. Proactive people take control of the situation, get things done, and don't allow worry and doubt to cripple their ability to perform. Reactive people live in a constant state of worry and anxiety over things they mostly have no control over. The most successful leaders are almost maniacally proactive - they are solution-minded individuals who overcome almost every obstacle in their way.

  3. Make Your Case: In a key scene, Talos, the leader of the Skrulls, makes an impassioned plea to Captain Marvel to help him in his cause. And despite the fact that his kind have been the enemy for the past six years, he is able to convince not only Carol Danvers, but her best friend Maria, Nick Fury, and a cat named Goose to align with him and fight side by side. Leadership Lesson: Leaders need to be able to convince others using facts, data, passion, and guts. Because no one accomplished great feats alone, the role of the leader is to align a group of people to a common interest and then motivate them until the goals are achieved.

  4. Stand For Something: Carol Danver's true mentor Mar-Vell (Annette Bening) believes it is her life's work to free the Skrulls from the tyranny of her own people. She abandons her planet and goes to a place where she can put her positive intentions to work. Although she doesn't achieve her ultimate goal, she recruits two passionate acolytes in Carol and Maria who will carry on her legacy. Leadership Lesson: The values of a leader permeate the entire organization. What matters to you will ultimately matter to your people so it is essential that you know who you are and what you believe in. A strong moral compass is magnetic and will attract like-minded individuals to your cause.

  5. No One Can Tell You Who You Are: In the film's climax, Carol Danvers finally owns her identity and personal power and in this moment becomes virtually indestructible. She is a one woman army! The cute cat Goose (who steals the movie) keeps being treated like a cat when in actually it is a dangerous Flerkin who is instrumental in saving the day and safe guarding the Tesseract from the Kree. Leadership Lesson: Every leader has a brand that precedes them. This brand is a combination of your experiences, beliefs, motivations, and strengths. The sooner you understand yourself, the sooner you will attract followers who will work along side you and deliver positive impact on the world.

Overall, Captain Marvel is one of the weaker Marvel origin stories but is entertaining enough in its own regard. I look forward to seeing Captain Marvel unburdened from back story and simply being her exceptional self in the future! 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.

Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of the upcoming leadership book, Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams being published by TPC Books in June 2019. Please follow him on instagram, twitter, and/or LinkedIn for more information and engagement.

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