Please note: this article contains spoilers.
After the surprising success of the Aquaman standalone movie, DC studios is at it again with an even lesser known hero - Shazam! Shazam is unique in the DCEU as it feels like a mash-up of the 80's classic Big with the feel good optimism of the Christopher Reeves Superman films. This is because the titular hero is actually a 14 year old boy who morphs into the super-powered Shazam simply by saying the word.
The synopsis of the film goes: We all have a superhero inside of us -- it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In 14-year-old foster-kid Billy Batson's case, all he needs to do is shout out one word to transform into the adult superhero Shazam. Still a kid at heart, Shazam revels in the new version of himself by doing what any other teen would do -- have fun while testing out his newfound powers. But he'll need to master them quickly before the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana can get his hands on Shazam's magical abilities.
This unconventional superhero origin story is fairly entertaining throughout even though the stakes are ultimately quite low. The jarring part is that it seems as if the actors playing both sides of Billy Batson are on opposite extremes with the younger version quite brooding and serious and the older version much more playful and fun all of a sudden. The film is about growing into one's power but it also has a strong message about finding your place in the world. As Marianne Willamson once said:
“Ego says 'Once everything falls into place I will feel peace.' Spirit says, 'Once I feel peace everything will fall into place.'”
With this thought in mind, allow me to present five leadership lessons gleaned from this relatively light-hearted feature.
Negativity has a long shelf-life: When Billy's nemesis Thaddeus Sivana is just a boy he dreams of achieving magical powers. Unfortunately he is discouraged at every turn from his father and older brother to the old Wizard Shazam himself. He takes this negativity to heart and vows his revenge which he exacts with extreme cruelty on those who have hurt him. Leadership Lesson: As a leader and someone whom people look up to you must give precise, honest performance feedback but you also have to pick people up and show them the way to achieve their goals when they are off track. This is how a leader serves and supports her team. A negative word or sentiment from you at the wrong time can have extremely destructive impact on your people.
Discover your strengths: After being chosen by Shazam to be the champion and revealing his upgraded self to his foster brother, Freddy, Billy begins a hilarious montage as he learns his true powers. Along the way Freddy notes where he appears to be special and where he is not. Leadership Lesson: The greatest gift you can give to yourself and to your team and organization is the belief that each individual has a unique and valuable way of thinking, feeling, and behaving that can be productively applied to conquer challenges and achieve goals. It's the people manager's job to discover and maximize these unique qualities in your people and help develop them into truly strong and capable individuals and team members.
Will over skill: In a key scene, Billy finds his long-lost mother only to learn that she gave up on raising him due to her lack of belief in her abilities to effectively do so. Leadership Lesson: Leaders (like parents) don't have the luxury of quitting or giving up. Too many people depend on your ability to know, show, and go the way. That's why true leaders constantly test and strengthen their will and block out the negative noise that says they can't accomplish something.
Find your tribe: Billy spends most of the movie in his teenage form shutting himself off from those who would love him in favor of a mother who left him to fend in the world all alone. But ultimately he learns that he has a new family who has his back and are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with him to rebuke evil. Leadership Lesson: When a leader's strengths, mission, and purpose align with her team's then watch out! Culture is more powerful at driving results than simply putting a group of talented people in a room and asking them to solve problems.
Empower others: In the film's climax, Billy passes on his powers to his 5 foster brothers and sisters for the final battle with the Deadly Sins. Together they banish the monsters back to their prisons in the Rock of Eternity Temple. Leadership Lesson: Leadership only exists as a discipline because it takes more than strong-willed individuals to achieve goals. It takes a team of capable people who know what they are good at and how to complement one another to deliver breakthrough results time after time. This is one of the most important roles a leader must embrace - that of talent scout and team builder who allows her people to flourish and demonstrate their abilities on a regular basis.
As a super hero movie I found the tone of Shazam to be a bit too all over the place but it wasn't the worst flick I've sat through! It will be interesting to see how Shazam integrates with the soon to be rebooted Justice League but this standalone feature gets only 2.5 out of 5 stars from me.
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.