Please note: this article contains spoilers.
Is more always better? This seems to be the question at the center of the most ambitious standalone super hero film probably ever conceived - Spider-Man: No Way Home. When we left our friendly neighborhood Spidey at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, he had been outed by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) as Peter Parker. Where they go with this relatively simple conceit is quite astounding in terms of the overall scale and scope of this trilogy's final chapter.
The synopsis of the film goes: With Spider-Man's identity now revealed, our friendly neighborhood web-slinger is unmasked and no longer able to separate his normal life as Peter Parker from the high stakes of being a superhero. When Peter asks for help from Doctor Strange, the stakes become even more dangerous, forcing him to discover what it truly means to be Spider-Man.
On one level, this film is about recovering from bad decision making and the related consequences. But this movie is also very much about the exact essence of heroism and what is means to be a force for good. As Maya Angelou once stated:
You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated.
With this thought in mind, allow me to present 5 key leadership lessons from this eventful movie.
1. Find strength in purpose: Due to being outed by Mysterio and becoming the most infamous person on the planet - Peter Parker/Spider-Man completely loses his way. This is evidenced by a noticeable lack of heroics in the first act of the film. He becomes consumed with what has happened to him personally versus what he ultimately stands for and this leads him to making a fatal error. Leadership Lesson: All the work to define an organization's Why and Core Focus is so that during moments of high tension, stress, and turbulence, you and your colleagues have a solid anchor to hold you firm despite the stormy seas. If you throw out your purpose at the first sign of trouble, you need to examine why you were doing it in the first place.
2. Practice good decision-making: Under extreme duress and feeling guilty for how his infamy is negatively affecting those around him, Peter makes a knee jerk decision to enlist the support of Dr. Stephen Strange to create a spell that will make the world forget that he is Spider-Man. The fact that this decision is so poorly thought out leads to the emergence of the film's primary antagonists. MJ tells Peter that he should have consulted with her and Ned before taking another action that could put them in jeopardy - and their relationship pays the ultimate price. Leadership Lesson: The difference between good and bad decision-making comes down to rigor, discipline, and process. Examining the facts, seeking out root cause behind problems, debating potential courses of action, and planning for the potential of failure all improve the odds of making a good decision. Bad decision making is based on inferences, opinions, or feelings versus solid process. Ultimately, whether a given decision will be deemed right or wrong is determined by the passage of time which is why successful leaders focus more on good process versus fear of making a wrong decision.
3. Fight for your beliefs: When Peter tracks down the MIT recruiter to fight for MJ and Ned's placement in the prestigious university, he demonstrates the selflessness of the hero he has not yet become. By putting his ego aside and humbling himself while also passionately defending his friends (and ultimately saving the recruiter from Doc Oc's attack) - he turns the tide on their futures. Leadership Lesson: Leaders know which battles to fight and which ones to sit on the sideline. The right battles almost always involve going to bat for the people with the highest leverage points with the organization/team's external stakeholders. Every second spent trying to remove obstacles for these value generator's is worth it to a servant leader and therefore this is how prioritization is determined.
4. It's not about you: Having been raised by an altruistic parental figure in the form of Aunt May, Peter naturally leans heavily in that direction morally. But when May perishes due to injuries sustained at the hands of the Green Goblin, he nearly succumbs to internal bitterness and a consuming need for vengeance. It takes the love and support of MJ and Ned, plus the surprising appearances and sound advice of Toby McGuire and Andrew Garfield's Spider-Men to walk him off the ledge - reminding him that Spider-Man is bigger than the tragedy he's experienced - it's not about him - it's about those he must protect and serve from greater tragedies and evil. Leadership Lesson: The two most important days in a career are the day you are appointed to become a manager and the day you realize why. When a person realizes that being a manager is a privilege and not a right and that they exist to serve and support the development and success of others (and that any success they achieve individually is a result of the collective success of the team), then they truly can call themself a leader.
5. Optimism is a super power: At Aunt May's behest, Peter stops looking at the assortment of villains they've collected in Dr. Strange's catacombs as bad guys and uses intense empathy to realize that each of them is a victim in his own right. This leads to an unusual climax for a super hero film where the goal is not bringing evil to justice, but actually helping them overcome their dastardly actions so they might live better future lives as solid societal contributors. It is his belief that they can change that leads to a transcendent moment for this now fully realized hero. Leadership Lesson: Servant leaders have chosen to believe in the inherent goodness in people and lead them accordingly. They don't put labels or judge others. They accept them as they are and then go on the journey together. They are able to transform adversity into positive consequences merely by believing that they can!
Overall, Spider-Man: No Way Home raised the stakes significantly over the prior entries in this trilogy. And with an ending that allows the franchise to go anywhere from her, I am more excited for Spidey's prospects than ever! The messaging was outstanding and Tom Holland proved why he deserves to be the number one Spider-Man (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.