3 Leadership Principles from Captain America

I’m a Marvel and DC movie fan. My mom would work late nights at the local grocery store and I would read comics and sleep. I grew up reading comic books and seeing all these characters portrayed on the big screen is so cool! After binging on a few Marvel movies over the weekend I thought about Captain America’s leadership style and picked out 3 principles leaders can take away from the First Avenger.

Success is More Than Money

In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Steve Rogers AKA Captain America reached Germany and found his fellow soldiers captured behind enemy lines. At the time he was just a stooge to help raise funds for soldiers carrying on the good fight — that is what he was. But he understood his true value. He knew that in the hands of poor leadership his abilities were just an extra buck and a stage show, but being his own leader he could save lives, increase efficiency, and end a war.

Sure you’re valuable, but are you bringing that value forward to an end of more than just an extra buck? Great leadership has the ability to push the needle on the success meter forward far beyond a pecuniary advantage.

Negative Energy is Still Energy

During the dramatic climax of The Avengers (2012), Captain America is wondering if he and his team can pull it together. He uses this time and nervous energy to shore up holes in his self-confidence and handle the animosity and negativity within the team. Cap doesn’t let his emotions about present circumstances get out of hand. He has to lead when the mission is going well and when it’s going bad.

Great leadership has the ability to push the needle on the success meter forward far beyond a pecuniary advantage.

Whether it be self-doubt or any other negative emotions use it constructively. Being able to clear the emotional clutter and focus on completing the task at hand or simply redirecting that frustration is critical to all leaders. Get your head in the game! Someone is going to win. Whether it’s you or not is your choice.

Ask The IMPOSSIBLE of Your Team

In The Avengers (2012), Captain America asked 5 people to stop an invading alien armada numbering in the tens of thousands attempting to conquer the earth starting in New York City. While he was speaking to Thor and The Hulk; there were regular folk in that group too! That’s asking a lot, but great leaders can do just that.

Great leaders ask a lot of those around them and expect it to be done. Great leaders lay down the processes and plans for their teams to accomplish grand goals. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great teams in some great organizations changing the landscape of healthcare in the US. These teams accomplished what was regarded as impossible by others, but it’s only because someone (the leader) asked for the impossible, pushed for the impossible and believed for the impossible. Great leaders get their hands dirty too and do it with the team.

BONUS: He changes with the times…sort of

Cap was an icicle for the better part of a century. While he’s still catching up on modern history and current colloquialisms, he’s exhibited a flexibility of all areas except a few — his morals, his values, and his beliefs he’s willing to stick by. Methodology, commanding officers, etc. he’s willing to be flexible and that’s very important for any leader.

Flexibility is the quality of maturity in leadership, and knowing when to bend and when not to bend is essential. Bending in morals and ethics is never an option and as a leader you must be clear on that as your team will follow your lead in that area.

Flexibility in the areas of skill management is different. Product management for example is getting better as time goes on. From the days of the “Brand Man” to the Line Managers of Japanese auto makers, to present day Agile team Product Owners; the abilities to improve skills, the KPI’s of the roles are improving and becoming more clear-cut. However there are still the old school Product Management techniques and know-how that help drive products forward, such as, managing stakeholder priorities, eliciting the requirements that equal value, and speaking truth to power.

If you’re a fan I’m sure you’re wishing I mentioned some events from the comics but I like to keep my posts short. Feel free to review more articles over at my blog. Feel free to share your thoughts.