ILLUMINATION
Published in

ILLUMINATION

How Nick Fury Manages With Power

Photo by Hassan Pasha on Unsplash

Managing with Power, written by Jeffrey Pfeffer, is a book that prepares readers to understand power. A reader will understand basic concepts and see how to use these concepts. We can see power at work in many environments, as it is a fundamental aspect of life. One may observe the crucial principles in any setting where people need to work together.

Managing with Power discusses politics and influence in organizations. It covers the subject in terms of usage in organizations, sources of power, strategic employment, and power dynamics. This article concentrates on two specific areas. The first area covers the personal attributes related to gaining and holding power. We will also look at some strategies and tactics that Jeffrey Pfeffer discusses in his book.

Popular culture has many purposes for consumers in our society. Many use it to escape the realities of the responsibilities. I believe there are examples you can learn the lessons of an M.B.A. course by watching your favorite movies. You will notice the lessons even while you watch the leader of a fictional team in a film.

Marvel Studios based their successful movies upon a series of comic books, yet you will still see many principles of leadership. The characters are solid and based upon proven behaviors of successful people in real life. We can study the leadership style of the Nick Fury character from the Marvel movies to learn more.

Nick Fury is the Director of SHIELD. He is a results-oriented leader who uses power to get what he wants from his team. Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury’s character. Jackson’s character appears in several movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he interacts with the most famous heroes of the past decade.

Nick Fury is tasked with dealing with highly competent performers and must battle with team members who don’t always agree with him. He must depend on his leadership, charisma, and wisdom to guide others who have more physical ability than he to drive the results he needs.

Personal Attributes

According to Pfeffer, we can look at six personal traits for acquiring and holding great power. Each attribute is explained with a direct quote from the book that explains the specific trait.

Energy and Physical Stamina “It is often the case that endurance triumphs over cleverness.” Director Fury fights many times, and he is a pure soldier. He has battled aliens and also fought his way out of an assassination attempt by multiple attackers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He has survived a gunshot and an intentional automobile accident.

Focus “People who exercise great influence focus their energies and efforts in a single direction.” Fury focused on protecting planet Earth from the time he learned of the threat posed by other beings. His first experience occurred during the events in Captain Marvel when he becomes involved in the Kree-Skrull war in the 1990s. From that moment, he focused his efforts on protecting the planet.

Sensitivity to Others “It is this capacity to identify with others that are actually critical in obtaining things for oneself.” In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury Tells Captain Steve Rogers why he did not involve him in a particular mission “I didn’t want you doing anything you weren’t comfortable with. Agent Romanoff is comfortable with everything.” He understands the various moral codes of his team members and works within those boundaries.

Flexibility “Sensitivity to others is not worth much unless you can use that information to change that behavior.” In Iron Man 2, Nick Fury teaches Tony Stark the history of his father’s work and poses a challenge to Tony. Fury is sensitive to Tony’s insecurities about his father, Howard Stark. He works with Tony and lets him know how much his father truly respected him. “He said that you were the only person with the means and knowledge to finish what he started.” This conversation got Tony motivated to accomplish his scientific mission at his lab.

Ability to Tolerate Conflict “Because the need for power arises only under circumstances of disagreement, one of the personal attributes of powerful people is the willingness to engage in conflict with others.” Nick Fury is comfortable working within the competitive environment and dealing with the egos of the team. During a clash in The Avengers, Thor says, “You speak of control, yet you cause chaos.” Dr. Banner adds, “That’s his M.O. isn’t it?” He does not fold under the stress of these jabs from the two strongest beings in the world. He stays to fight alongside them.

Submerging One’s Ego and Getting Along “The ability to submerge one’s ego to build support is an important source of power.” In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Fury reaches out to Tony Stark about his application of artificial intelligence. Stark sarcastically replies, “You’re not the Director of me.” Nick Fury humbly responds, “I’m not the Director of anybody. I’m just an old man who cares very much about you.” He will listen to Tony Stark during a difficult psychological struggle and shows true leadership by employing empathetic listening.

EMPLOYING POWER EFFECTIVELY

In Managing with Power, Jeffrey Pfeffer summarizes the point of framing an idea, “the lesson is that what looks reasonable, or ridiculous, depends on the context-on how it is framed.” Nick Fury uses framing techniques throughout the movies to influence others. He discovers a source of energy, the tesseract, that can generate energy beyond anything else in the world, and he focuses on using it.

At the end of Thor, the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization invites Dr. Erik Selvig to examine the tesseract once they saw the work performed by him and his team. Selvig asks Nick Fury with the Tessaract, as this was his initial viewing. Fury replies to him, “Power, Doctor. If we can figure out how to tap it, maybe unlimited power.” Fury sells the vision that would apply to a scientific mind like Selvig. He knows the opportunity to create a breakthrough would excite Selvig, and Fury frames it in that manner.

Early in The Avengers, Fury recruits Steve Rogers to retrieve the tesseract. He remains true to his framing skills, “The tesseract could be the key to unlimited energy.” Fury does not talk about the military advances to him. Fury understands Rogers has already fought against opposition who tried to exploit the resource. He makes an effort not to create bitter feelings about that experience.

Pfeffer clearly states, “The ability to set the terms of the discussion is an important mechanism for influencing organizational behavior. Being skilled at recognizing and using these ideas provides great leverage in getting the things that you want accomplished.” Fury understands and consistently applies this principle.

Interpersonal Influence

Managing with Power mentions the liking principle. Pfeffer states, “Liking also comes from working with others, toward a common goal, and against a common enemy.” Nick Fury knows Tony Stark and Steve Rogers have had intense differences in the past. The worst was the fight they had in Captain America: Civil War. He knows that an imminent threat against the planet will unite them against an enemy. We saw this happen in Avengers: Infinity War and in Avengers: End Game when they battled against Thanos and his army to save humanity.

According to Pfeffer, “Another implication of the liking strategy is the importance of working through friends or mutual acquaintances to influence third parties.” Fury uses this idea for agent Romanoff to work with Dr. Banner. Nick Fury wants him on the team to study the tesseract but believes Natasha would be a more effective third party. His strategy worked well enough, although Banner suspected her agenda.

Timing

Pfeffer has a significant point about timing, stating, “It is crucial to determine not only what to do but when to do it.” After watching Thanos execute his destruction of life in Avengers: Infinity War, Fury realizes he must contact Carol Danvers. He runs to call a “Code Red” and pages her immediately before his death. Any delay would have prevented her return and subsequent contribution.

Pfeffer notes that sometimes a delay is helpful. “One of the best ways to stop something is to delay it.” In The Avengers, Director Fury must push back on the World Security Council as they wish to execute Phase Two, an alternative form of defense that does not rely on the Avengers. In Fury’s attempt to move forward with his Avengers Initiative instead, he tells the council, “Phase Two isn’t ready. Our enemy is.” He is delaying the World Security Council, going as far as to openly ignore their proposals while setting the stage for his plan.

Nick Fury is a skillful leader who knows how to manage his team, and he knows how to respond to influential political figures when he must. He is a driven man, and he does not shrink away from conflict. Fury knows how to motivate by being sensitive and also knows how to execute by being ruthless. Nick Fury is not the first character most people think of when watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he has a lot to teach about managing groups of forceful people. Try to watch your next blockbuster from the perspective of a powerful organizational leader. Nick Fury’s actions show many skills explained in Managing with Power, by Jeffrey Pfeffer.

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Preston Charles

Preston Charles

Preston Charles studied marketing at Morehouse College and earned his MBA in Supply Chain Management and Strategic Leadership from Penn State University.