What Leaders Can Learn from Logan
Logan (the Wolverine for the uninitiated) isn’t just a bad-assed comic book character. He’s a leader who can teach us all about sacrifice, perseverance, and how to productively channel anger.
Have you seen Logan yet? If not, go. Now. I’ll wait. It’s required watching if you are a reader of my blog.
Okay. You’re back. Wasn’t that AWESOME?!? Holy crap. Amazing movie.
Note: don’t worry – this post will not contain spoilers. I’m not a jerk like that.
Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of everyone’s favorite clawed hero isn’t just a cinematic masterpiece. It’s also a great depiction of leadership skills that can set you apart. Logan’s willingness to sacrifice for others, persevere in the face of staggering odds, and his ability to channel his anger into productive work are traits all leaders can learn from.
Here’s a quick synopsis so you don’t get lost: Wolverine (Logan) is a mutant with healing powers. He also has unbreakable adamantium claws that he uses to shred opponents. The year is 2029 and mutants have been all-but exterminated. Because of that, Logan’s on the run from baddies who are trying to capture him and his mutant friends, Charles Xavier (Professor X who is 90 and has psychic powers) and Caliban (an albino mutant who has the power to sense and track down other mutants). A young mutant girl comes along and Logan, Charles, and Caliban try to get her to Canada where she’ll be safe. Cue pursuit by baddies and ensuing slaughter.
Sacrifice for Others
Even though he has super mutant healing powers, it still hurts when Logan gets shot, punched, kicked, clawed, and smacked with a lead pipe. His healing powers aren’t what they used to be and it takes longer for him to shake off a shotgun blast to the chest. He knows this. Despite all of that, he constantly throws himself in between danger and his less shotgun-resistant friends.
Logan also has no desire to travel or get caught up in mutant-hunting games where he’s the prey, not the predator. He’d prefer to lounge around in the desert with Charles and Caliban instead of schlepping all the way to Canada as some sort of superhero Uber for mutant kids.
Even though he’s a bit of a homebody, he still throws his pals in the car, gets behind the wheel, and strikes out on a long road trip. Driving long distances is bad enough. Doing so with a moody kid, a nonagenerian (Charles), and an albino who requires SPF 9000 isn’t fun. Add to that being pursued by evil mutants and mercenaries who have an arsenal Schwarzenegger and Stallone would be jealous of and it’s clear why Logan’s road trip isn’t exactly a picnic. Yet he still drives on.
The lesson for leaders: It’s easy to be selfless when there’s no pain or sacrifice involved. Ask if you’re truly selfless when you know you’ll suffer. Are you willing to risk professional harm to protect your team? Will you fight through stress and physical exhaustion to help your team accomplish its mission? Will you do all this knowing there’s no reward in it for you whatsoever other than knowing you helped protect your people and enabled them to reach their goal?
Perseverance in the Face of Staggering Odds
A kid, a 90-year-old psychic in a wheelchair, and a skinny albino don’t seem like first round picks for a superhero team but that’s who Logan has. He has to travel from Texas to Canada while an army of heavily-armed mercenaries and superbaddie mutants pursue them. These guys have machine guns, grenades, helicopters, off-road vehicles, drones, tracking electronics, and mutants to boot. As you’d expect, not everything goes smoothly for Logan on the trip. Car troubles, illness, ambushes, seizures, and frequent needs to urinate make the trip almost as bad as the time I drove my kids from Virginia to Ohio when they had the stomach flu. Yet Logan presses on.
Logan stays focused on the mission. He has one goal and that’s making it to Canada to drop his kid off for mutant summer camp. Every time he gets knocked down, he gets back up and presses on. There’s no deterring him. Nothing will stop him. He doesn’t give a damn about the odds. Never does he say “oh, that’ll be too hard so I’m not gonna try. Let’s go get a beer.” Nope. He Wolverines up, pops out the claws, and fights his way through the challenges he faces.
Are you a resilient leader? Do you press on irrespective of the odds? Do you ignore the naysayers who tell you the task is too difficult? When faced with a challenge, are you of singular mind in terms of overcoming it? Do you have a touchstone you can rely on to get you through the most difficult times?
Productively Channeling Anger
Logan has some anger management issues. He’s had bad things done to him in the past and his past is quite long given he’s pretty much immortal due to his healing powers. He has a couple of grudges he needs to settle. His anger could be a detriment to his ability to lead. If he lets that anger flow uncontrolled, he’ll hurt those around him and end up not having a team anymore.
Instead, he lets his anger fuel him during challenging times. He turns it into energy and directs that energy at the obstacle in front of him. He attacks bad guys with vigor and finds a productive use for all that angry energy. It’s sorta like when I get mad at things and instead of yelling at my Jack Russell Terrier (who, by the way, deserves it), I go pound out 30 minutes on the elliptical machine so I don’t have a third heart attack. It’s just that when Logan channels his anger, there are claws and slaughter involved.
We all get frustrated and angry. The question for leaders is what do you do with that energy? Do you lash out at your team? Do you bring the anger home with you? Do you relieve the anger in unproductive ways or do you channel it into a healthy pursuit? Do you turn anger and frustration into motivation to do good? Do you use that energy to work out and improve yourself? If not, what can you change about the way you manage your anger and frustration?
The Bottom Line
Logan is a flawed hero. He has issues. He’s far from perfect. But, his ability to channel his anger productively, persevere in the face of long odds, and take care of his team throughout the journey stand out as admirable leadership qualities.
How can you emulate these traits to become a better leader (short of having adamantium fused to your entire skeleton)? What will you do differently to protect your team and overcome the challenges you face every day?
– Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC
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Good blog. It was entertaining, engaging and educational. Being an individual who is activated by and channels anger, it is refreshing to hear someone speak positively of and share this prime motivational Force. Thank you.