13 Leadership Lessons From Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

A Reel Leadership Article

Another great summer blockbuster movie released over the weekend. This time it was Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, the sequel to Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.

After viewing Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, I was left wondering when they were going to do a sequel. The movie was well done and did a great service to the Planet Of The Apes series.

And I can say Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes continues in that tradition. The movie introduced tough themes that we need to think about. We can also learn leadership lessons from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Leadership lessons from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

1. Caesar to his son Blue Eyes –

Think before you act, son.

The beginning of the movie held a powerful scene of the apes hunting in the wild. Caesar tells Blue Eyes not to move but he goes after one of the wild beasts. Chaos ensues as a brown bear attacks Blue Eyes and the other apes have to come to his rescue.

Further in the movie, Blue Eyes quick action over thinking gets many apes, and people, into trouble.

This is a great reminder for us to think before we act. Consider what the consequences could be and who could be affected by the choices we make.

2. Assumptions need to be verified: The events in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes caused an infection that wiped out most of the human population. Over the years, the apes began to think the human race had been completely wiped out. As you know by the movie, this assumption was wrong.

How many times do we make assumptions in our leadership without getting proof to backup our claims? We’ll go headfirst into battle without verifying what we may face. We can’t continue to do this. We’ve got to make wise and informed decisions.

3. Koba to Blue Eyes – 

Scars make you strong.

During the bear attack, Blue Eyes is swiped by the bear’s massive claws, leaving a giant scar across his chest. Koba, one of the other apes, tells him that scars can make you strong.

We’ve all got wounds from the past. Someone has double-crossed you or told a lie or tried to usurp your leadership authority. These cause unseen scars upon our lives.

The choice is up to us whether or not we let the scars make us stronger or whether we let the scars consume us.

4. Set a time limit on important decisions: After running into the humans, the apes have a choice to make. Continue their existence as they currently are, hunt down the humans, or contact them for peace.

Caesar was counseled to immediately make a decision regarding what to do. Instead of making a hasty decision, Caesar has the wisdom to tell his followers that he will make the decision in the morning.

We can’t make hasty decisions as leaders. We also can’t let our decisions drag out too long. We’ve got to be willing to set a time limit on decision time.

5. Unknown – 

If we can’t stick together, we lose everything

Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said this line but it rings true in leadership. Great leaders know they have to stick together to be effective. You can’t have people who aren’t willing to do what needs to be done.

6. Sometimes the wrong people have to come along: During the first encounter with the apes, Carver shoots and wounds one of the apes. He was scared and hated the apes for what had happened to the humans.

He was also a vital member of the human party as he knew how to operate the water generated power plant. Thus, Carver was needed for the mission to contact the apes and restart the power plant.

Carver was the wrong person but he had to go along.

As frustrating as it is, we will have to bring wrong people along with our team at times. Sometimes their skills are that valuable. However, this doesn’t mean you need to keep them around forever. You may need them for a single project and then separate ways. The key is to know when you need them and when to let them go.

7. One person’s choice can damage your reputation: I wanted to put this point right after the previous as it correlates so well with that leadership lesson.

Caesar made the choice to allow the humans to come into their home and restore power. He had the condition that all weapons be left behind. And we think that happens as the apes disarm the humans.

During the mission to restore power to the city where the humans were staying, you could see the tension with Carver. His hatred and animosity towards the apes continued to grow. And then it happens.

Caesar’s son is playing with the humans when he goes to Carver’s tool box. Carver reacts and pulls the baby ape away while taking out a hidden shotgun.

This choice was damaging to the humans as it reinforced the mindset of the humans are bad.

The people on your team can make bad choices that will negatively impact your reputation. Be willing to deal with the problem promptly.

8. You will have to put your trust in those you don’t trust: Caesar’s wife gave birth to a baby. Soon after giving birth, her health begins to decline. Then, after incident with Carver, Ellie steps up to offer her assistance in healing Caesar’s wife.

As you can imagine, Caesar was hesitant to allow her to be near his wife. Yet he relents when he realizes she may be their only hope.

9. Deceit destroys: Koba plans a coup of the ape kingdom and uses deceit to get his way. He shoots Caesar with a gun he obtained from the armory and then plays it off as a human had shot Caesar.

This causes an uprising within the ape city and they decide to attack, cage, and kill the humans. All the while their homes burn and their lives begin to fall apart.

Deceit is no way to lead. Using deceit to rally the troops only causes irreparable harm once the lie has been found out.

Be willing to tell the truth, even when the truth is hard to tell.


10. Leadership requires risk: Malcolm and Ellie find Caesar gravely injured. The gunshot wound could be fatal if he wasn’t treated soon.

They decide to bring Caesar back to the city and treat him there. Only one problem, there’s no medical supplies nearby.

However, there are medical supplies in the city the apes had taken over. Malcolm makes the risky decision to head into the city and get the needed medical supplies.

You’ll make many choices as a leader. Some will carry a great risk with them. You’ve got to be willing to push past the fear that comes with risk and take the appropriate action.


11. Be willing to take the blame: Caesar knows it was Koba who shot him. He’s also willing to accept the blame for trusting Koba and the pain this has wrought.

Are you willing to be the leader who takes the blame for bad decisions or the actions of those on your team? You should be willing.

12. Blue Eyes –

Father, let me help you

Blue Eyes made many mistakes throughout the movie. He trusted those that shouldn’t have been trusted. He helped lead a revolt. He didn’t listen.

But he comes around and knows he must help his father. He tells his father to let him help. He knows what needs to be done.

Offer your help where you see help is needed. Don’t stand by idly. Do your part.

13. Remember where you came from: The home Malcolm and Ellie bring Caesar to is the home Caesar was raised in in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. While in the house, Caesar finds a video of him with the man who raised him. This brings back memories and reminds him where he came from.

Never forget where you started. It’s not where you’re at now. It’s not necessarily where you need to go again. But you can’t forget where you started.

Many people you’ll lead will be from that same spot. Give them the help they need to get where you’re at now.

I was going in expecting good things from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. I left having my expectations blown away. This is definitely a must-see movie this summer.

Not only that, you’ll be able to take away a ton of leadership lessons from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes.

Question: Have you seen Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes? If so, what’d you think of it? If not, are you planning to see it? Let me know in the comment section below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I haven’t seen the movie Joe, we don’t go to the movie that much, but reading you blog is like getting the leadership cole’s notes! I liked your point that deceit is no place to lead from. Our character is the foundation of our leadership and the cornerstone is our integrity.

    • Haha, glad I can give you the notes while you miss out on the movies. I’m with you that character should be the foundation of our leadership. Without it, we’re blowing in the wind. How do you continue to build and work on your character?

      • To keep myself in check, I need to keep others involved in my life. Becoming involved at my church with a like minded faith community, having times of devotions and reading good books all help me develop character.

  • Sounds like another great movie to watch in summer! Thanks for sharing the leadership lessons here! What are other movies you’re planing to watch soon?

    • Definitely one I would recommend. As for other movies I’ll be watching this summer, here’s the semi-long list –

      Hercules (At least hoping to catch it)
      Guardians Of The Galaxy
      Get On Up (Possible)
      Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
      Expendables 3
      The Giver (Possible)
      Sin City: A Dame To Die For

      • Awesome. I definitely need to check these out!

      • Eric Silverstein

        Now the question is whether you already anticipate new leadership lessons from each film 🙂
        I did enjoy Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and it shows you did too, when in point 5 you forgot who provided the quote. We should make a game of it and see who can come up with it? Of course most may say Ceasar, but was it…

        Keep sharing your experiences, there were certainly many valuable lessons in this film.

        • Haha, Eric. Good question. I do try to go into these movies expecting to see some sort of leadership lesson contained within the movie. I believe leadership lessons are all around us, if only we’re willing to look for them.

          The same thing happened with the leadership lessons from Transformers post. There was a quote and I couldn’t remember who said it. Thankfully, another reader came in and provided the character. Lets see if anyone gets this one!

          • Eric Silverstein

            Ok, so who has stronger leadership skills Transformers vs Planet of the Apes 🙂

            • While I really enjoyed both movies, I have to say Transformers had the better, or at least easier to spot, leadership lessons. What did you think?

              • Eric Silverstein

                It’s funny that we find the best leadership lessons in movies where destruction of humanity is at stake 🙂

                • Haha, yeah but I think when humanity is at stake, you see leaders begin to rise up, even in movies.

  • Hi Joe, I do plan on seeing the movie.

    I really like lesson #5 & #11. – If we are part of a team we have to be willing to stick together even if we didn’t agree with the decision of the team. Of course we should never compromise our values but if we are called to remain with the team we need to throw our support behind the decision and move forward. As leader it may be best that I absorb the blame for the mistake of others for the health of the team. Years ago when I coached little league soccer I always reminded the players that win and lose as a team.

    • Let me know what you think of it when you do see the movie. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  • Sounds like a good movie. Thanks for the spoiler alerts, that could have been bad!

  • LOL, after reading the comments, I have to ask Joe, Do you actually take notes DURING the movie? Silly.
    I can’t wait for this one. Sheesh! So much to learn from every single day, no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing or is happening around you.
    #5, #7 are my favorites. #6 bothers me on a level I am unable to put words to… I know this is true… but, it in itself seems to go against absolutely everything I am, and ever hope to be. Something to think on…

    • I do take notes during the movie. I found it much easier to relate what I was seeing, feeling, learning during the movies than trying to piece everything back together afterwards. Even while taking notes, sometimes it’s hard to remember what I was thinking during the note taking.

      #6 can be pretty troubling. Nobody wants to bring the wrong person along. But sometimes that person is the only person that has the skills necessary to get the job done. It’s knowing this and then keeping a close eye on the person that will prevent #7 from happening.

      • Yeah, #7 bite us and our business in the butt quite easily. It is very hard to prevent that and that is one of the biggest and most powerful reasons Boss started the Alaska Guide Training program…but more- the reason we went to and through the state and Board about it. We have drawn a very deep and hard line about it.

  • Shing Degano

    Lesson #13 resonates to any daring soul because that requires more than a skill. Makes me want to see that movie & get insightful leadership tips. Good post, by the way.

    • That’s a great point Shing. Remember our roots can be hard when we’re daring and away from our origins. It’s takes an inner fortitude to do so.

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  • Marisol

    I enjoyed the movie and saw many of the leadership lessons you described in your article. I must admit, that movie left a lasting impression on me. Great article!

    • Marisol

      and very awesome movie!

  • I find this great Joe. We were on the same wave length. I just saw this one last week with my wife and half way through I began to think of ideas for a post I wanted to write on it. I kept thinking of a friend who was telling me how spiritual the Lion King was and then I was connecting Fathers to Sons and life lessons all along. You are quick to action Joe. I like it. Nice idea and pretty popular post I see. Great Job.

    • Awesome Jason. It’s always good to see others thinking along the same lines. What was one thing that really struck you with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

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  • Kevin Collins

    Actually, before the confirmation of human survival Koba and Caesar were very loyal towards each other,and they had a very stable friendship.

    • True but Koba still turned on Caesar. Something was simmering within Koba all along to cause this to happen.

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