Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Blade Runner: The Final Cut

A Reel Leadership Flashback Article

Are you ready to flashback to the year 1982? That’s the year Blade Runner was originally released.

Blade Runner is the movie adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? Blade Runner the movie tells the story of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) as he’s forced to return to his old job as a Blade Runner. As a Blade Runner, Deckard is tasked with hunting down and eliminating four escaped Replicants who have made the journey back to Earth.

quotes and leadership lessons from Blade Runner

As he hunts down these Replicants, Deckard meets a young woman, Rachel (Sean Young). He tests her using the Voight-Kampf test which helps differentiate between humans and Replicants. The Voight-Kampf test shows Rachel is a Replicant. Regardless of the results, Deckard falls for her and has to make a tough choice.

Blade Runner is filled with sci-fi imagery (for the year 1982), a slow-building story, and, of course, lots of leadership lessons. Let’s take a look at the leadership lessons from Blade Runner and what that means for your leadership.

 

Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Blade Runner: The Final Cut

1. Text from the opening scroll:

This was not called execution. This was called retirement.

In the opening scroll of Blade Runner, you are informed of what’s happening in the year 2019. Replicants (human-like cyborgs) have been created and they have the ability to blend in with humans. Their intelligence was on par or better than their creators.

While being used as slave labor, the Nexus 6 Replicants staged a bloody mutiny. This caused Replicants to be outlawed on Earth. Any Replicant found to be trespassing on Earth could be “retired.”

Team members will mess up. They will make mistakes. They may even mutiny against you.

You have to consider what’s happened and what the next appropriate steps are. You may need to gently correct a team member. Or you may need to terminate their employment.

2. Engage the imagination of your team:

In 1982, Blade Runner had stimulating special effects. From flying cars to elaborate buildings to Replicants, Blade Runner engaged the imagination of the viewer.

Those watching Blade Runner could picture themselves in the future. They were THERE.

Great leaders know they need to engage the imagination of the team they’re leading. Great leaders use the imagination to get people excited about the vision of the organization.

Find ways to get your team members imagination engaged with the vision and you’ll take them far.

3. Get the right people on your team:

When the Replicants mutinied and returned to Earth, Harry Bryant (Michael Emmet Walsh), the captain of the Rep-Detect department of the Los Angeles Police Department, knew the man to call. He had to call Deckard. Deckard was a legend among Blade Runners.

In the end, Deckard was successful in tracking down the fugitive Replicants. Bryant had chosen the right man for the job.

To have a successful team, you have to have the right people. Jim Collins is known for his book Good To Great where he shows you how to “Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

Track down the right people. Get them on your team. And get the wrong people off your team.

4. Anticipate possible problems:

Bryant told Deckard he needed to put a Voight-Kampf machine on the Replicants. This would allow Deckard to determine whether or not they were human. Deckard had a concern.

What if the machine didn’t work? What if the machine made the wrong determination?

Deckard was looking for possible problems. He didn’t want to make a mistake in such a serious manhunt.

While great leaders look for solutions, they also anticipate possible problems. They look for things that may go wrong. Not so they can find a reason to stop leading.

No, great leaders anticipate possible problems so they can then help solve the problems before they become too great to handle.

Anticipate problems. Search for solutions.

5. Surroundings matter:

Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) runs the Tyrell Corporation. He’s also the creator of the Replicants.

Deckard’s search for the Replicants brought him to Tyrell’s door. There, he meets Rachel, who at the time we’re led to believe she is human. Tyrell asks Deckard to do a Voight-Kampf test on her.

Before Deckard is able to administer the test, he tells Tyrell there is too much light. Their surroundings are not conducive to the test. They must move to another room or remove the light.

Deckard knew his surroundings mattered. He had to have a specific setting to administer the Voight-Kampf test. If something was off, the test wouldn’t be effective.

Your surroundings matter as well. You have to have a work setting that is conducive to the way you work.

Find out if a messy or clean desk makes you more productive. Does music play a role in the way you get work done or do you prefer to work in silence (I prefer music)? Do you want lots of natural sunlight or do you work better in dim lights?

However you work, discover how your surroundings impact your work and then create a work environment that incorporates the surroundings that make you work better.

6. Leaders don’t always recognize they’re a leader:

Tyrell had Deckard perform the Voight-Kampf test on Rachel because she was an advanced Replicant. She also didn’t know she was a replicant. She believed herself to be fully human.

Deckard’s test proved she was a replicant. She was something other than human.

A lot of young leaders don’t recognize they’re a leader or leadership material. They believe themselves to be another cog in the wheel.

Help them realize their potential. Dig out their leadership skills and give them a role in your organization where their leadership ability can shine.

7. You can lose inspiration as quickly as you find it:

Deckard tracked down Zhora Salome (Joanna Cassidy), one of the fugitive Replicants, and began pursuing her. Salome made a quick getaway and Deckard lost her (though he eventually found and retired her).

Inspiration can strike quickly. Just as quickly, inspiration can be lost.

Be ready to capture your inspiration when it strikes. Write down your inspiration. Record your inspiration in an audio recording. Find some way to capture it so you can revisit it later and not lose your inspiration.

8. Your actions have a reaction:

Deckard was being chased by the Replicant Leon Kowalski (Brion James). Suddenly, there’s a gun shot rings out. Rachel shot and killed Leon.

Back at Deckard’s apartment, we see Rachel and Deckard shaking. Rachel’s actions had a reaction for both of them.

Newton’s third law of physics states “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I believe the same can be said about our leadership actions.

Every action you take in leadership will have a reaction. Be aware of this and understand this leadership principle.

9. What looks okay on the outside may not be okay on the inside:

The fight with Leon left Deckard pretty messed up. Back at his apartment, he goes to the bathroom. He then starts to spit up blood.

While he looked okay on the outside, he had internal damage.

How true is this for leaders. Leaders receive wounds. Wounds that are damaging to the innermost being yet leave no scars on the outside. They’re wounded and damaged.

You might be wounded as well. You’ve taken the brunt of assaults and have no outward wounds but the inner wounds are debilitating.

Whenever you’ve received these type of wounds, be willing to get them looked at. See a counselor. Pray. Find some way to heal.

10. Rick Deckard:

I owe you one.

Rachel asked if Deckard would chase her if she went north to escape being hunted. Deckard told her she had saved his life. He owed her one.

He wouldn’t pursue her. That much he owed her.

Throughout your time as a leader, you’re going to benefit from others. Their deeds and actions will set you on a course you couldn’t have imagined otherwise.

I think of people like Rick South, Michael Hyatt, Pat Flynn, and others who have impacted my leadership journey. I owe them.

You will owe others as well. Be willing to help them when the time comes.

11. Don’t be influenced by the wrong people:

Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is the ringleader of the rogue Replicants. After Pris Stratton (Daryl Hannah) befriended J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), they talked him into introducing them to Dr. Tyrell.

Roy and Pris had bad intentions for Dr. Tyrell. They were planning to force him to extend their lives by any means necessary. Then, when he couldn’t, Roy killed both Dr. Tyrell and Sebastian.

By allowing the influence of Batty and Stratton into his life, Sebastian walked unwillingly to his death. His desire to be liked by these two were his downfall.

Leadership is a weighty proposition. You’re no longer responsible for yourself. You’re responsible for others.

When you surround yourself with people who don’t have the best interest of others in mind, they will take you down a dark and dirty road.

Instead, surround yourself with wise counsel. Find people who will lift you and those around you up. And be willing to have people to call you out on your crap.

Having the right people in your life will change your life.

12. You may be let down by your protégé:

For a lack of a better term, I will call Roy Batty Dr. Tyrell’s protégé. He was Tyrell’s creation and he had high hopes for him.

Those hopes were dashed when Batty led the uprising and returned to Earth as a fugitive. Worse, Batty came back and killed Dr. Tyrell.

You can say Dr. Tyrell was let down by his protégé.

You know your position as a leader isn’t a forever position. There will be someone who will take over.

Hopefully, this person will be your protégé. Someone you’ve mentored, studied with, done life with, and trained. You know who he is and you have faith in him.

Yet you never really know a person. Your protégé may turn out to be someone you didn’t know. You may be let down by him.

I’ve seen this happen. This betrayal isn’t pretty and the betrayal stings.

Know you’re not to blame for the betrayal. You did your best but your protégé makes his own choices.

13. You won’t always work at 100%

As Deckard and Batty were fighting, Batty took Deckard’s fingers and began to snap them. Snap, crackle, pop!

Deckard’s hand was a mess. He couldn’t use his dominant hand to shoot anymore and he made a lot of mistakes.

Sometimes your hands will be tied. You won’t have the best team members or you won’t have all the tools to get the job done or you’ll be sick. Something will stop you from being at the top of your game.

You can work through the situation. You can still come out on top.

14. People have a change of heart:

As you near the end of Blade Runner, you think Deckard is done. He’s made a crazy leap but missed landing on the roof of a nearby building. With his grip slipping, Batty makes the jump and is staring down at Deckard.

His fingers begin to slip. Then Batty’s hand snaps down and takes hold of Deckard. Batty pulls Deckard up to safety.

Batty was Deckard’s enemy. Why would he save him? He had a change of heart. He knew his time was short and he wanted to do the right thing. So he did.

You may have made enemies. You may have people mad at you for no reason. It sucks when this happens.

Yet you have the hope things could change. You could win your enemy over. The person who is mad at you could have a change of heart and want to help you.

Know that people can have a change of heart. Your greatest enemy could become your greatest ally.


Want to pick up a copy of Blade Runner? You can pick up the DVD or Blu-Ray at Amazon. Want more leadership lessons from the movies? Check out the Reel Leadership series.

Question: Have you seen Blade Runner? If you have, what’s your favorite leadership lesson from Blade Runner? If you haven’t seen Blade Runner, what’s your favorite leadership lesson from Blade Runner that I shared? Let me know in the comment section below.

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