What Wolverine Can Teach Us About Leadership

A Reel Leadership Article

One of my favorite comic book characters growing up was Wolverine. He was a tough, no-holds-barred man who was searching for his past and trying to reconcile who he was.

To this day, his past is still somewhat of a mystery. But today a bit more of his story gets released in the new movie The Wolverine.

This got me thinking about the leadership lessons I learned while reading about his exploits in the Marvel comic book series.

Image by Rob Young

Image by Rob Young

Having been a part of the X-Men, Avengers, Alpha Flight, and other superhero teams, Wolverine has been around the block. He’s fought multiple villains, faced death, and been transformed.

His story is intriguing and we can learn quite a bit from his journey.

There’s more to you than you think: During the Fatal Attractions storyline, we see Wolverine have the adamantium torn off of his skeleton. What happened next shocked many readers. He survived and, surprisingly, still had his claws.

During the comic run, it was thought Wolverine’s claws were a part of the adamantium bonding process. It turns out that his claws had been a part of him all along.

Throughout your leadership you’ll be surprised at what lies within you. You’ve got more power, more knowledge, and more ability than you could ever imagine. Don’t forget this as you lead!

Be willing to stand your ground: Wolverine had to make tough choices in his life. But whenever he did, he was willing to follow his convictions and stand his ground.

As a leader, you’ll have to make unpopular decisions and go in directions others may not agree with. It’s during these times your resolve will be tested.

Will you give in to popular opinion or will you stand your ground?

There’s a time to be Mr. Nice Guy and a time to be the rough guy: In many stories, you see Wolverine as the tough guy. He’s rough and tumble, unwilling to take anyone’s attitude. But that’s not all there is to the character.

He’s also got a softer side. He cares for people, he gives more of himself than he should, and he struggles with issues of his past.

You’ve also got to realize there’s a balance between Mr. Nice Guy and being the rough guy. Leadership will require a mixture of both. Don’t neglect either one.

You don’t have to know it all to lead: One of the great things about Wolverine is the fact he’s not completely whole. He’s missing parts of his memory and doesn’t remember everything he’s done. He’s searching to discover the missing pieces but he doesn’t let this stop him.

There will never be a time when you know it all as a leader. Pieces will be missing and you’ll be unsure of the next step to make. This doesn’t mean you don’t continue along the journey. Not at all.

Instead, step out in the direction you believe you need to go. Face it with confidence. And take responsibility for what happens.

Wolverine’s a strange man to be sure. He’s violent, angry, frustrated, and missing his past. Yet there are things we can learn from him.

Be willing to stand your ground, know there’s more to you than what meets the eye, know there will be times to be nice and times to be rough, and realize you don’t have to know it all to lead.

Question: What leadership lessons have you learned from Wolverine? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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

  • Nice post, bub. I would say that I learned that, in a negative way, that berzerker rages are not a good way to lead.

    • Larry, that’s a good addition. Wolverine wasn’t always the most friendly or calm person. He definitely needed anger management!

      As an aside, when you said BUB, it reminded me of how I tried to emulate Wolverine during my school years. I’d call people Bub so I could be like him.

  • Hey Joe! That was a fun read. It’s good to see a fellow blogger talking about pop culture. I did something similar with Game of Thrones a while back.

    My favorite part was how we don’t have to know it all to lead. One of my “strengths,” according to the Gallup, is “Learner.” In the past I’ve been hesitant to charge forward because I didn’t know all that I wanted to know. Now, I’m moving forward into uncharted territory more and more often and it’s not as scary as I thought it’d be.

    One thing you could add to your list is to never give up. From what I remember of the cartoons, Wolverine was usually the last man standing. Partly because of his healing abilities, but I think more-so because of his determination to win.

    • Ellory, pop culture can bring some great lessons to the forefront and make it easier for people to relate to the lessons that need to be told.

      Your addition of never give up is a great one. Wolverine rarely gave in and always came back.

  • I love these accessible examples of leadership, Joe! My favorite is the point about not having to know it all to lead. Sometimes, there’s an established precedent for how to do what you want to do. Sometimes, there’s not one at all! In both cases, we have to trust our guts and move in the direction that feels right for us. Why distinguish between when there is a “right way” to do something and when no one has gone before? New leaders bring new ideas. If we never take another look at how it’s always been done, we’ll never improve!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Justin. I like what you mentioned with trying new ideas, even if someone has gone before us. Trying out new ideas can be the changing point for a company.

  • I’m afraid my exposure to Wolverine has been just about zero to date, but sounds like I’ve been missing out. Who would have known Joe Lalonde was into comic books?

    • There’s some great lessons to be learned from comic books. Especially for men, they engage both our visual minds and our thinking minds.

  • Great lessons Joe! I’ve enjoyed watching the movies with Wolverine in it (He’s one of my favorite super heroes). Leading without knowing it all is so essential, we can’t or should not wait to influence those around us.

    • Thanks Dan. Wolverine is one of those superheroes I think everyone can like or relate to.

      Oh, and if you plan on watching the new movie, be prepared for a great time. Pam and I got out and watched it last night. Amazing, much better than his first solo movie.

      • I agree. Thanks for the heads up. Maybe my wife and myself will have to go on a date night.

  • Pingback: Break The Mold - Joseph Lalonde()

  • Pingback: 10 Leadership Quotes From Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Joseph Lalonde()