14 Leadership Lessons From The Expendables 3

A Reel Leadership Article

I’m a big fan of the cheesy action movies of the 80’s. They may not have had the story but they had plenty of big guys with big guns taking out bad guys.

That’s what I’ve loved about the Expendables series so far.

We get to see iconic movie stars from one of the most fun periods of movie making. And we get to see them doing what they did oh so well.

Leadership lessons from the Expendables 3

This is why The Expendables 3 was high on my summer movie list. With a cast of great action stars, I don’t see how this couldn’t be on any man’s movie list.

The Expendables 3 included Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, and so many other action heroes. It’s definitely a man’s movie.

With the teamwork of The Expendables, I believe The Expendables includes some great leadership lessons and quotes. Let’s dive into those leadership lessons.

1. Lee Christmas (Jason Statham)

So, he’s one of the flock?

Christmas had a question regarding the rescue of Doc at the beginning of the movie. Doc had been a part of the original version of The Expendables and was locked away during previous movies. He needed to know that he was one of the team.

Make sure your team knows who’s on your team and what their skills are. This will help put fears and angst to rest.

2. Say thanks: Doc is rescued on his way to a violent prison. You knew things weren’t going to be nice for him there and The Expendables come to his rescue. However, after Doc’s rescue, Doc couldn’t bring himself to say thanks to the team that rescued him.

Barney had to pressure Doc into saying thanks. When Doc finally gave his thanks, it was forced and awkward. He wasn’t used to being thankful.

But we should be thankful and we should express our gratitude to those we work and serve with. Don’t take anyone for granted and let them know they’re appreciated.

3. Trench

I’m getting out of this business. So should you.

It takes a wise man to realize when it’s time to retire and get out of the way. Don’t stick around too long.

4. Looks are deceiving – As Barney is trying to put together a new team of Expendables, he’s brought into a bar where he meets a young woman in a red dress. She turns out to be Luna, a highly trained fighter who can take out people twice her size.

Luna’s appearance was deceiving. She was small and pretty yet she kicked some butt.

You’ll come across people who may not look like much but have so much to offer. Don’t pass people over because they don’t look or act a certain way. You may be passing over the best person for the job.

5. Drummer

Relax, you’re going to give yourself a stroke.

This is pretty self explanatory. You’ve got to calm down. You can’t always be high strung and stressed out.

6. Speak up when you don’t have faith: Barney and his new team of Expendables were going into a hot situation. One they probably shouldn’t walk away from.

Bonaparte, the man who helped Barney assemble the new team, asked for his payment in advance. He didn’t have faith they would accomplish the mission and he let Barney know.

This may have been seen as a Debbie Downer moment by most people. However, I saw it as a wise statement. Bonaparte had no idea if the team would make it back alive. For his hard work, he wanted to be paid. So he spoke up.

There shouldn’t be shaming when someone speaks up that they’re lacking the faith to move forward. Rather, this should be a time to ask questions to see if there’s something you’re missing.

7. Luna

There’s different kinds of family. When I’m fighting for my life, it’s my family fighting with me.


8. Bad team members can rip a team apart: We learn that Stonebanks was once a part of The Expendables team. He and Barney were friends.

There was a split at some point and Stonebanks brought a large chunk of the team with him.


Be careful of who you have on your team. There may be people on your team who will rip it apart.

9. Trench

Your pride is going to get you killed.

Pride is a dangerous thing. Sure, you have to be confident but there’s a line that’s easily crossed between pride and confidence. Learn it.

10. Create a loyal team: Because of the mission The Expendables were facing, Barney disbanded his team and looked for a new group to lead.

As you can imagine, his old team wasn’t happy. They were willing to fight and take the risks of being led by Barney.

Even after Barney left them and chose the new team, the old Expendables were still loyal to him and were ready to step back into the fight to save the new team.

It’s amazing what happens when you create a sense of loyalty among your team. They’ll stick with you through thick and thin, even when you screw up.

This loyalty is something you must look to create in your teams.

11. Lee Christmas

Morons need friends.

We’ll all act like a moron at some point or another. This doesn’t mean we still don’t need friends. Don’t forget this when your team members screw up either. They still need your friendship.

12. Take command of the situation: It’s a leaders job to be able to command a situation when warranted. In The Expendables 3, the new and old teams begin to bicker. Barney sees this and puts a stop to the fighting.

He stepped up and took command of the situation. He didn’t let things get further out of hand.

When you see things spiraling out of control, step up and command the situation like a leader. Don’t let others dictate the ultimate direction.

13. Smiley

Yeah, so when do I take over?

Smiley was one of the new Expendables. He hadn’t been around long but he had a vision of taking over at some point.

As a leader, you have to realize there will be others looking to take your spot. Yet this shouldn’t cause you concern. You need to be cognizant of this reality, someone will take over for you someday. Be ready to pass the leadership baton when it’s time.

14. Old leaders are still valuable: The Expendables has a large cast of former action stars. Some of them are still popular but many of them are getting up there in age. We can learn something from this.

The previous lesson tells us we need to be ready and willing to recognize people are coming up behind us. This doesn’t mean you’re not valuable anymore.

As you progress into an older leader, you have knowledge and skills the younger leaders don’t. Be willing to stick around and give advice to those that need it.

Final Thoughts On The Expendables 3

I think you can tell that I really enjoyed the new Expendables movie. The cast was delightful and fun. The chemistry was there and you could cut the tension with a knife.

There was also the awesome action sequences and big explosions.

However, if you’re queasy over violence or language, you may want to hold off on seeing this movie. There’s lots of violence and quite a few bad words that were dropped during the movie.

If you can get over this, it’s a movie you really should experience in the theater.

Question: What’s an action movie you’ve learned leadership lessons from? Share the lesson and the movie in the comment section below!

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