In July 2014, I shared leadership lessons from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Today, I’m happy to bring you leadership lessons from War for the Planet of the Apes.
War for the Planet of the Apes is the last film in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. And she leaves us with an epic leadership message.
Warning: Spoilers for War of the Planet of the Apes below.
Leadership Lessons And Quotes From War For The Planet Of The Apes
1. Great leaders connect the past with the present and future:
As War for the Planet of the Apes open, you are treated to text that shares what happened in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. These brief synopsis of the previous Planet of the Ape movies helps viewers remember what came before. And then prepares them for what is next by giving an intro to War for the Planet of the Apes.
When bringing new people on board, and keeping older employees around, remember to share the history of your organization. Doing so helps connect the work people are doing now with what was done previously. Then share why their work is important for the future.
You’re in command now.
After a platoon of soldiers was wiped out by the apes, a lone soldier was left. He radioed the Colonel, who was played by Woody Harrelson, and informed him of the situation. The Colonel told the soldier he was now in command. Do something.
Things change rapidly in business and the church world. You may get a promotion you weren’t expecting. Or maybe someone will leave and no one is left in charge.
These are the times you need to step up. Take command.
Now I fight only to protect the other apes.
Caesar, portrayed by Andy Serkis, was a great leader of the apes. He led in a way most of the other apes respected him. He even was forgiving to the humans.
His fight wasn’t against something. His fight was for something.
The other apes. As a great leader, Caesar knew the apes were his responsibility and he was willing to step up and fight for them.
With your position as a leader, you have the responsibility to protect those you lead. Be willing to go to bat to help your team. THAT is your responsibility.
4. Be clear in your message:
After an attack, there were a handful of soldiers who were they alive. Caesar, being a good leader, allowed them to go back to their Colonel and deliver a message: “Stop the killing.”
This wasn’t the only place in War For The Planet Of The Apes where Caesar delivered a clear message either. He spoke in short but direct sentences that conveyed what needed to be done.
Be like Caesar. Be clear in your message.
5. Honor those who fall while working with you:
Caesar lost a lot of apes while fighting against the Colonel’s men (and apes). With all of the losses, Caesar could have chosen to let the apes lie where they had fallen. He wasn’t willing to do that. He honored them in a burial at the riverbed.
Sadly, you will lose people throughout your leadership journey. Whether that’s to a competing organization or to death, this is the truth.
What you do with their departure or death is on you. I recommend honoring those who have served with you. They deserve that much from you.
Apes together strong.
I loved this quote from the ape Caesar. He knew the apes were weaker without one another. Together, they were stronger.
You’re stronger with others. Find others to lead with.
7. Delayed action can be damaging:
Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, played by Max Lloyd-Jones, returned from a mission to scout out new land. When he returned, the ape Winter encourages the apes to leave that night. Don’t plan. Don’t wait around. Just go.
Unfortunately, Caesar overruled his objection and they stayed the night planning. He failed to act quickly. And that cost him dearly.
The military attacked the ape hideaway. Military men swooped in and the Colonel killed Caesar’s wife and son, Blue Eyes.
There will be times you will want to take a long time to plan. Calculate the cost of delayed action vs. planning. Then choose wisely.
8. You can survive a fall:
Once Caesar realized what had happened, he jumped at a rappel line dropped from one of the military helicopters. He was chasing the Colonel and rage burned within him.
His actions caused him to not think straight. He made a mistake and then the Colonel cut the line. Caesar fell into the river below.
But, as you can guess, the fall didn’t kill Caesar in War For The Planet Of The Apes. Caesar survived the fall.
You’re going to face situations where you fall. You make a bad decision or do the wrong thing.
Don’t let your mistake, your fall be the end of your leadership. Climb your way back up. Redeem yourself. Then lead again.
9. Great leaders have loyal teams:
After the military attack, Caesar knew his tribe must move. He sent them to the desert area Blue Eyes had scouted. He went in another direction telling all of the apes to go.
And yet three apes disobey his orders. Maurice, Luca, and Rocket meet up with Caesar and convince him he needs their help. Caesar relents and allows them to join the mission.
These three apes were loyal to Caesar. They wanted to be by his side while he fought the tyrannical military forces. And the couldn’t leave Caesar to do that by himself.
Have you created a tribe of loyal followers? Those who would stand next to you even in the darkest night?
You need to create a team where they will stand by your side.
10. Great leaders have compassion:
While scouting the location of the military, Maurice, Luca, Caesar, and Rocket come across a young girl. She’s mute and a burden.
But Maurice knew they couldn’t leave the young girl behind. That would be cruel. They had to have compassion.
So, he convinced Caesar to take the girl with them.
There will be times when you feel you need to look out for number one or only your team. There will also be times when you have to have compassion for others.
This means taking someone who might not be a great fit and helping them become one. Or by giving a donation to a local food pantry.
Be a compassionate leader.
I don’t know…
We hear Caesar say this line multiple times throughout the movie. He doesn’t know what the next step will be or how they will defeat the Colonel. All he knows is that they must do it.
Saying “I don’t know” is okay. Your team knows you don’t know everything and they’re okay with that. What they’re not okay with is you acting like you know everything.
12. Scope out the future:
You know Maurice encouraged Caesar to take the mute girl with them while they were on a tower. But why were they on a tower?
The four apes were looking for troop movement. They wanted to scope out their future plans.
You have to have a mind for the future. You have to be looking outwards in search of new horizons.
Be willing to scope out the future.
13. Be generous:
The four apes and mute girl run into a new ally. People are calling him Bad Ape as it’s a phrase he commonly repeated.
When you first see Bad Ape, he has a jacket due to the cold weather. He sees mute girl and decides to give her the jacket.
His act of generosity helped keep mute girl warm.
Are you being generous? You have the ability to give to others, give.
14. The right mission wins people:
Bad Ape didn’t want to join the apes cause at first. He was fearful of the other apes and the military might behind them.
When Caesar shared the story of his wife and son’s murder, Bad Ape’s attitude towards the mission changed. He wanted to join them in their journey to overthrow the bad apes and men.
Knowing what you’re fighting for. Knowing what you’re going towards. And letting people in on this vision will win people over.
They want to know WHY. And less about the HOW.
Give people a mission they can follow.
At least this time he was able to protect you.
Luca, one of the apes following Caesar, laid down his life to protect another ape. He gave his all.
Great leaders are willing to sacrifice for their team. They want to protect them and show them they are valuable.
Be a leader who protects and guides their team.
16. Even leaders can wind up in bondage:
Caesar attacked the military compound and was captured. He was bound with chains and couldn’t escape. He was in bondage.
For Caesar, he knew he was in bondage. Many leaders don’t realize the bondage they’re in.
Whether they’re in bondage to pornography, drugs, bad business decisions, etc… leaders can be in bondage.
Examine your life. See what areas you’re in bondage. Then work on getting out of the chains of bondage.
Forgive them. They’ve been through a lot.
Lake, who had been watching Caesar’s son Cornelius, gave Caesar an important message. You must be willing to forgive.
Throughout leadership, you’re going to run into circumstances where you can hold grudges or you can forgive. Choose forgiveness.
18. Great leaders speak up:
Even while Caesar was in captivity, he showed his leadership skills. He saw an ape beating another ape and couldn’t take it. He raised his voice and told the donkey ape to leave him alone.
Great leaders don’t let bad actions go unchallenged. Great leaders speak up.
What are you failing to speak up against? Use your voice today.
19. One bold action changes things:
Caesar spoke up about the mistreatment of the other apes. This was a bold move on his part as he was still in bondage. His words, his actions could have spelled death for him.
Instead, we see other apes begin to speak up. They begin to chant and hoot and holler. Caesar’s bold action changed the feeling of the other apes.
This reminds me of the movie We Bought A Zoo where Benjamin Me was quoted as saying:
You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.
However you put it, 20 seconds of insane courage, bold action, etc… Great leaders take bold action and change happens as a result.
20. Fear creates bad leaders:
Why was the Colonel trying to wipe out the apes? He believed the apes would one day overtake the humans and rule the planet.
He led through fear. Fear of being replaced. Fear of a new tomorrow. And fear of death.
When you lead through fear, you make really bad choices. People will stop following you. Death will come to your position of leadership.
Stop living in fear. Live in the hope of a better tomorrow.
21. You will not always hold your position of leadership:
At the end of War For The Planet Of The Apes, Caesar is injured. His wounds are fatal and he succumbs.
The apes no longer had an established leader and Caesar was no longer a leader.
Your time as a leader will come to an end. Prepare for that time by investing in your successor.