Quotes And Leadership Lessons From 21 Bridges

A Reel Leadership Article

21 Bridges is a hot new release that faces some stiff competition. Released on the same weekend as Frozen 2, the sequel to the original Frozen movie, 21 Bridges has an uphill battle to win. However, if you’re able to leave the kids at home (or send them to see Frozen 2), you will be able to see a thrilling cop drama.

21 Bridges tells the story of NYPD detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman from Black Panther). His world is turned upside down as a massive manhunt begins for two cop killers, Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch).

Chadwick Boseman in 21 Bridges

The story goes even deeper as Andre realizes something isn’t right with the narrative being told about the murder of 8 cops. There is a dark web being spun. And it’s not by the cop killers.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the leadership lessons in 21 Bridges. There are many lessons you can take away from this fast-paced movie.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From 21 Bridges

1. Beware of wrongdoing:

21 Bridges opens with scripture from the book of Romans. Romans 13:4 to be exact. A pastor tells the attendees of Reginald Davis’ funeral:

If you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

This sets the tone for the whole movie. You know there’s wrongdoing by the cop killers. What you don’t know right off the bat is that there is also wrongdoing by the cops.

Throughout 21 Bridges, a wicked web is woven. One that is soon found out.

Too many people are willing to do wrong and not fear the consequences of their actions. The Bible tells us that there are consequences for the wrong we do. The Bible goes so far as to tell us to be afraid of doing wrong.

As you lead, take Romans 13:4 into consideration. You need to be afraid if you’re going to do wrong. Your wrongdoing will be found out.

2. Live a life of servant leadership:

The pastor at Reginald’s funeral told the congregation Reginald gave his life in service. He served those in his community. He chose to serve when he could have chosen to serve himself.

Great leaders follow Reginald’s example. They know the greatest form of leadership is servant leadership.

Leaders are willing to set aside their desires and look to how they can help their team members thrive. This is the sign of a true leader.

3. Andre Davis:

Justice comes at a cost.

Andre was called into an Internal Affairs meeting. He was being questioned about his actions on the police force.

One of the questions he was asked was “Do you feel anything for the men you’ve shot? Do you see their faces at all?”

Andre answered truthfully. He told IA that justice comes with a cost. He was willing to live with the faces if it meant justice was served.

While justice comes with a cost, leadership comes with a cost as well. You have to make tough decisions as a leader. Your decisions can leave you scarred.

You may have to make the decision to terminate an underperforming team member. Or you might discover a team member has been unethical and the cops must be called. Or you might have to make the decision to close a plant.

These decisions will weigh heavy on you. You may see the faces of your former team members in your dreams.

Know the decisions you make will come with a cost.

4. Small slip-ups lead to major consequences:

Michael and Ray were robbing a wine store. They had been fed information of a cocaine stash. Their information told them they would find 30 kilos of coke. They discovered 300 kilos. This wasn’t what they were expecting.

In the process of stealing the cocaine, a group of police officers arrived at the winery. They noticed something suspicious was going on and began to check the surrounding area.

One officer noticed a car was running. He noted it and continued to survey the area.

The robbers were able to exit the building by shooting multiple cops. They were able to make it to their vehicle that was still running. They got into their vehicle, hit another police car, and got away from the scene of the crime.

I saw this as an example of the cop missing something small. The cop could have turned the car off and removed the keys once they ascertained something was amiss. Missing this small detail created a whole slew of problems including the escape of the criminals and having to lock down the island of Manhatten.

Leaders have to remember the small things matter. Missing little things lead to bigger consequences.

Make sure you are taking care of the little things. Don’t sweep them under the rug.

5. Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller):

You can either use me or fight me.

Andre was paired with a narcotics officer by the name of Frankie Burns. She was assigned to him by Captain Kelly McKenna (J.K. Simmons). Andre believed she was assigned to him because of internal police politics.

Frankie told Andrew she was there whether or not he liked it. He would have to fight her or let her help.

You may hire someone you don’t like or be assigned a team member you will struggle to get along with. You will have a choice like Andre. The choice is to use their help or to fight against their efforts.

I always encourage leaders to use the skills and abilities of their team members. The experience turns out much better than constantly fighting their efforts.

6. Details, details, details:

Michael and Ray brought their cocaine haul to a buyer, Hawk (Gary Carr). Michael tells Hawk he wants $1,000,000 for the 50 kilos of uncut cocaine. Hawk didn’t want to pay Michael and Ray that amount.

He tried to play dumb. He tried to tell them there was no way he could afford to pay them what was being asked. This is when Michael dropped a bomb.

Michael told Hawk it would be easy to give them $1,000,000 for their haul. There were 50 kilos of uncut cocaine. With the going rate, Hawk would gross $6,000,000 from the sales. This would net him $5,000,000.

Knowing the details of your operations will help you tremendously. You can make wise decisions based on profit margins, sales figures, and industry happenings.

Dig into the details of your business. Get to know everything you can. Then use the information you gather to better your organization.

7. You don’t have to take every shot:

Andre had a chance to shoot Michael. Michael was holding Frankie hostage and there was a clear shot. Andre hesitated. Not because he was scared of shooting Frankie. Andre hesitated because he felt something more was going on.

He chose to hold off on a sure shot. His choice to hold off paid off for him. Andre was able to discover a deep conspiracy in the police department because he had self-control.

You can be tempted to take every shot you have. You may see dollar signs or bills in your future because of a “sure thing.”

Be careful of chasing after every shiny object. You will get stung because you didn’t do your due diligence.

Take the shots that count. Leave the other ones behind.

8. Great leaders care:

Andre and Michael faced off on a subway train. Andre had another chance to shoot Michael. He chose not to.

Michael realized something at this point. Andre was on his side. Andre wanted to discover the truth. And Andre cared about Michael.

Andre cared and Michael could tell. Michael was ready to give up because of the care Andre showed.

When a leader cares, team members can tell. They also reciprocate the care.

Be a leader who’s willing to care for his team members. Your team members are looking for someone who cares for them. Be that leader.

9. Bad leaders will justify bad choices:

Captain McKenna was confronted by Andre. When he was, McKenna began to spout statistics. He shared how his team of cops had high suicide and divorce rates. They had been very unhappy. Then something changed.

The cops became corrupt. They began transporting drugs. As this happened, suicides and divorces went down. Their levels of happiness went up. Their corrupt actions were justified because of the results.

Be wary of justifying bad choices. Bad choices are bad choices. There’s no way around this.

10. Andre Davis:

I’d rather look the devil in the eye.

Andre was no fool. He knew he was in a dangerous position by confronting Captain McKenna.

Captain McKenna gave Andre a choice to walk away. He wouldn’t. He knew there was corruptness and he was willing to look the devil in the eye.

Don’t turn a blind eye to those doing wrong in your organization. Be a leader who confronts wrongdoers. Be a leader who holds those they lead accountable for the choices they make.

You have to be willing to make hard choices to be a great leader. Choose to be one who won’t stand for corruptness.

Question: If you’ve watched 21 Bridges, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what Reel Leadership lessons from 21 Bridges that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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