Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Appleseed

A Reel Leadership Article

My latest book, Reel Leadership, is now available on Amazon. If you love movies and leadership, you will love this book.

Appleseed is a classic anime from 1988. Set in a futuristic city, police officer Dunan (Larissa Murray) and her cyborg partner Bularios (Bill Roberts) fight terrorism.

It’s a grim picture of the future that hasn’t come to be. There’s tension between cyborgs, humans, and terrorists. 

It’s a mess. But it’s a good mess of a movie.

As always, there’s leadership to be found in these movies. Especially a classic such as Appleseed, which has spawned many sequels since its release over 30 years ago. Let’s dive into those leadership lessons.

Bularios and Dunan from the movie Appleseed. Bularios is a robot, Dunan is a blonde female.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Appleseed

1. Don’t make permanent choices for temporary problems:

Fleia (Anne Marie Zola) was the wife of police officer Karon (Alan Marriott). The movie opens with her freeing a caged bird. She held the bird in her hand before releasing the bird out of her window.

She longed to be free. So much so that she made a permanent choice to a temporary problem.

Once the bird was free, she fell from the window to her death. She ended her temporary problem with a permanent solution.

Leaders will face failure throughout their careers. They will push to succeed only to face hurdles and challenges that set them back.

When you’re hit with a setback or failure, don’t make it permanent. Look at it as a temporary situation. One that you can come back from.

2. Your competition may be as prepared as you are:

The futuristic world is filled with terrorists. The police departments are trying to deal with them the best they can. 

Police officers prepare to breach a room filled with terrorists holding hostages. These police officers were prepared. But so were the terrorists.

They made it through the door. Then they saw the opposition. They were ready to open fire with heavy weapons.

Preparation is great. You know what needs to happen and when. You know that you’ve done the best that you can to prepare for success.

What happens, though, when the competition is also prepared? There’s a faceoff.

Be ready for your competition to strike back when you release an innovation, make a bold business move, or choose to change directions. They may be prepared to do the same, and you will have to pivot.

3. Bularios:

You’ll miss all the excitement.

Dunan had put in a request to transfer from the SWAT unit to the investigation unit. She wanted to track down the terrorist AJ (Vincent Marzello), who had killed one of her friends. 

Bularios was beside himself. He wondered what Dunan was thinking. 

Why was he shocked? He saw the SWAT unit as the department full of excitement. He was right. There’s a lot going on with SWAT. Dunan saw it differently. By transferring to the investigation unit, Dunan would have the excitement and pleasure of hunting down a murderer. 

There was a differing of opinions when it came to what department offered excitement. This is true with multiple aspects of work as well. 

People see one area or aspect of work as more exciting. Another person sees it as dull and wonders how someone could choose to do that work.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is anyone right or wrong in this situation?

You must remember your coworkers will have differing opinions on what’s exciting or not. Figure out what’s exciting for them and place them into a position they can be excited about.

4. Athena (Lorelei King):

Are they good enough?

Athena was the head of the investigation unit. She heard that Dunan and Bularios wanted to transfer (Bularios apparently relented after he heard Dunan’s reasoning) to the unit but had questions. 

One of those was whether or not Dunan and Bularios were good enough for the team she led.

It was a valid question. Every leader should wonder whether or not the person they’re looking to bring onto their team is good enough.

Good enough, though, is subjective. You have to have a solid understanding of what good enough actually is.

Is it skill? Yes. Is it attitude? Yes. Is it personality? Yes.

There’s so much that goes into being good enough. As a leader, you are responsible for grasping the concept of good enough.

5. Karon:

We no longer live. We no longer exist.

Karon, a traitorous police officer, runs into Bularios and Dunan at the cemetery as they’re paying respects to their fallen comrade. Karon is there to remember his wife, Fleia.

He laments about why she died. Fleia had felt stifled, less creative, and worthless as the world changed. Because of the technological enhancements, there was no need for much of anything because everything was provided for.

Karon’s lament goes along with a lot of people. While Karon was a turncoat, his lament was true. 

There are people who feel like they’re going through the motions. Their actions have no meaningful beauty. It’s routine.

Find ways to break people out of their routines. Give them ways to express their creativity. 

This could be giving them time to research topics that interest them. It could be giving them new and challenging tasks.

A bored employee will feel undervalued and worthless. Give them something to push toward.

6. Your presence matters:

Athena meets with Dunan and Bularios. She gives the order to kill AJ if they find him.

It’s a bit troubling to the duo, but they accept. Especially Dunan. 

However, their mood goes sour when light enters the room through the window behind Athena. As the light shines on her, they see she’s not physically there. She’s projecting her presence into the room via a hologram.

Dunan and Bularios are disappointed because they believe Athena’s hologram meant they weren’t good enough to meet in person.

Know that your presence matters. If you tell your team you will be there, be there. 

This isn’t a knock on remote work or Microsoft Teams meeting. This is a reminder that people want you to be with them. If you’re telling them to be there, you need to show up as well. Don’t just phone it in.

7. Pay attention to your messages:

Nereus (Jesse Vogel) was a contact for Bularios. He had reached out multiple times to give a very important message to Bularios. That message? There’s a traitor within the police department.

By the time Bularios listens to the message, the traitor Karon and AJ have killed Nereus. The information was now lost. They didn’t know who the traitor was.

We get inundated with messages daily. Our inboxes fill up, our voicemail fills up, even our physical mailboxes fill up.

There are important messages there. 

Pay attention to what’s coming in. You have to respond promptly. Otherwise, you may not get the information you need or lose out on valuable opportunities.

8. Beware of manipulation tactics you may use:

AJ saw Karon as someone to be used. Karon had a reason to hate the Gaia system that changed humanity. It removed many of the activities that gave people purpose. He joined with AJ because he believed AJ felt the same way.

But did AJ?

Nope… AJ saw an easy-to-manipulate person. He chose to use Karon’s hurt and anger to get Karon to do his bidding. 

How and why are you leading your people? What actions are you taking out of self-interest over company interest?

Your motives matter and the way you get your people to do things matter as well. Steer clear of manipulation tactics. They hurt the people you lead and, in the end, will hurt you.

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