Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Argylle

A Reel Leadership Article

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Argylle is the latest film from director Matthew Vaughan and writer Jason Fuchs. Set in the world of Kingsman (do you remember the multiple movies from this franchise?), you’re in for a milder, tamer version of those films. 

Enter the world of Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a reclusive author with a special knack for revealing real-world happenings in her novels. Her main character, Argylle (Henry Cavill), is a special agent. He’s had adventures in multiple books, but Elly’s soon-to-be-released book is missing something special. 

Man and woman standing on a building. Man dropping a gray cat.

Encouraged by her mother, Ruth (Catherine O’Hara), Elly begins to rewrite the ending of her latest book. It’s sure to be a major plot twist. One that may bring about the end of Argylle.

But something more is lurking in the film. There’s something audiences don’t know that will soon be revealed.

And it will change everything.

Join me as we explore the hidden leadership lessons in Argylle. You’ll have a blast watching the movie and then discovering the leadership takeaways from the movie.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Argylle

1. Great leaders make difficult choices:

In the Argylle books, Keira (Ariana DeBose) is a working partner with Argylle. When Argylle calls for help, Keira answers the call.

Talking to Argylle while in a blue Jeep, Keira admits something. She had given up on being the next Steve Jobs of Apple Computers. It wasn’t because she lacked the skills. Keira made the difficult choice to be an asset to Argylle.

This meant she couldn’t pursue one dream, but she could pursue another.

Oof.. can you imagine having the skills to be the next tech giant? Only to give it up to be an assistant to someone else? To show up when they needed help?

Many of us feel that we’re above that. That we don’t have to be there for others or make those difficult decisions of one path over the other.

Yet, that’s what leaders are called to do. You are called to make difficult decisions that take you down different paths.

2. Lagrange (Dua Lipa):

You and I are not so different.

Lagrange was a villain in Elly’s book. After being captured by Argylle and Wyatt (John Cena), Lagrange reveals who hired her for her missions.

In doing so, she also told Argylle they’re not so different. In fact, they were working for the same person.

We often think that we’re different than the people we lead. We have higher education. We’ve devoted more of our lives to determining right or wrong. Or we think we’ve made better decisions.

In reality, we’re not that different from those we lead. 

Get to know your people. Ask them questions about their lives, desires, and direction. You’ll discover you and they are not so different.

3. Elly Conway:

If you can’t find the time, you have to make the time to do the things you love.

Elly was asked by a fan at the Argylle book release party how she finds the time to write. Elly answered simply and plainly.

How did Elly find the time? She loved to write, so she had to make the time to write. It wasn’t a choice she couldn’t make. She looked for time in her life to make the writing happen.

What do you love? What are you passionate about?

If you’re struggling to find the time to do the things you love, you must make time to do those things. You may have to cut out overtime, volunteer opportunities, or board memberships.

It’s okay to say no so you can say yes to what matters to you.

4. Ruth:

What is the point of success if you have no one to share it with?

Elly had sent Ruth a copy of the latest Argylle manuscript. Her mother wasn’t thrilled with the book. She said she’d come to visit Elly at her house to help her.

Instead, Elly hops on a train to visit her mom. In her conversation with her, Ruth tells Elly she may meet someone. A great relationship may form.

Elly rejects this idea. She tells her mom that she’s already in a relationship…

With her work.

Does that sound like you? Are you so committed to your work that it’s become a devoted, one-sided relationship?

So many of us do this. We become workaholics. We see work as a way to prove ourselves.

But this isn’t healthy. 

While Ruth turns out to be a villain, her words are no less true. What good is success if you don’t have someone to share it with? This doesn’t even have to be a significant other. You could share these moments with a best friend or confidant. 

Make sure you’re in a relationship other than work. 

5. The best leaders often don’t look like they would be:

A man, Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell), sits down in front of Elly on the train. He’s scruffy, bearded, maybe even homeless. He doesn’t look like anything special.

What happens next is Aidan reveals his true self. He’s a superspy who’s come to help Elly.

Elly has trouble believing this because he doesn’t look like any superspy she has dreamed of. He’s no Argylle in the looks department.

However, Aidan is who he said he is. He’s a spy, and he’s there to help her.

When I think of some of the best leaders in my life, they don’t look like the leaders that are shown in the movies. I’ve had leaders who loved to dress in blue jeans, Hawaiian shirts, and have a blast. They weren’t stuck up or pretentious. They cared and looked out for me.

Be aware the best leaders on your team may not be the ones who come from Ivy League schools. Instead, they’ve learned the harsh lessons through the school of hard knocks. This goes for your employees as well. 

Be willing to look for great leaders outside what most people think they will look like.

6. Your story can calm others:

Aidan gets Elly on a plane. She gets on the plane after much protesting. She’s absolutely terrified of flying as she’s never flown before (or so she thought).

Once on the plane, Elly begins to freak out. She practices a tapping exercise meant to calm her. It doesn’t work.

Only once Aidan begins to tell Elly of his first mission, she begins to calm down. She focuses on his story rather than her current situation. 

The plane takes off, and Elly is fine.

We all have stories of where we’ve come from. These stories don’t get shared as often as they should. Or to the people that need to hear them.

Aidan’s story calmed Elly. Your story can calm those you lead.

Imagine hearing from one of your former leaders a story of how she made it through the first six months of leadership. She shares a couple of trials, her actions, and how they helped her through. The story calms you as you realize you’re in the same position she once was.

Be willing to tell your story at the right time to the people you lead. Your story can show them they are not alone. There have been people who have gone before them. That they can make it through as well.

7. What we don’t think is necessary often is:

In an attempt to find Bakunin (Stanley Morgan), Elly and Aidan decode a hidden secret that leads to his apartment. They enter the apartment to find it empty. There, they find Bakunin’s notebook with an anarchy symbol sketched on it. 

Soon after arriving, agents from the Division arrive. They’re there to recover the notebook and take out Aidan and Elly. 

Aidan gives Elly specific instructions. He will take out the agents, and Elly will twist and stomp on their heads, ensuring they are dead.

This seems like overkill to Elly, especially after she sees the agents laid out. She’s standing next to one when Aidan approaches her. He asks her why she didn’t do what she was told.

Elly tells Aidan that she didn’t think it was necessary. At that moment, the agent lying in front of her begins to reach up. He wasn’t dead. He was still a threat.

What Elly thought was overkill was, in fact, ensuring everything was safe.

Are there aspects of your business that you think are overkill? Maybe you believe processes shouldn’t be followed because things are flowing smoothly. Everything is working, right?

Or it could be you don’t track pieces of equipment in your organization. People are honest and they’ll return them (or maybe they won’t). So, you ignore the process of documenting who has what.

These things can seem overkill, but they’re not. They’re ways to make sure things are getting done. That company property is in the right hands.

Follow the processes. They’re there for a reason. They’re not overkill.

8. Director Ritter (Bryan Cranston):

Regret is wasting more time.

Director Ritter is a bad guy. He’s also the man pretending to be Elly’s father. 

After his agents allow Elly and Aidan to escape, he tells the agent in charge that regret is wasting more time.

It’s hard to hear leadership truths come from villains in stories. We don’t want to think that villains can give us wise insights into the world around us.

But they can.

What Director Ritter said is true. If we let regret enter into our leadership, it’s wasting time. We’re unable to focus on the future. We’re focusing on a past that we can’t change.

Let go of regret.

9. Alfie (Samuel L. Jackson):

The difference is where it’s been.

Alfie is former CIA director Alfred Solomon. He’s someone known to Elly (though she doesn’t know it as she’s been programmed to forget by Ruth and Director Ritter. It’s soon exposed that Elly is not a real person. She’s a made-up character; her real identity is Rachel Kylle or R. Kylle (Argylle). She’s a superspy, the real-world Argylle from her stories.

While at his compound, Alfie tells Elly the story about the grapes used to make Pinot Noir. 

There are Pinot Noir made in locations other than France. People had transported the grapes from France to other parts of the world. Each area has a different tasting Pinot Noir.

He then asks her what the difference is. Alfie tells her it’s the location where the grapes were grown.

Where we’re brought up, and the environments we work in have an impact on how we develop as a leader. Bring a person up in a harsh environment, and that person will likely be a harsh leader. Bring them up in a caring, loving environment, and they’re more likely to be emotionally intelligent leaders.

Understand the work environment is important. How people are treated, the opportunities offered, and more will affect how your team grows and evolves.

10. Prior programming can be hard to erase:

Ruth and Director Ritter had programmed Elly to respond to certain stimuli. One of those stimuli is the music box Elly remembered fondly.

As Ruth exposes the music box and repeats a few magic words, she triggers internal programming Elly didn’t know existed. These words and the song of the music box turn her into a cold-blooded killer who attacks Aidan.

This wasn’t something Elly wanted to do. She couldn’t control it even though she tried to resist the urge. It was what she was programmed to do. 

We find it hard to believe when people respond negatively to situations they’re involved in. We wonder why they behave the way they do.

It’s because they’ve been programmed to respond in certain ways. This could be the unintentional upbringing by their parents or it could be a coordinated gaslighting effort to get them to respond in a certain way.

Understand that people can struggle because of the situations they’ve been in. You can help them work through these challenges though it won’t be easy. 

Be willing to stand next to your people (and allow them to stand next to you) as they go through the deprogramming and reprogramming. 

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