Batman: The Killing Joke is a Warner Brothers Animation film adapting the graphic novel Batman: A Killing Joke. The animated movie was released in 2016 to much fanfare. It deserves the praise it received.
Batman: The Killing Joke tells the story of Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Batgirl/Barbara Gordon (Tara Strong). It also delves into the origin of The Joker (Mark Hamill).
The animation for Batman: The Killing Joke is top-notch. It feels like you’re watching an animated comic book. Exactly how the film should feel!
Batman: The Killing Joke provides more than a great comic to movie experience. The movie gives us a healthy dose of leadership lessons.
Let’s dive into the leadership lessons from Batman: The Killing Joke.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Batman: The Killing Joke
1. Be aware of your choices:
The movie opens with Barbara Gordon narrating the movie. The movie then cuts to an armored truck robbery and two thieves are in the front of the getaway vehicle.
One thief is Perry (Paris) Franz (John DiMaggio). He and the other thief have a conversation over what they should do.
Paris thinks they should lose the truck. The other one says they should lose the cops instead.
Leaders have to be aware of their choices. There’s never a single course of action.
A leader has to have the vision to see the possibilities available to them. They then have to make a choice.
You really want to turn a robbery into a murder?
Batgirl confronts one of the armored truck robbers and poses a question that makes him think. The robber was holding a gun to Batgirl. He had a choice.
He could move from being a thief to being a murderer. The choice was his. Batgirl only brought to light the depth of his choices.
We all make mistakes. We do things we shouldn’t have done.
We can choose to dig a deeper hole. We could choose to continue down a bad, bad path. Or we can choose to accept what we’ve done and try to make things better.
What choice will you make when you make a mistake?
3. Don’t underestimate your competition:
Batgirl thought Paris was an amateur. She underestimated him.
They got into a tussle. The fight was intense. Paris found an advantage.
He sprayed Batgirl with a cherry knockout gas. This put him in line for the win.
Have you looked at your competition and thought they didn’t pose much of a threat? You probably have. Most leaders do.
Did you find out you were wrong? Once again, most leaders find this out.
It is easy to underestimate those we’re competing against. We see their faults, their struggles, their challenges. What we often don’t see are their strengths.
Make sure you’re not underestimating your competition.
4. Young leaders often think they are better than what they are:
Batman and Batgirl got into a heated argument. Batman saw Batgirl was falling for Paris’ trap.
In a conversation with a coworker, Reese (JP Karliak), Barbara compared her relationship with Batman to a yoga class.
She shared how she thought Batman was smart, wise, and good. She also shared how she believed Batman underestimated her.
Barabara thought she was better than she was. Batman knew better.
This is a special warning to young leaders.
You will think you’re all that and a bag of chips. You will think the leaders above you look down on you or think you’re not good enough (this often isn’t true). You will think you have what it takes to succeed (you may, but it may not be the right time to display what you’ve got).
Be cautious as you start your leadership journey. You are good. You have what it takes. You also lack experience.
Start slow. Build up. Lead well.
5. Bad leaders don’t care about the consequences of their actions:
Paris and another criminal were on a yacht with other people. The police arrive to arrest the duo, but they escaped through the use of scuba gear.
They also left a present for the police presence. There was a bomb waiting for the police in place of the scuba gear.
The bomb went off. It killed the police officers and, implied, the other guests on the yacht.
The duo didn’t care about anyone other than themselves.
This is what bad leaders do. They do whatever it takes to get what they want while hurting those around them.
Don’t be a leader who doesn’t take into account the impact of your actions on others. Other people matter. Make sure you show that they do to you.
6. Beware of flattery:
Paris flattered Batgirl. He whispered sweet things into her ears. She began to fall for the flattery.
Batgirl followed the hints Paris left behind. This led her to a phone. Then to Paris’s dead uncle, Carlos Francesco.
When she found Carlos’ body, his thugs broke into the room. She was in danger!
Flattery rarely leads anywhere positive. People use flattery not to build others up. People use flattery to butter others up.
They use it as a way to control and manipulate those they want to use.
Beware of flattery. It is not leading where you think it will.
You let your ego cloud your judgment.
Batman and Batgirl got into another heated argument over Batgirl’s actions. He saw her as reckless and ego-driven (funny coming from good, old Batsy).
Yet, Batman is right. Batgirl let her ego cloud her judgment. She couldn’t see where she failed or was weak. She only wanted to prove herself.
Beware the ego. The ego is not your friend. The ego is your enemy, as Ryan Holiday would say.
Don’t let your ego control your actions. Learn to reign in the ego and lead with humility.
8. Even good leaders can go too far:
Paris and his thugs were hiding out at the docks. Batman discovered their location and went to confront them.
As he pulled the Batmobile into the docks, Paris blasted the Batmobile with a rocket. The rocket flipped the Batmobile on its side. They readied to fire another rocket.
Batgirl saw the explosion. She left her post to confront Paris. When she did, Batgirl took things too far.
She began to pummel Paris to a bloody pulp. She was unrelenting.
Good leaders can fall into the trap that Batgirl did. They can latch onto something and go after it with all they have.
This could lead to bad choices for their family, their finances, or another resource in their life.
Be cautious that you don’t go too far. There are some things you can never get back.
9. Details matter:
There are small things that you might notice in Batman: The Killing Joke. One of the things I noticed was the realism of the signage of a storage facility.
Batman went to the Gotham Storage facility to meet with Bullock (Robin Atkin Downes). Astute viewers will notice the TO in storage were flickering.
It made me think of all the businesses and signs I’ve seen where the lights were either out or flickering. They nailed this part of the scenery.
What details in your organization, business, or church are you missing? What small things are not quite right?
Pay attention to these details. Do what you can to fix or repair these issues.
People notice the details.
10. Alfred Pennyworth (Brian George):
Are you sure of that?
Batman thought the Joker didn’t know his identity. We never learn if the Joker actually knew it or not.
However, Alfred offered up a challenge to Batman. He wasn’t sure the Joker didn’t know Batman’s real identity was Bruce Wayne.
We cannot assume things in leadership. We cannot think we know something without explicit information.
Assuming things will lead to trouble. You may discover you were missing a key piece of information or you didn’t know someone quite as well as you thought you did.
Put your assumptions aside. Look at the facts.
11. You may not get what you want:
The Joker sent Commissioner Gordon (Ray Wise) through a carnival ride of horror. On the ride, Commissioner Gordon saw horrors untold.
This impacted Commissioner Gordon. When the ride was done, Commissioner Gordon appeared to be in a comatose state. This was not what the Joker wanted.
What we want is not always what we get. We cannot guarantee the outcome. We can only influence the results.
Work as hard as you can to get the results you want. Know you may not get those results.
12. You can be something else:
There is a post-credit/stinger in Batman: The Killing Joke. In the stinger, we see Barbara in a wheelchair. She had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker earlier in the movie.
Barbara is talking to her dad. She has to cancel their date night. She had something else she was doing.
We watch as Barbara heads toward a secret room. There, within the walls, is a newly outfitted secret lair. This is where The Oracle does her work.
She transitioned from Batgirl to Oracle.
Leaders transition all the time. You may transition from the wise sage to the old mentor. You may transition from a production role into a leadership role.
Your role is never fixed. You can always become something else.