Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Black Widow

A Reel Leadership Article

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe movie Black Widow was delayed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled for a May 2020 release, the world finally saw Black Widow release on July 9th, 2021 in theaters and Disney+. Many people are saying it is good enough but too late.

I disagree.

Image of Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in Black Widow

The Black Widow movie is a fantastic outing for the Marvel movie universe. Starring Scarlett Johanson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova (The next Black Widow), the always entertaining David Harbour as Alexei/Red Guardian, Rachel Weisz as Melina, and William Hurt as Secretary Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, Black Widow puts us multiple years back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. Black Widow occurs between Captain America: Civil War (Buy it at Amazon) and Avengers: Infinity War (Pick up your copy here).

The jump back in time does lessen the stakes of Romanoff’s fate. We already know she will survive whatever happens in the Black Widow movie. Yet, Black Widow gives us a great movie. It really felt like a throwback to Captain America: The First Avenger (Buy it on Amazon). If you enjoyed that movie, you will enjoy this one.

That’s the basic gist of Black Widow. Now it’s time for our regularly scheduled program. We’re going to dive into the leadership lessons in Black Widow. Are you ready?

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Black Widow

1. You will have to lead under pressure:

Black Widow opens in the past. We see Natasha as a young girl (played by Ever Anderson). Her family has come under attack. Alexei has told his family to board their small plane. Melina, Natasha, and young Yelena (Violet McGraw) have boarded the plane. Alexei steps aside and begins to protect the family.

Melina takes the controls of the plane. She begins to taxi the plane. Alexei hops onto the wing. The plane takes flight.

The bad guys continue to pursue them. One of them was able to shoot Melina. This meant Natasha had to take control. She had to fly the plane under pressure as the bullets flew past her and her family.

Whew! Talk about pressure. But we know pressure as leaders, don’t we?

We know we will have to lead under all kinds of pressure. We can’t walk away when the going gets tough. We have to continue to lead.

2. Dreykov (Ray Winstone):

That one has fire in her.

Dreykov was one of the bad guys in Black Widow. He was Alexei’s handler. When Alexei turned his girls over to him, Dreykov noticed something about Natasha.

He saw the fire she had in her. She wouldn’t go willingly. This was a positive.

Look for people who have a fire. The fire is passion. They will have something that makes them stand apart.

When people have fire, they will go to the extremes to get things done properly. These are the people you want.

3. Unknown Widow:

Free the others.

Yelena had been in pursuit of a rogue Widow from the Red Room. She was able to get to her. When she did, Yelena stabbed the Widow and killed her.

Before she died, the Widow sprayed Yelena with a red mist. The mist freed her mind from the control she had been put under.

The Widow told Yelena to free the others.

Your job as a leader is to free those you lead. What does freeing them look like?

You free your team when you help them see the potential within them. You help cultivate their skills, talents, and abilities.

Free your team members.

4. Know your objective:

Yelena had sent the remaining vials of the red mist to Natasha. Natasha did not know this. She began to track down her sister.

On her way, she was intercepted by Taskmaster/Antonia (Olga Kurylenko). The pair began to fight. Then Taskmaster turned her attention to the box containing the vials.

Taskmaster’s objective was not to kill Natasha. Her mission was to recover the vials and return them to Dreykov.

Leaders can get away from their main objectives. They will begin to fill their calendars with meetings to look busy. Or a squirrel project will pop up and distract them.

We have to be laser-focused on our objectives. We have to work on accomplishing what we set out to do.

If we don’t, we will never accomplish what’s important.

5. Plans don’t work out the way we think:

A cadre of other Widows was pursuing Natasha and Yelena. They were hot on their tail.

Natasha began driving a car. Yelena asked if she should duck and cover. She also wanted to know what the plan was.

Natasha told her the plan was to drive away. Yelena told her it was a crappy plan (in not-so-nice English).

We all have these grand ideas. We think we’re going to be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. We think we’re going to change the world with our plans.

Then, reality hits. It’s like the great boxer Mike Tyson says – Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.

Plans won’t always go the way we think. The world will hit us in the mouth. An employee will hit us in the mouth. A competitor may hit us in the mouth.

Being able to flow and change when we need to is what we need to do.

6. Natasha Romanoff:

I was trying to do something good. Be more than just a trained killer.

Yelena had mocked Natasha. She asked Natasha why she kept doing a silly fighting pose.

Natasha’s answer was serious. She was trying to be better than she had been. She wanted to be more than a trained killer.

Why do you keep leading? Why do you keep showing up day after day?

When you know the answer, you will become a better leader. Figure out why you lead. Be more than you were trained to be.

7. Be self-aware:

Yelena and Natasha rescued their father, Alexei, from prison. After the prison break, Alexei began to ask Natasha questions about himself.

Alexei wanted to know if Captain America talked about him. If he was a big deal outside of the prison.

The reunion between Alexei and Natasha happened 20 years after they had last seen each other. All Alexei could do was talk about himself.

He wasn’t aware enough to ask Natasha how she had been doing. Or what she had been up to. It was all about him.

Later in the movie, Alexei/Red Guardian says the following:

I thought I was being brave. I was being a coward.

He gained more self-awareness as the movie went on.

We have to be self-aware. We cannot be so focused on our wants and our needs that we neglect those we lead.

Make sure you’re not talking about yourself all the time. Begin to ask your team members questions about themselves. Make the focus about them and not you.

You will endear your team to you when you begin to ask them questions that matter to them.

8. You are important to the team you lead:

Alexei told Yelena something painful. He told her that he saw her as a chore (Alexei and Milena were not Natasha and Yelena’s biological parents. They were just a cover for their operations).

This hurt Yelena. She saw their time as a family as something different. To Yelena, Alexei had been everything to her.

You may think you’re only an employee as a leader. You’re only doing a job. Your team members don’t really matter. Your team members will tell you something different.

To your team, you could be everything. You could be a great friend. You could be a confidant. You could be an example of a great leader.

Know you mean more to those you lead than you think. You are important.

9. Just because the stakes aren’t high doesn’t mean it’s not important work:

The stakes in Black Widow may seem lower than in previous Marvel movies. We know the outcome. We know Natasha doesn’t die. We know she goes on to rejoin the Avengers.

This lessens the stakes. There’s no sense of true danger for Natasha.

Yet, even with lower stakes, Black Widow is a great movie. It fills in the gaps of a fantastic character. We get a great story and the introduction of characters that will be extremely important in the future.

You may think that the tasks you’re doing won’t matter. There’s nothing that will be impacted by what you do.

You’re wrong.

What you’re doing is important. The actions you take today will continue to build. Whether your actions are good or bad will determine where they lead.

The stakes may seem low but they are still important.

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