Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Creed III

A Reel Leadership Article

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The latest installment in the Rocky/Creed film series has hit the theaters, and it’s a wild ride through Adonis Creed’s (Michael B. Jordan) past and future. In Creed 3, Adonis has retired from boxing when his friend from childhood returns. However, when Damian Anderson (Jonathan Majors) returns, he has a big chip on his shoulder. Adonis has to step up to the challenge of boxing his former friend and bringing him back from the brink of ruin.

A young Damian (Spence Moore II) had taken the fall when a young Adonis (Thaddeus J. Mixson) attacked Leon (Aaron D. Alexander), a person who had terrorized Adonis at the juvenile detention center he was in. Adonis attacked Leon at a convenience store. When Leon’s friends (Brian Neal and Corey Hibbert) jumped in, Adonis was in trouble. That’s when Damian pulled a gun to protect his friend. The police showed up, saw Damian’s gun, and arrested him while Adonis ran and escaped.

This situation festered in Damian’s mind for years behind bars. When he was released, Damian went to see Adonis. Adonis tried to help Damian, but it was too late. Damian wanted everything Adonis built. He was ready to take Adonis and everything he loved down due to the bitterness raging within.

Still image from Creed III. Adonis Creed staring down Damian Anderson

What follows in Creed III is a story of friendship, frustration, anger, and redemption. It’s the perfect backdrop for leadership lessons. And you’re in luck because it’s time for a new Reel Leadership article.

In this article, we’ll look at the leadership lessons in Creed III. Are you ready not to rumble but to learn?

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Creed III

1. Leaders study their opponents:

Damian was a promising Golden Gloves boxer. In one scene, Damian is preparing to fight his next opponent. Adonis had studied this opponent. He told Damian what to look for his opponent to do.

The words Adonis spoke to Damian were true. The opponent did the things Adonis said he would do. This study led to Damian finding victory.

Every organization has enemies. Whether those enemies come from within or outside, the best leaders know they have to study their opponents.

What is your competition doing? Are they launching products in new categories, boasting about a new process, or restructuring their organization?

Pay attention. They’re choreographing their next moves. You can see what will happen because they’re already taking the steps.

Study your opponents. Learn from them. Grow from them.

2. Adonis Creed:

Wait for it. It’ll come to you.

During the boxing match, Damian was getting very aggressive. He was taking the fight to the opponent. However, Adonis thought Damian should hold back a bit. Damian should wait for the opponent to make a mistake.

I’ve got to tell you to wait for it as well. It’ll come to you.

We push so hard. We strive so hard. There’s nothing wrong with that until we take it to an unhealthy level.

Do your best. Push yourself. Yet, wait for it. There will be openings that come your way because you’ve prepared, conditioned, and trained yourself for what is coming.

Wait for it.

3. You’re not down and out yet:

The movie switches to a scene where Adonis fights Pretty Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellow) in a flashback to a previous Creed movie. Ricky is just pummeling Adonis. The fight is brutal. The blows were heavy. And it looked as if Adonis was going down.

The bell rings to end the round. Soon, the next round started.

Adonis was ready for the next round. While being pummeled, Adonis was looking for Ricky’s weak points. And he found them. Adonis began to attack the areas that he identified as vulnerable. This new attack led Adonis to victory even though others had seen him as defeated.

You’re going to feel attacked. You’re going to feel pummeled. But you’re not going to be down and out.

Instead, through your times of trial, look for weak points you can attack. This can be in the way you work, your competition, or even your attitude.

You’re not down and out just yet. You’re preparing for the comeback.

4. Adonis Creed:

It’s not about how hard you hit; it’s about control, focus.

Adonis parallels Rocky Balboa’s advice: “it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” But he changes it to something new. As Adonis watches Felix Chavez (Jose Benavidez) spar, he sees Felix being very aggressive.

Felix keeps taking out his sparing partner rather than dancing with them. Felix sees the boxing match as nothing but pure, physical power.

Adonis corrects him. He helps Felix understand he can’t go full power all the time. He has to have control and focus.

You have to have control and focus. Your position isn’t about the power you wield. Instead, you obtained the position because someone saw in you control and focus.

Don’t lose sight of control and focus as you grow and climb the ladder of success. Control and focus will keep you climbing.

5. Leaders can have differing opinions:

Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and Adonis had a daughter. This young daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent), went to a special school for the hard of hearing.

During one of her days, Amara got into a fight with another student, after that student took a drawing she had created and tore it in half. Amara went on the offensive and punched the other student.

Bianca believed Amara needed to talk out her emotions. Adonis thought the situation called for Amara to learn how to fight, or defend herself.

Their differing opinions weren’t wrong, just different. In your life, you’re going to run into similar situations. Whether the board of directors of your organization believes differently than you or you have a disagreement with your spouse, people will disagree.

It’s working through these differing opinions that will see you to success. Learn how to work through differing opinions. The more you can understand the other side, the better you’ll be able to come to a great outcome.

6. Leaders cannot do things because of guilt:

Damian was a master manipulator. He kept talking to Adonis while laying on the guilt. He told Adonis how he had taken on the weight and responsibility of Adonis’ actions. If it weren’t for him, Adonis would’ve been beaten to a pulp.

This guilt-tripping began to get to Adonis. He wondered if he was doing the right thing by denying Damian the title shot.

Guilt does that. Guilt will make you doubt your decisions.

Don’t go on the guilt trip with others.

Guilt only leads to regret and doubt. It’ll lead you to do the things you know you shouldn’t.

Instead, let your knowledge, the guidance of others, and what you know is right to lead you through the challenging times.

7. Sometimes you get your shot even when you haven’t earned it:

Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu) was the opponent Felix was to face. He was just as imposing as his father. However, Viktor was attacked, and he couldn’t compete against Felix (it was later revealed that Damian had set up the attack).

Because of Viktor’s injury, Damian got a shot at the title that he shouldn’t have had. The guilt trip he’d laid on Adonis worked. Adonis worked it out in his mind that the crowds love an underdog story, and this would be the perfect one.

Damian hadn’t earned the title shot, but he got it.

Be ready for the time when you get your shot. You may not have earned it, but it will present itself.

You have to be prepared for the things you haven’t earned. They will be there, and you will have to move on them.

8. Tony ‘Little Duke’ Burton:

You fight the fighters. I fight the refs.

Damian was aggressive in the ring. He was taking illegal shots and injuring Felix. Felix would begin to argue with the refs over what was happening.

Duke told Felix it wasn’t Felix’s responsibility to fight the refs. It was Duke’s. Because he was the coach, the responsibility fell on him.

We all have our own battles to fight. The responsibility to argue with someone isn’t always yours.

Learn who you get to fight. Fight them. Let others fight their appropriate fight.

9. Sometimes what we think protects someone doesn’t:

Mary-Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) thought she was protecting her son from Damian by refusing to give him the letters Damian had sent. She knew Damian was angry and a bad influence. She didn’t want him to influence Adonis.

While she did what she thought was right, she hurt two people in doing so. Damian thought Adonis had abandoned him. Adonis never responded, and this hurt him deeply. Adonis was hurt because he wasn’t there for his friend.

We have to be careful in doing what we think will protect someone. Sometimes, it turns out that it hurts them more in the end.

Weigh your choices. See the options. Make your best decision.

10. Leaders have to be willing to express their emotions and feelings:

Bianca and Adonis had been clashing because Adonis refused to discuss his feelings with her. She felt Adonis was closing himself off to her.

In one such episode, Adonis is upset at what happened with Damian. He began to feel the weight of his decision to bring Damian into his life again without more direction. He begins to yell and rage. Bianca wants Adonis to talk. He refuses.

Then Amara walks into the room…


Bianca makes a decision. She doesn’t want Amara in a home where her father can’t communicate his feelings. She doesn’t want Amara to see rage and anger. Adonis has to change.

I’ve been in organizations where the leader or owner rages. They go off the handle, yell and scream, and demean others.

These leaders are hotheads. They don’t know how to discuss a situation properly.

The best leaders I’ve met have known how to control their emotions. They learn to talk through what’s happened and happening.

Be aware of your emotions. Work through them. Learn to express them healthily.

11. Look to your past victories for inspiration:

Adonis struggled as he came back to the ring. He began to spar and train. During the sparing matches, Adonis would get beat. He couldn’t get back into the mindset of a champion.

Every time he’d spar, he’d look to the time he ran away from Damian when he left his friend to take the fall.

This held him back. He couldn’t keep looking at what he did wrong.

It wasn’t until Adonis began to look at the times he got back up that he began to do well in training. He remembered the times he’d been knocked down only to get back up. This inspired him. These memories got him in the right mindset.

You have to get in the right mindset, too. You can do that the same way Adonis did.

Don’t look back at the times you failed, or the times you ran away. Instead, look at the times you got back up from a challenging situation. Look at the times you achieved success.

Every time you got back up, every time you achieved success, is a time that you can call on when you’re feeling like you’re knocked down.

You can get back up. You can succeed. Look to your past victories for inspiration.

12. Adonis Creed:

One step, one punch, one round at a time.

Adonis had a creed. This creed inspired him to keep going.

Adonis told himself, “One step. One Punch. One round at a time.”

What does this mean? Adonis knew he couldn’t do everything all at once. He had to take things one step, one punch, one round at a time. Each successive step, punch, or round brought him closer to victory.

You must take things one decision, one action, one challenge at a time. The more you break things down, the easier it is to take the next step.

It’s similar to what Todd Henry said at the Global Leadership Summit Special Edition in 2023. Todd Henry said, “Bravery is usually the next little step to take.” That’s what Adonis was saying here.

Take the next little step. Then you can take the next and then the next.

You don’t have to do everything at once. You only have to get through one thing and then the next.

13. There can be sadness in victory:

Adonis battled against Damian. The fight was brutal. Blows were traded. Blood was spilled.

Eventually, Adonis knocked Damian out. You’d expect Adonis to be ecstatic. Yet there was sadness in Adonis’ victory.

Adonis realized that while he won, it wasn’t what he desired. He wanted his friend back. He wanted Damian to be happy.

Our victories can come with a heavyweight. Don’t expect victory always to feel great.

You may feel guilt or remorse when you win. Winning doesn’t mean things are right. Winning means you battled through a challenge.

Be ready to win, and also be prepared to feel sadness in the victories you achieve.

14. Leaders are willing to apologize:

After the fight, Adonis checked up on Damian in the back. Adonis finally apologized to Damian for never checking up on him. He understood that his lack of checking in was on himself; it wasn’t on Damian.

The apology began to repair a strained relationship. The apology brought Damian and Adonis closer together. While the relationship wasn’t fully restored, it began it.

You’re going to make mistakes as you lead others. Your decisions, actions, and inactions are going to impact others.

You have to be willing to accept the responsibility for your actions and then apologize when your actions hurt others. This is the way to healing and better relationships.

Learn to apologize.

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