Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Die Hard 2: Die Harder

A Reel Leadership Christmas Article

I try to watch at least one Christmas movie every year. Most Christmas movies do nothing for me. Except for movies like Die Hard.

Last year, I watched the original Die Hard again. It’s always a great Christmas movie. This year, I knew I had to watch a different Christmas movie, or else it would be hard to bring new leadership insights to Reel Leadership.

Going through Christmas movies, I remembered there’s another great Christmas movie. Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Purchase Die Hard 2 on Amazon

Roll with me on this. Die Hard 2 is a Christmas movie.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) returns to pick his wife, Holly McClane (Bonnie Bedelia) from the Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. He notices a couple of suspicious characters and acts. All of this happens, once again, around Christmas.

Join me for a Reel Leadership journey as we take a look at the leadership lessons in Die Hard 2: Die Harder.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Die Hard 2: Die Harder

1. Be cautious in pulling the Leader Card:

John had been waiting for his wife to arrive at the airport and parked illegally. When he came out of the airport, he saw two police officers towing his car.

He talked with one of the officers. He tried to reason with him. He even told the police officer he was an LAPD officer.

This was a mistake. The police officer, Sgt. Vito Lorenzo (Robert Costanzo), hated Los Angeles. He’d had a bad experience. This did nothing for John’s case and the car was towed.

Once you have the title of leader, you can feel empowered. You should. There is a certain sense of power that comes from being recognized as a leader.

However, leaders can let their title go to their head. They think their Leader Card is a get out of jail free card.

It is not.

Stop using your position of authority as a reason to do things you know you shouldn’t.

2. John McClane:

As far as I’m concerned, progress peaked with frozen pizza.

Die Hard 2 was released in 1990. This was before cell phones, truly portable computers, and more. Seeing John receive a text was hilarious in 2020.

Yet, he struggled with technology.

He went to a payphone to return the call. The text he received came from his wife.

John wondered how Holly could have called if she wasn’t in the airport. She was using a fancy, dancy airphone.

John aired his disdain for technology. He told Holly technology had peaked. Frozen pizza was it.

Are you like John? Do you struggle with technology? Do you hate where technology has brought us?

I don’t struggle with technology but I am frustrated with some of the places technology has brought us. It’s always on. Always connected.

There’s a major pain point here. If you cannot disconnect, you cannot recharge. If you cannot recharge, you are headed for burnout.

Remember: Technology hasn’t peaked. It has become more invasive.

3. Beware of imposters:

A Hidey Lake Community Church custodian (Bill Smillie) was relaxing inside the church when two men in a truck pulled up. The two men, Baker (Tony Ganios) and Thompson (Peter Nelson), were dressed in DWP uniforms.

They approached the church doors and asked the custodian if they could come in. The custodian allowed them to enter the church.

Soon after, the seen turned deadly for the custodian. The custodian was shot dead.

As you can tell, Baker and Thompson were not from the DWP. The two men were part of Colonel Stuart (William Sadler) and General Ramon Esperanza’s (Franco Nero) plan to free Esperanza.

You may have people like Baker and Thompson in your organization. They look like they belong but they do not. They are imposters.

Imposters infiltrate your organization. They do what they can for themselves and then they leave the organization in disarray.

Beware of imposters. They’re going to hurt your organization.

4. Treat people fairly:

A passenger on the airplane Holly was on had been bumped from first-class to coach. This passenger was Richard Thornburg (William Atherton).

If you don’t know who he is, he was the reporter who exposed the McClane’s children to the world during the Nakatomi Plaza incident in the original Die Hard.

He was whining and complaining. He needed his seat in first class.

The stewardess wasn’t having any of it. She knew who Thornburg was. And he was a thorn in people’s sides.

Thornburg had run multiple news stories about airlines and flight attendants. A couple of the headlines were:

  • Flying Junkyards
  • Bimbos Of The Sky

His treatment of the airline industry caused him to be mistreated on the airplane.

You may think the way you treat an employee only has an immediate impact. You’d be wrong.

The impact your actions have travel farther than you ever imagine. It may even turn around to bite you in the butt as Thornburg’s actions did.

Treat people fairly. Treat them with respect.

Make sure you’re fair and objective. That’s the way to lead.

5. Sometimes, the rules have to be broken:

Carmine Lorenzo (Dennis Franz) was the head of the terminal police. He was upset with John because John had taken care of a few of the bad guys.

In the process, John had broken multiple FAA regulations. This infuriated Carmine.

However, John had to break the rules. Carmine’s officers were not listening to John. The bad guys were running amok. Someone had to act.

That person was John. To act, John had to break the rules.

Rules are in place for a reason. Someone, at some point, did something that they weren’t supposed to. A rule or regulation was put into place.

When the person left, the rule stuck. It was there for all eternity.

The rule can have a stifling effect. The rule can hinder people from doing their jobs well.

Know the rules can be broken. While they may be documented, rules are not set in stone.

Break the rules when needed.

6. Don’t be lulled into a sense of safety:

The airplane transporting Esperanza was approaching the United States. The fighter jets that were escorting the plane left.

The two pilots were not concerned. They were almost to their destination.

They were safe.

They were not safe. Esperanza was able to escape his restraints. As they got closer to Dulles International Airport, he sprung on the pilots, killing them.

You may have had the best year ever. You may have seen your team grow exponentially.

This is not the time to sit back and bask in the safety of it all. Safety is an illusion in leadership.

There’s always another threat lurking around the corner. Be ready.

Don’t be lulled into a sense of safety.

7. Reach out to someone who can help:

John wasn’t getting help from the airport police. After killing one of the terrorists, he took fingerprints.

He knew he wasn’t going to be able to get the police to run the prints. He knew who could.

That person? His friend, Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), from Die Hard!

He asked Powell to run the prints. When the prints came back, they were to a man who had been dead for 2 years.

Do you have someone you can reach out to when you need help? Every leader needs a handful of people they can reach out to.

This could be for business or personal reasons. These are people you can call on day or night.

Find a band of brothers who can be there for you when you need them.

8. John McClane:

This is just the beginning.

Trudeau (Fred Thompson) was head over the Dulles airport tower. He asked John if he had anticipated the lights being shut down on the runway.

John had not anticipated this. However, he knew this was only the beginning.

Great leaders have an intuition. They see a situation, analyze a situation, and see where things are in the process.

Learn to read the situations you’re facing.

The sooner you’re able to see how things begin, play out, and end, the sooner you’ll be able to lead into the unknown.

9. Leslie Barnes (Art Evans):

This kind of thing wasn’t in my job description.

Barnes was the chief engineer at the airport. He had come up with some solutions to deal with the terrorists taking over the airport.

One of the things Barnes was tasked with was to get to the Annex Skywalk. He was to help set up a communication tool.

SWAT transported him to the area.

Even with SWAT, this was never a part of Barnes’ job description. He did it anyway.

There are things that are in your job description you’re happy to do. They’re there in black and white. They’re easy to see.

What about those things that aren’t in your job description? The things that come up and you have to deal with them here and now?

You have to be willing to go outside of your job description. The job description only gives you an outline of what your duties are. You have to figure out the rest.

10. Be careful who you listen to:

Stuart contacted one of the planes that were circling Dulles Airport. He knew the plane was low on fuel. This was the perfect opportunity to make a point.

Stuart directed the plane to land. This was going to be disastrous for the plane.

Stuart’s men had hacked the airport system and changed the sea level reading. They changed it so the sea level would be 200 feet below its actual location.

This meant the plane, carrying over 230 people, would crash into the runway.

You have to be careful who you listen to. They could be people like Stuart. They may be misleading you.

Make sure the consultants, experts, authors you bring in are knowledgeable and good. Make sure they’re who they say they are.

If they’re not, they could lead you to places you didn’t want to go.

11. John McClane:

Did things just get better or worse?

A special US Army unit was called in to help assist with the takeover of Dulles Airport. This unit was led by Grant (John Amos).

John saw the unit come in and he had a gut-check moment. He didn’t know whether to feel relieved or to feel concerned.

John’s intuition was right. Things were about to get much worse.

Your gut can tell you quite a bit. The intuition you feel when you’re leading is a good lead indicator for what you should do.

Listen to your gut. Let it guide you in situations where time is of the essence.

12. There are things that shouldn’t be broadcast:

Thornburg was a troublesome reporter because he wanted to report on everything. He didn’t care who got hurt or what personal information was exposed.

At the end of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, reporter Samantha Coleman (Sheila McCarthy) reported what happened at the airport. The cameraman panned to John and Holly.

The couple was embracing and then kissing. This was a personal moment.

Samantha reacted quickly. She placed her hand over the camera lens and stopped the filming.

As a leader, you’re going to have insight into a lot more than you care to. You’ll also have access to details people don’t want to be spread around.

You’re going to have to learn what should be shared and what shouldn’t be broadcast.

This can make or break a leader. It’s something you will have to discern, learn, and grow.

Know that some things shouldn’t be shared.

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