Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Expend4bles (The Expendables 4)

A Reel Leadership Article

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The Expendables team returns in their fourth outing. As usual, we see the regular gang Barney (Sylvester Stallone), Too Road (Randy Couture), Gunner (Dolph Lundgreen), and Christmas (Jason Statham). The rowdy bunch is joined by Easy Day (50 Cent), Gina (Megan Fox), Galan (Jacob Scipio), and Lash (Levy Tran). These team members make up a rollicking good time as they have to track down the biggest threat the team of Expendables has ever faced.

Expend4bles focuses on a new villain, Rahmat (Iko Uwais). His mission is to collect pieces of a nuclear bomb and start World War 3 (we’ve all seen this before!). 

But that’s okay. When we know what we’re getting into, we can have a lot of fun. As with any of the Expendables movies, you know what you’re getting into. Wacky, zany action from classic action stars, along with new ones.

If you can understand what Expend4bles is, you’ll have fun with this movie. You’ll even walk away a better leader as you see the action through the eyes of a Reel Leader. Let’s dive into the leadership lessons in The Expendables 4.

The Expend4bles team standing in front of a yellow, green, and red background

NOTE: There is extreme violence, language, and sexual references in this movie that many will find objectionable

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Expend4bles

1. Many of our mistakes are from stupid choices:

Bernie goes to see Christmas. He needs help getting back his prized possession: his skull ring.

Christmas goes back and forth over what happened for Bernie to lose the ring. The answer was simple. And stupid.

Bernie had challenged Jumbo Shrimp (Mike Möller) to a thumb wrestling competition and lost.

Stupid, right? But how many of us do the same thing?

We make a stupid choice to pursue a new opportunity without researching it, partner with someone whose values don’t align with ours, or fail to heed the advice of our mentors. That’s how many of our mistakes are made. 

We have to evaluate our choices before we make them. We have to listen to advice. We have to make sure values align.

When we do this, we will make a lot less stupid decisions.

2. Beware of people who try to blend in:

Rahmat attacked a compound. He takes out multiple guards but is told to wait until backup arrives to enter. He chose not to stay.

Instead, Rahmat picks up the jacket of one of the downed guards. He dons the jacket. Then he enters the compound looking like one of the guards.

He tried to blend in with those he was attacking. Smart, right?

It is. But it’s also dangerous for organizations that aren’t paying attention.

Many organizations are infiltrated by bad players who are trying to blend in. They try to act like everyone else, say the same things, and do the same actions. Until they strike.

A lot of times, they don’t start as bad actors. They truly wanted to work with you, but their values didn’t align with the organization. Over time, they realize this internally. They slowly begin to shift from blending in to standing out (in a negative way).

Truly try to sift out whether or not someone fits in with the culture or they’re just trying to fit in.

3. Gunner:

Don’t worry. I’ve got a prescription scope.

Gunner is the sniper of the Expendables team. He’s an aging Dolph Lundgreen. But he’s still got the goods.

Easy Day sees Gunner as inept. He wears glasses and looks like he’d have difficulty being a valuable sniper. Gunner quips back that he has a prescription scope.


I loved this line for multiple reasons, but one stood out. Gunner saw a deficiency in his life (he’s getting older and his vision is going). He then takes the steps to address his deficit by getting a prescription scope (now, did he really? I don’t know, but he notes that he did).

All leaders and organizations have deficiencies. Not all leaders and organizations address them.

The best leaders do. They see where they struggle and figure out how to overcome the issues. 

This could be hiring the correct people to take over tasks you’re not good at (delegation), finding partners to give advice, or adopting new technologies.

Don’t let your deficiencies stop you from leading well. Address your deficiencies so you can lead even better than before.

4. Christmas:

Time to improvise.

The Expendables track him down soon after Rahmat obtains some of the parts of the nuclear weapon. They cut through his people and during a car chase, the 50 caliber gun on his vehicle is ripped off. 

This didn’t bode well for the Expendables. One of them was now weaponless. Yet, they weren’t helpless.

Christmas saw a need. He knew that he would have to improvise his attack strategy.

That he did.

Situations in business can go south quickly. You may lose a key team member, funding may dry up, or technology may fail.

What do you do now?

You have to improvise. You have to find a way to still get things done but in a new way.

Don’t be afraid to improvise. You can use all kinds of tricks and tools to effectively lead your team to success.

5. Your efforts may be in vain:

Barney was flying an airplane when an anti-aircraft missile struck it. The plane is on fire, heading toward the ground. It looks like Barney is done.

Christmas sees the attack. He diverts his attention from Rahmat, disregards orders from Barney, and tries to save Barney.

He’s too late. The plane has crashed. There’s a badly burnt body. It appears Barney is dead, and Christmas’ efforts were in vain.

We strive for excellence and success. We want everything we touch to be successful. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if your efforts are in vain?

Many times, they are. You will do everything in your power to save a deal, get a job completed, or get noticed and still not succeed.

This doesn’t mean you give up. Christmas didn’t in The Expend4bles. Neither should you.

Keep moving forward so your subsequent actions are fruitful.

6. Christmas:

He took a chance on me when no one else would.

Christmas is laying in bed with Gina. He begins to recount what Barney meant to him.

He shares how they first met. One of the things Barney did was to give Christmas a chance. No one else would, but this stranger did.

Barney’s actions meant a lot to Christmas. It showed that he was important.

When was the last time you took a chance on someone? Have you ever taken a chance on someone?

If not, or it’s been too long, today’s the day. Take a chance on someone.

They’ll be loyal, often times they’ll pan out as a great choice.

Everyone needs someone to take a chance on them. Even you needed that at some point. Be a chance taker.

7. You have to go to the right tables:

Christmas went to hunt down an old friend of Barney’s. Decha (Tony Jaa) had been a close friend of Barney’s, but he had given up the violent lifestyle. He was now a lowly boat owner.

Christmas tracked Decha down in Thailand. He went to a bar where he asked the bartender about someone who owned a boat. The bartender tells Christmas he’s in the wrong spot. He needed to go down to the waterfront where the boats were to find someone. 

Christmas goes to the water, where he finds a man. He questions him to see if he knows Decha. The man said he didn’t. Christmas does the thing he knows best… he accesses the situation and commanders a boat. 

This is where the man shows his true colors. He is Decha, and this is revealed as the two brawl and Decha sees Barney’s ring on Christmas’ finger.

Where you go matters. You can’t find the talent, business, or people you need if you don’t go to the right table. 

In this situation, table means the right spot. You have to know where to go to find the resources you need.

You don’t go to a toy store to find a doctor. You go to the hospital.

Know what you’re looking for and where you need to go.

8. Gina:

Is my delivery a little different than Barney’s?

Barney had a straightforward delivery. Whenever a new mission would come into play, Barney would tell the guys, “Let’s go.” Gina wasn’t this way.

Gina laid everything out. She had a plan, and it was something everyone was going to follow.

Her communication style was completely different than Barney’s. That was okay. 

And it’s okay in your organization.

You’re going to communicate differently than senior brass. The people below you are going to communicate differently as well. So will managers parallel to you.

Understand that not everyone will have the same delivery as you. Learn to understand what they’re saying. Learn how to deliver in a way they will understand.

Overcome communication barriers!

9. Leaders must have honor:

Christmas met and befriended Decha. Decha was willing to ferry Christmas to the boat with the nuclear weapon, Rahmat, and the big bad guy, Ocelot.

When they were close to the boat, Decha told Christmas he couldn’t go any farther. Decha had put behind his violent ways and wasn’t sure if he could control himself if he let that portion of his life back in.

We thought that would be the end of seeing Decha. But it wasn’t.

Christmas fought valiantly. He killed many of Ocelot’s men on the ship, but he was soon surrounded.

This is when Decha made his reappearance. 

Decha cleaned up the rest of the henchmen. When Christmas wondered what happened and why he fought, Decha told Christmas it would be disrespectful to let Barney’s friend die.

Decha had honor.

He returned to ensure his friend’s friend did not perish. He wanted to make sure that he honored his friend’s legacy.

Many leaders think business and leadership is a dog-eat-dog world. There’s only so much to go around.

That’s a fallacy. One that’s called the scarcity mindset. There’s always more to go around. 

Knowing this, you can move forward with honor. You can choose to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s the hard thing to do.

Live your life and leadership with honor.

10. Those closest to you can be the most dangerous:

Marsh (Andy Garcia) was the Expendables’ new supervisor from the FBI. There was no sign of betrayal, at least at the movie’s beginning.

However, as the movie progressed, Marsh’s motives became sinister. At the end of The Expend4bles, we learn that Marsh was the evil criminal Ocelot.

Marsh had been close to the Expendables. He was trusted and revered by the team. Yet, he was also one of their most deadliest foes.

A lot of organizations have their own Marsh/Ocelot players. There are people who have infiltrated your organization for their own glory and fame rather than to help the organization grow. There are some who are there to help other organizations succeed.

Know that there may be some dark horses in your organization. They will try to infect your organization with pessimism, doubt, anger, frustration, envy, and more. 

Don’t give a foothold to these people. They’re dangerous and must be out of the organization you lead.

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