Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Honest Thief

A Reel Leadership Article

It’s been a long time since I’ve stepped foot in a movie theater (except seeing The New Mutants at the Getty 4 drive-in). Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, theaters have been shut down in Michigan for close to 7 months. That’s a long time when you see one or two movies a week.

This week, I decided to go back to the theater because they recently reopened. The experience was surreal. It felt different. It was different. It was okay, though.

Liam Neeson as Tom in Honest Thief. Holding a gun.

We decided to see Honest Theif starring Liam Neeson. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Liam Neeson. His work on the Taken series, The Commuter, Cold Pursuit, The Dark Knight Rises, and other movies always fascinates me. He typically plays the same role, just a different movie. That’s okay. That’s why I love Liam Neeson!

Honest Thief was no different. Liam Neeson’s Tom has a certain set of skills that makes him dangerous. First, he’s a cunning bank robber. Then we discover he was in the military and knew how to assemble and dismantle bombs. That’s an uh-oh for the bad guys!

Tom chooses to leave his life of crime behind after meeting Annie (Kate Walsh) at a storage rental facility. He falls head over heels in love with her. His life changed all because of the love they shared.

He wanted to make right what he had done wrong. He contacted the FBI to turn himself in. This is where it all goes wrong. It’s also where the Reel Leadership lessons begin.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Honest Thief

1. Pinpointing the problem can be difficult:

Tom was a bank robber. He had committed more than 8 bank robberies in 6 years. The FBI agents investigating the bank robberies had no suspect. They couldn’t pinpoint who was committing the crimes.

This was a real head-scratcher for the Agents Sam Baker (Robert Patrick) and Agent Miles Meyers (Jeffrey Donovan of Burn Notice fame). They were investigating the crimes but couldn’t figure who did it.

You will run into problems that are hard to pinpoint. You may know what is wrong. You may even have an idea of what is causing the problem. But pinpointing exactly what is going on is difficult.

Don’t get upset. Leadership isn’t about having the answers. Leadership is about finding the answers.

Keep working on the problem. You will get to the solution.

2. Give people choices:

Annie gave Tom options when renting the storage unit. He could choose from a small, medium, or large storage unit.

A choice was given. The decision was up to Tom.

People love choices. They feel a sense of ownership and pride when they get to choose.

Allow your people to choose. This could be how a job gets done, the timeline of a project, or when they work.

Choices are good.

3. People can only take in so much at one time:

Tom had surprised Annie with a tour of a house that was for sale. During the tour, Tom asked her if she would like them to buy it and move in together.

This was a huge surprise. It was overwhelming.

Tom also wanted to tell Annie something else (his criminal ways). However, Annie asked him to tell her another day. She had enough surprises for the night.

We may want to overwhelm our team with information. We believe the more they know, the better off they will be.

I believe this to be true.

Your team needs information. They need to know the how’s and the why’s.

What they don’t need is all of the information in one go. You can split up how you deliver the information to your team.

Make sure you’re not hitting your team with a firehose. Give them a slow drip.

4. Sam Baker:

You thought this through.

Tom had called the FBI agents to turn himself in. He talked with Agent Baker to discuss his surrender, even though Baker wasn’t sure he was the In And Out Bandit.

Tom had a list of demands he wanted before he turned himself in and the money over. The list was specific and detailed. He knew what he wanted.

This surprised Baker. He realized Tom had thought this through.

We have to be like Tom. Not in the criminal sense but in the way we think through problems.

You have to figure out exactly what you’re willing to do. What you’re willing to give up. And what you want.

Think through your problems. Don’t bulldoze through your problems.

5. Ask for proof:

Agent Baker didn’t want to bother with Tom’s claim. He decided to send two young agents, Nivens (Jai Courtney) and Hall (Anthony Ramos), to investigate Tom’s claims.

When they arrived, the two agents asked for proof. They wanted information that hadn’t been made public. The information they wanted could only come from someone who had committed the crime.

It’s okay to ask for proof as you’re leading. Whether the proof you need is how the job got done or how much time was spent on a project, you can ask.

Proof is a way to verify what was said or done actually got done in the right way. Be willing to ask.

6. Beware the slippery slope:

Agents Hall and Nivens had pinched small things from crime scenes and criminals before. They saw it as an okay thing to do.

When they heard of the millions of dollars Tom had from the bank robberies, they were intrigued. They were given a key to the storage facility where $3,000,000 of the money was stored.

This was too big of a score for them to let go.

Their small indiscretions led to a bigger indiscretion.

You may think you’re only doing one or two things wrong. That it won’t matter in the long run.

The truth is that the little things matter. They lead to much bigger issues down the road.

If you start out doing small things wrong, it won’t be long before you can’t get back up the slippery slope and fall down the slope.

7. It takes courage to talk about your past:

Tom had tried to tell Annie about his past. Every time he tried to, he stopped short of telling her the truth.

He eventually came clean. He told her about the bank robberies and what he had done.

Why hadn’t he told Annie the truth about his past? He didn’t have the courage to do it.

It takes courage to talk about your past. You will have to share your hurts, your wrongs, and your failures.

Sharing these things is hard. They take courage.

Find the courage to share your past with your team. They need to hear that you’re failable too.

8. People have reasons for doing what they do:

Tom shared with Annie why he became a bank robber. His reasoning doesn’t make it right, but it does offer insight into his line of thinking.

While he was overseas fighting in the war, his mother died of cancer. His father struggled with his mother’s death. When he retired, he discovered the CEO of the organization he worked for had embezzled the money from his employee’s pensions.  This led Tom’s father to commit suicide by driving into a tree.

Tom saw robbing banks as a way to get back at the people who had wronged his family. The first bank Tom robbed? The bank that had held the pensions that were embezzled.

People do strange things and, as a leader, you may wonder why they do what they do. You have to figure out their reasons for their actions.

There are reasons behind what they do. It may be hidden or tucked away. But the reasons are there.

Figure them out and you can lead them better.

9. Agent Hall:

What I can’t believe is you.

Agent Hall and Nevins had committed a horrendous crime. First, they took $3,000,000 from Tom’s stash. Then Nevins shot and killed Agent Baker. Nevins then tried to kill Annie.

This was a departure from what Hall knew about Nevins. Hall began to have a hard time believing the things Nevins was willing to do.

Watch the people you lead. You can tell a lot from the way they act and speak.

This isn’t to trap them. This is to figure out if something is wrong or if something has changed.

You will see a difference in people if they’ve changed. Note it and try to figure out what changed.

10. Leaders can forget what they’ve taught others:

Hall and his wife were lying in their bed. Hall was distracted, and his wife could tell.

He mentioned it was work stuff. His wife asked him a question.

The answer to the question was that Hall had taught his wife that doing the right thing will work things out.

Hall had forgotten he had told his wife this. It was something he should have remembered.

Leaders can be a lot like Hall. We start to go down a path we shouldn’t, and we forget what we’ve taught others.

Watch out for the things you forget. They will be valuable to you, and you will need to follow your own advice.

11. Agent Hall:

I knew I was wrong.

Tom and Hall had a discussion. Hall told Tom he knew that what he was doing was wrong.

This hadn’t stopped Hall from doing the wrong things. Still, he knew deep down what he was doing was wrong.

Listen to the inner voice you hear. Listen to your conscience. This voice will tell you if you’re on the right path or not.

Please don’t ignore it. You will run into trouble when you begin to ignore what you know is right.

12. Money isn’t worth it:

Hall finally came to his senses. He told Nevins that the money wasn’t worth it. He regretted being a part of the robbery.

It took Hall awhile to come around to the truth, but in the end he did. Hall finally realized the money wasn’t worth the shame, anguish, and pain caused by the wrongdoing.

You will be tempted by money. Money will tell you it is worth doing whatever it takes to get more.

Don’t listen to the lie of money.

Giving up the things that are important for more money isn’t worth it. In the end, you will pay more than money is worth.

13. Delegating to the wrong people is dangerous:

Agent Baker had delegated his responsibility of investigating the In And Out Bandit to Nevins and Hall. He felt the lead wasn’t credible, and he couldn’t be bothered by it.

In the end, his choice led to his death. Nevins and Hall decided to go rogue and take the money. Then, Nevins decided to kill Baker.

Had Baker chosen to investigate the claims himself, he wouldn’t have died.

As leaders, we have to have a level of trust in those we lead. We also have to be cautious about the responsibilities we give to others.

Make sure the team members you’re trusting to get the work done are trustworthy. They may not be. It could cost you more than you’re willing to pay.

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