Quotes And Leadership Lessons From John Wick 3: Parabellum

A Reel Leadership Article

It all started with a dog. A dog that was slain by someone attacking John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and his home. Now, we’re three films into the John Wick franchise and it only keeps getting better.

John Wick 3: Parabellum continues moments after John Wick Chapter Two ends. John has been excommunicated from the assassin community he was a part of. He’s had a huge bounty placed on his head. And he has nowhere to go.

John Wick standing in a downpour

Keanu Reeves as John Wick

This leads to one of the best action movies to release in the recent past. John Wick takes action and violence to a new level.

You’ll also notice something else in John Wick 3: Parabellum. Loads of leadership lessons. The movie is filled with ways to lead better, if only you pay attention. Let’s dive into those Reel Leadership lessons and see what you can take away from the latest John Wick movie.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From John Wick 3: Parabellum

1. Winston (Ian McShane)

He knew the rules. He broke them.

Winston, the manager of the Continental Hotel, had to excommunicate John Wick in Chapter 2. In the opening scene of John Wick Chapter 3, he is talking about how he had to excommunicate John because John broke the rules.

Winston’s role is one of justice and order. He knew he had rules to follow. He also knew John was okay with the ruling.

There’s two leadership lessons here. The first is that if you break the rules, you need to be willing to accept the consequences. John Wick was. He walked away from the hotel and began to prepare for war (what Parabellum means).

The second is, if you’re in a place of leadership where it’s your job to maintain order, you have to be willing to execute the consequences of those you lead. Someone breaks the rules, you have to make sure the results are carried out.

2. Prepare for bad times:

John Wick was a man who knew things would go sideways one day. For his rainy day, he had his valuables stored in a book at a local library.

He was able to quickly access them when things went bad. He didn’t have to wait to pull them out. No, he was able to go straight there and get what he needed. He was prepared.

What are you doing to prepare for bad times? There are a couple of things leaders can do to prepare for shortfalls and bad times.

Prepared leaders will:

  • Try to have a cash reserve if business tanks
  • Learn new skills to stay relevant in their line of business
  • Have friends they can call on
  • Look for creative solutions to problems
  • Know where and who to go to

Do what prepared leaders do. Find ways to make the bad times easier to get through.

3. A good paycheck is worth nothing if you can’t spend it:

John had to act quickly. Winston had given him a reprieve before the other assassins would attack him. The clock wouldn’t start ticking until 6 P.M.

This would be the time the assassins could begin their assault on John. However, one assassin, Ernest (Boban Marjanovic), wanted to get in on the action early.

Ernest attacked John before the contract went into effect. He figured he could get a jumpstart and take down John before the others. The paycheck was big, after all.

However, Ernest wouldn’t be able to spend the paycheck. John took out Ernest and continued on his way.

You may think a paycheck is worth taking the job. Sometimes it is not.

You have to weigh what you gain from the paycheck of working for an organization to what you’re going to wind up paying. Take into consideration the hours you’ll work to bring home the back. Or maybe how little you’ll see your family. Or what are the health costs of working in a toxic environment?

If you can’t spend or enjoy the paycheck, it’s not worth it.

4. Doctor (Randall Duk Kim)

I’m sorry Mr. Wick. There are rules.

In his fight with Ernest, John had been stabbed. He knew who to go to: The Doctor.

The Doctor knew there was a hit out on John. He also knew it didn’t start until 6 P.M. He was willing to help John until the time was up.

When 6 P.M. hit, the Doctor stopped stitching. He told John he was done. Rules are rules.

The Doctor knew the consequences if he didn’t stop working on John. He knew he would be killed, or worse, if he kept stitching. Do you know the consequences of breaking the rules in your organization?

You need to know which rules are worth breaking and which ones are not. Sometimes, you can get away with skirting around the rules. Other times, there are harsh consequences. Know which rules you’re willing to face the consequences for.

5. Leadership can be too much for some people:

I’ve been a huge proponent of saying everyone can be a leader. They can but it can also be too much for some people.

I saw this in John Wick 3: Parabellum during the fight scenes. They were intense. They were gory. And they kept the movie going.

However, there were many times I had to turn my head from the action. Things became too much for me to watch.

The same thing happens in leadership. There are people who can get through the extremely challenging times of leadership. Then there are those who can’t. They only have a surface level ability to lead.

Know that leadership isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing to go through the good times and bad times with those you lead. If you can’t make it through the tough times, it may be time to rethink what you’re doing.

6. Know who you are

John Wick was looking for a way out of the city. He had a desire to get to Casablanca. To do this, he visited The Director (Anjelica Huston) and grovels at her feet.

While doing this, he is confident in who he is. He tells The Director his Russian name, Jardoni Jonovich. He also shares he is an orphan of the Belarus tribe.

John knew who he was. He knew what he was owed. He wasn’t afraid to let it be known.

As a leader, it is important you know who you are. Knowing who you are will help you stand firm in the face of adversity. When those challenging times I mentioned previously come knocking, you can stand strong in knowing who you are.

Seek to discover who you are. What makes you special? How do you contribute to an organization? Why should you be a leader?

These questions will help you when you most need an answer.

7. The Director:

Tell me Jardoni, what is it you really want?

The Director knew she had to get a straight answer from John. She questioned John point blank. She asked him directly what he wanted.

Do you know what happened? She got an answer.

Great leaders are willing to ask direct, pointed questions. They know this is the only way they can get to the root cause of issues or the desires of their team.

Learn to ask questions that will help you get the real answers.

8. Leaders stand firm:

Because of the exceptions that were made with John Wick, the High Table sent in an Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon). One of the people she visited was The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne).

The Adjudicator told the Bowery King it was time for his kingdom to fall. He would no longer lead the Bowery. He needed to step down.

The Bowery King had a different idea. He would not step down. He would not abdicate his position.

The work he had done and would do was too important. He was going to stand firm.

When challenging times come, what do you do? Do you quiver in the face of adversity or do you stand firm?

Leaders know they can’t quiver when challenges come. They have to stand firm. They have to hold their command and do what is right.

9. Ask for help:

In John Wick, there are a lot of different types of currency. There’s the currency you can spend. Then there’s the currency you can ask for a favor.

John had received a token of indebtedness from Sofia (Halle Berry). He knew he needed help. And he went to her to ask for her assistance.

What happened? John received her assistance. She stood by him and helped him fight and get what he needed.

Are you willing to ask for help when you need it? Great leaders are willing to ask for help. They don’t see shame in doing so.

Rather, they know by asking for help, they’re going to get help. People want to help you. You have to be open to receiving help.

10. Be quick to act:

While in Casablanca, John entered into a firefight with multiple assassins. They all emptied their guns. Only one was able to reload in time and get shots off.

This guy was John, of course. He had trained to be quick on the draw and quick on the reload.

His quickness allowed him to survive the battle. The assassins, they weren’t so lucky.

You may be tempted to hem and haw over making decisions. You think slow and steady will win the race. That’s right, most of the time.

Yet there are plenty of times when you have to be quick to act. You have to see into the future and make a move.

Great leaders are willing to act quickly when the time is right.

11. Take care of those you lead:

One of the fun things about the John Wick movies is the inclusion of dogs into the films. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum is no different. There were plenty of dogs.

Sofia was the caretaker of two dogs herself. She knew she had to care for and love those dogs.

As she took John into the desert to seek out The Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui), Sofia stopped to let her dogs drink. She knew they needed sustenance to survive. She was willing to care for those dogs and make sure they received it.

Whenever I think about taking care of those you lead, I think of Simon Sinek and his book Leaders Eat Last. He shares how in the military, the leaders let their team eat first. They know without the proper nutrition, their team would be less effective.

You have a responsibility to those you lead. They may be adults but they’re also under your command… This means you have a responsibility to care for them. Look for ways you can make sure they’re getting the things they need.

12. Team members can hurt other team members:

In an exciting scene, John Wick is pursued by Zero’s (Mark Dacascos) men. Zero is an assassin brought in by the Adjudicator.

John and these men were on motorcycles. They were zipping in and out of traffic at high rates of speed. Then one of the assassins hopped on the back of another’s motorcycle.

He let his motorcycle go. His motorcycle then veered into the path of another assassin and took him out. Whoopsie!

You and your team members have to be careful of how you treat one another and what you’re doing to get ahead. Your actions and those you lead may lead to pain for others.

Try your best to not let this happen. When team members hurt one another, it is never good for the organization.

13. Find a safe place:

Safe places often get made fun of. Yet safe places are important to leaders.

We see this in John Wick when John arrives back at the Continental. He places his hand on the steps of the hotel and Charon (Lance Reddick) tells Zero to stand down.

The Continental was a safe place. John knew this. At least he hoped it would be despite what had previously happened. Thankfully, it turned out it was a safe place for John.

Find a place where you can have safety. This could be shutting your door in your office. Or you might get away to the beach and allow the peaceful sounds to soothe you.

Safe places are okay. They help you relax. They help you to know you are going to be okay. And they can keep you sane.

14. Winston:

Who do you wish to die as, Jonathan?

Ouch! Tough question from Winston. A question Winston had to ask, though.

John had come back to kill him. He’d been sent by the Elder to do so. Winston knew John better than that. He knew John was honorable.

This is why he asked John who he wished to die as. He knew John didn’t want to die as a dishonorable man. This saved Winston’s life.

Think about this question. Who do you want to die as?

It would behoove leaders to think about this. You need to have a path to the destination you desire. If you can’t clearly articulate who you want to die as, can you clearly articulate who you want to live as?

15. Get input about yourself from others:

Winston told John Wick to do what he does best. John asked Winston “What is that?”

John received his answer from Winston. Winston told John that John hunts better than anyone else. And, John hunted those who were attacking the hotel.

You may think you know yourself better than anyone else. I would challenge this belief. We often get a false sense of who we are.

This is why going to those who truly know you will help you discover yourself. You can go to friends and family. To coworkers. To bosses.

Ask these people who you are and what you do best. The answers you receive will be different than what you think about yourself. They’ll also be truthful.

You will learn a lot about yourself by seeking input from others.

16. Respect your competition:

John Wick had to battle some of Zero’s men in hand to hand combat. These men took the time to show John respect. They told John it was an honor to fight with him.

This was a sign of respect. They could have just attacked John. Instead, they chose to thank him for the chance to battle with him and test his skills.

Your organization has competition. You may think they need to be taken out and not respected.

However, you should take a lesson from Zero’s men. They knew John was a formidable opponent. Thus, they had to thank him.

What if you thanked your competition? Could you turn the tide of your business by showing respect and gratitude for the competition that is driving you to become better?

Give it a shot.

17. You can get better:

It’s amazing. Normally sequels tend to pale in comparison to their predecessors. John Wick 3 isn’t that kind of movie.

Rather, John Wick 3 shows you can improve over time. John Wick 3 may be the best movie in the series so far.

Always work on improving yourself. Never think your best days are behind you.

Know your best days are ahead of you. You can do better work today, tomorrow, and in the future.

18. Leave room for more:

John Wick 3 could have ended without the chance of a sequel. It didn’t end that way. This movie ended with room for another sequel.

You may think you have to pack everything into your latest project. Or maybe your vision needs to be all-encompassing.

It doesn’t. You don’t need to do everything at once. You can leave room for more.

Cover image for book Leadership Lessons From John Wick

JUST RELEASED: The Leadership Lessons From John Wick Kindle eBook has been released. This eBook contains leadership lessons from all 3 John Wick movies. You can pick up your copy on Amazon.

Question: Have you seen John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum? If you have, what leadership lessons did you find in the movie? If you haven’t, what Reel Leadership lessons from John Wick 3: Parabellum that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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