In the 1990s, martial arts movies were all the rage. With stars such as Steven Seagal, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Brandon Lee, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, the theaters were full of martial arts action.
Today’s Reel Leadership article brings us back to the beginning of the 90s. Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in the movie Lionheart.
The story is as follows:
Lyon Gaultier (Van Damme) received word that his brother, Francois (Ash Adams), had been hurt in a drug deal gone bad. The drug dealers beat him, poured gasoline on him, lit him on fire, and left him for dead. Lyon leaves his post in the French Foreign Legion to return home against his commanding officers’ orders.
He made his way to the United States. There, he began to enter street fights to earn money to travel to Los Angeles to see his brother. After his brother passes, Lyon continues the street fights to raise money for his sister-in-law Helene (Lisa Pelikan), and niece Nicole (Ashley Johnson).
This leads up to one insane final fight…
Through all of the action, there are plenty of leadership lessons to see in Lionheart. Let’s dive into those leadership lessons now!
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Lionheart
1. Doctor (Eric Karson):
In cases like this, it’s impossible to make any kind of prediction.
Francois had been brought into the hospital. The doctor saw Francois’ condition. The prognosis wasn’t good.
Sharing with Helene, the doctor didn’t want to make any kind of prediction. Things were too up in the air.
You will be put into situations like the doctor in Lionheart. You will be asked to make a prediction when there’s no way to make an accurate prediction.
COVID-19 has shown us this.
There are times when you see something so unexpected, out of the ordinary, there is no way to make a prediction or cast a vision. Be ready to admit to the fact you can’t make a prediction in good faith.
2. Lyon Gaultier:
I never gave up my family.
The French Foreign Legion had kept the letter from Helene a secret. They never delivered it to Lyon until much later.
After receiving the letter, Lyon wanted to leave the French Foreign Legion to take care of his family. The commanding general wouldn’t let him leave.
Why? Because the general believed Lyon gave up everything when he signed up for the French Foreign Legion.
I loved this line from Lyon. It exemplifies what’s wrong in business and what great leaders do.
The general believed Lyon gave up everything to be a part of the French Foreign Legion. There are business leaders who believe when someone joins the organization, they have now sworn complete loyalty to the organization.
People don’t give up the rest of their life for the organization they’re a part of. They work with the organization to make everything better.
Don’t expect your employees to give up their families and life for the organization.
3. The path to leadership is dirty:
To get to the United States, Lyon hopped on a ship. His role was in the boiler room feeding the coal-fired engine.
This role wasn’t glorious. It was hot. It was dirty. It was a lot of work.
The path to leadership is similar to Lyon’s path. You don’t start as a leader.
Instead, your path to leadership is full of hard work. Dirty work. Work that you may not like.
Work hard to get to a place where you have influence. This will take time and effort.
You can do it!
4. Don’t be deceitful:
The man who gave Lyon the job on the ship was deceitful. He made Lyon believe he was going to get to Los Angeles. One of the rules on the boat was that he had to stay below deck.
Lyon broke this rule. He went to the deck and saw something he wasn’t expecting to see. He saw the Twin Towers in New York.
They were a long way from Los Angeles.
When confronted, the ship’s mate (Lew Hopson) told Lyon he wouldn’t see the United States. He was going to continue working on the boat.
Some leaders promise their team members great things. They may promise a promotion or a raise or a gift.
When the time comes, nothing happens. The leader conveniently forgets or reneges on the promise.
Don’t be this kind of leader. Don’t be deceitful to get your way.
5. Don’t worry if no one bets on you:
Lyon entered into a street fight. No one there was willing to bet on him.
He was the underdog, the new guy. No one thought he could do anything. Joshua (Harrison Page) let Lyon no bets were placed for him.
They were wrong. Lyon won the fight easily.
You will be the underdog. People will think you can’t get the job done.
Don’t listen to those people. You don’t need people backing you.
You need to believe in yourself. Then others will believe in you.
6. What’s your name?:
Lyon had told Joshua his name was Lyon. Joshua changed it to The Lion.
After introducing Lyon to Cynthia (Deborah Rennard), an underground fight promoter, Cynthia changed Lyon’s name to Lionheart.
Each person gave Lyon a new name. His name changed based on the person he was interacting with.
You don’t have to change your name. You do need to know what your name is.
Knowing your name, who you are will go a long way. It will guide you and make sure you’re staying on the right path.
7. Money isn’t worth it:
Lyon made a lot of money in his fight. The fight netted him $5,000 for one night’s worth of work.
He was asked to continue to fight. Lyon turned down future fights. He had a mission. He had a place to be.
The people couldn’t believe he turned down all the money he could make. They thought he was crazy.
People will look at you like you’re crazy if you truly discover why you’re leading. You’re not leading because of the money. You’re leading because of something deeper.
Your reason for leading may be to take care of your family. It may be to raise up new leaders.
Whatever your reason, it will be more than money.
8. You can be too late:
After turning down the additional fights, Lyon heads to Los Angeles. He arrives and discovers his brother had passed away. He was too late.
For everything he did, he couldn’t make it to Los Angeles in time. He tried as hard as he could, but it wasn’t enough.
Leaders, you will work as hard as you can. You will pour your life into your work. You will make a difference.
And, sometimes, you won’t make a difference. All the work you put in may be too little, too late.
This is the way life goes. This is the way leadership goes.
Don’t give up just because you were late once. You can get things back on track.
Cynthia, I am not your toy.
Cynthia was attracted to Lyon. She thought he was handsome, strong, attractive. She wanted him as her toy.
Lyon stood up to her. He told her no. He wouldn’t sleep with her.
This shocked Cynthia. She wasn’t used to this.
Leaders can be a lot like Cynthia. They think their team members are their toys to play with.
Your team members are not toys. They are not pawns. They are real people.
Treat them as such.
Look, I’m going to fight for you. I have to live like a fighter. This place is too nice to me, too soft, too easy.
Cynthia was shocked when Lyon said he wouldn’t stay in the swanky hotel she was putting him up in. Lyon knew something. He couldn’t be the fighter he needed to be if he continued to live in the lap of luxury.
He chose to go to a harder place of living so he could become a better fighter.
What challenges, what stress are you willing to go through to become a better leader?
You don’t become a better leader living in the lap of luxury. Good times don’t make a good leader. Leaders who lead through the tough times are the ones who come out stronger, come out better.
Look for ways to improve your leadership. If you’re too comfortable, it may be time to figure out how to challenge yourself.
11. You never know what’s going on on the inside:
The street fights Lyon fought in were fought in various locations. Under a bridge, in a parking garage, on a pickleball court, a fancy hotel, in a pool.
These locations are not places you would think a fight would happen. They were.
Looking at this, you can see there’s a lot of things going on inside of people that you never see. These are the hidden challenges and struggles.
Realize things are happening in your people that you do not see.
12. Bad leaders get rid of their people after they’ve used them:
Cynthia was a bad leader in every way. She bet against her own fighters. She was willing to hand Lyon over to Sgt. Hartog (Vojislav Govedarica) and Moustafa (Michel Qissi) from the French Foreign Legion. She was willing to see her fighters hurt or killed by fighters such as Attila (Abdel Qissi).
This is bad leadership 101.
It’s use and abuse. Then dispose.
Great leaders don’t do this. Great leaders see their people as valuable.
Don’t dispose of your people.
You’ve got a big heart, Lionheart.
Lyon wanted to take Helene and Nicole away from everything. He was willing to fight to raise the money to do so.
Not only did he want to get his family out of the fighting game, but he was also willing to take Cynthia with him. He had a huge heart.
Great leaders have a big heart. They care for those they lead.
They want to help them succeed, grow, and be fruitful.
Be a leader who cares for his team. You won’t regret it.