Today’s Reel Leadership article is a throwback to a crazy time in the world of movies. It’s the 1990’s and actor Steven Seagal has just gotten his start in the movie world.
Prior to Marked For Death, he had two other movies. Those movies are Above The Law and Hard To Kill. Since then, his movie and television appearances have jumped to almost 60 credited roles, most of those being in movies.
You may wonder why I chose a Steven Seagal movie for today’s Reel Leadership article. You may also wonder why the subtitle of this article is A Hard To Watch Reel Leadership Article.
It’s simple. I’m part of a project where 57 writers, film watchers, and others have joined together to write a 1,000 article for a new book. The book is Hard To Watch, chronicling all of Steven Seagal’s appearances and what they mean to us.
I chose Marked For Death because it was one of his earlier films. I had to believe it would be better than his later films. I’m pretty sure I was wrong.
Marked For Death (buy or watch it on Amazon) was hard to watch. But, being hard to watch doesn’t mean there are not leadership lessons to be found. There are and that’s what we’re going to look at today.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Marked For Death
1. Chico (Richard Delmonte):
What are you? Are you crazy?
Chico was DEA agent John Hatcher’s partner in Colombia. They recently apprehended Hector (Danny Trejo) and had a planned drug buy.
The bust of Hector was messy. Lots of people saw Chico and John running around Colombia. Chico was concerned they had been recognized.
He cautioned John that they should reconsider going to the buy. If they were compromised, they would be dead.
John didn’t listen to Chico. During the buy, they were found out. Chico was shot and killed…
Leaders are more like John than Chico if we are to be honest. We’re headstrong and figure we know the right way to do things.
We can fail to listen to those around us. We can push them aside for our own desires.
As we do this, trouble begins to happen. We lose the wisdom and insight of our closest allies.
We need to stop and listen to the people in our lives. They are there to speak wisdom into the decisions we make.
2. Our strengths can be used against us:
The drug deal went south. The dealer had found Hector stuffed in the trunk of a car. He was brought in and then everything went crazy.
Guns were drawn. Bullets fired. People died.
One of the drug dealers had a sword. It was his weapon, his strength.
He began to attack John. That didn’t last long.
John grabbed the sword. He swung it around. He chopped off the bad guy’s hand.
The bad guy had a strength. The strength became his weakness when it was used against him.
Be wary of your strengths. They’re good. They helped you get to where you are.
Yet, if we’re not careful, those strengths can be used to hurt you.
3. We have to know when too far is too far:
The movie cuts to John Hatcher in a confessional booth. He’s confessing his sins to a Catholic priest.
The things he tells the priest could be shocking. Yet they’re not.
He begins to tell the priest of the men he’s killed. Then he tells about the women he’s slept with to get information. Lastly, he shares about the drugs he’s done to get in good with the bad guys.
All of this was done for the job. He needed to seem legit so he did bad things.
At this point in his life, John has realized he’s gone too far. He’s done the wrong things, maybe for the right reasons (in his mind) but they were still too far.
Leaders can get caught in the trap of going too far to get the job done.
This can look like creative financing methods to balance the books. Or maybe you’re staying late in the office while neglecting your family at home. Or it could be snapping at your team members when something goes wrong.
We can go too far. We often go too far.
This is something we need to keep an eye on. We can’t go too far. When we go too far, we’re no longer doing good. We’re doing evil.
4. We need a place to rest:
John was tired of all the death, the lies, the wrongdoing. He retired from the DEA and returned to his hometown of Lincoln Heights.
There, he stayed with his family. His mother, Kate Hatcher (Bette Ford), was there and he admitted to her how tired he was.
Her response was great. She told him he had come to the right place to rest.
Leaders will get tired. There’s no denying this. Yet we try to.
We keep pushing and pushing and pushing. We think we can get through without rest. We’re wrong.
We need to find a place to rest. This could be a sanctuary at home, your local church, or a remote getaway.
Find the place that calls to you and says “Rest here.”
5. Beware of peer pressure:
A posse of Jamaican drug dealers had entered into Lincoln Heights. They were flooding the city with crack. People were dying but no one seemed to do a thing about it.
At the local high school, a student was approached by the drug dealers. They gave him weed to smoke. He enjoyed it and then two girls joined him.
The Jamaican drug dealer told them the weed was good but he had something better… Crack. However, he didn’t think they could handle the crack.
One of the girls buckled. She quickly spoke up and said she would try it.
Peer pressure is real, even to adults. We can see other leaders doing and trying things we long to be doing. Because of this, we can fall into a trap of doing what others are doing simply because they’re doing it.
Be cautious of the reasons behind your actions. Make sure you’re not leading or taking on projects simply because of peer pressure.
6. Problems continue to get worse:
Max (Keith David) was the coach at the high school. He’d been there for years.
Every year, he saw the problems of the students continue to grow. The biggest problem he used to face was whether or not a football player would get a girl pregnant. That’s a big problem. Still, there were bigger problems coming.
This year, the big problem was drugs. He now had to worry about students overdosing and dying. That’s an even bigger problem.
You may not want to admit this but the problems you faced 10 years ago were probably small potatoes compared to some of the problems you’re facing today. Every year, there are new, worsening problems to deal with.
You have to step forward and continue to face these problems. If you don’t, you’re at a standstill for leadership.
Be someone who is willing to face problems, even if they’re bad.
7. The way you enter into leadership matters:
FBI Agent Lt. Sal Roselli (Kevin Dunn) entered into the town of Lincoln Heights after the shootout with the Jamaican drug dealers. When he entered, he was rude and abrasive to Sheriff O’Dwyer (Stanley White). He basically pushed him out of the way and took over the investigation.
You can’t blame the guy. A lot of crap went down and a lot of people died. However, the way he entered into the situation left a negative impact on the sheriff. O’Dwyer told Roselli he wouldn’t forget.
We can enter into a leadership position in a thousand different ways. Some of those ways are good. Others will be bad.
We have to do our best to enter into our leadership positions positively. If we do, we will be able to impact those we lead easier than if we upset them by our entrance.
8. The loved ones of leaders can be hurt unintentionally:
John had helped stop the shootout between the Jamaicans and Colombians. He stepped in and did what he knew to do.
This had consequences. The Jamaican posse knew John had been a part of stopping the shooting. They set their sights on him.
A crew of the Jamaicans drove by his sister’s home. They pulled out their guns as they slowly rolled by. Then, they opened fire, hitting his young niece Tracey (Danielle Harris).
Tracey was hurt, badly. Her mother, Melissa (Elizabeth Green), was angry with John. His actions caused the unintentional injury of her daughter.
Every action you take has a consequence. These consequences can come back to hurt your loved ones.
You may choose to do what a bad leader does and cook the books. When the government discovers this, your family may be caught in the crossfire. Or you may have to let an employee go. This employee may be angry and say bad things about you and your family.
Your family, your loved ones can be hurt because you’re a leader. Be prepared for this.
9. People are looking to blame someone:
John’s sister Melissa was looking for someone to blame when her daughter was shot. She chose John as the target of her anger.
She hit him. She told him it was all his fault. She blamed John.
Be aware people will look to place the blame on you. They will do this because you are the leader.
Leaders take the blame. They give the credit.
10. Know your turning point:
John wanted to be out of the killing business. It had ruined so much of his life. Yet, he had a turning point and went back to it.
John’s turning point was the shooting of his niece. Her being caught in the crossfire lit a fire in John. He sprung into action and began to take out the Jamaicans.
We all have a turning point. Our turning point is when we realize we’re a leader and we must lead.
Look back at your history. See where your turning point was.
This is a major event in your life. Knowing when and why you became a leader will help you lead well into the future.
11. Leadership will take you on quite the journey:
Screwface (Basil Wallace) was the leader of the Jamaican posse. As John, Max, and Jamaican police officer Charles (Tom Wright) closed in on him, Screwface fled back to Jamaica.
This meant John, Max, and Charles had to go there to extract justice. They hopped on a plane and flew to Jamaica.
You never know where leadership will take you. You may hop from organization to organization or you may stick with one for 30 years. Your leadership position may stay on the bottom rung of the leadership ladder or you may progress to the senior executive level.
Leadership is a fun journey. You never know where you’ll end up.
What you can know is that it will be a journey.
12. Know your competition:
John had infiltrated Screwface’s heavily guarded compound. There, he beheaded Screwface. He, Charles, and Max went to the remaining Jamaicans and told them Screwface was dead. Scram!
You’re about to cheer for victory at this point. Then the threat reappears.
Screwface is still alive. He stabs and kills Charles. John pursues him and winds up killing him for the second time.
Of course, this second Screwface isn’t the one John killed. This Screwface is the twin of the one who died.
This was foreshadowed by the cryptic words of Screwface’s mistress. She had informed John that Screwface had two faces and four eyes. If he had known his competition better, Charles may not have died.
We have to know our competition. They know about us. What do you know about them.
Study your competition. Get to know what they do, how they do it, and why they do it.
You can learn a lot about your competition. With this knowledge, you can either improve your methods, figure out a way to take out your competition, or ways to partner with them.
Knowing your competition will help you survive and thrive.