Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Midnight Special

A Reel Leadership Article

I recently checked out the movie Midnight Special because of an article on Inverse. The article stated Midnight Special was the most underrated sci-fi movie on Netflix (also available on Amazon Video). This statement piqued my interest, so I added it to my Netflix watchlist.

I’m glad I did. Midnight Special told a strange but touching story of a father and son on the run as they try to save his life.

Jaeden Martell in Midnight Special as Alton Meyer

Alton (Jaeden Martell) is a special young man. There’s something wrong with him and he needs to get to a specific location by a specific date. His father, Roy (Michael Shannon), believes his son and kidnaps him from the cult he’d been living with.

Along with Roy, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) is helping them flee. Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) is Alton’s mom and eventually joins them on their crusade.

If you’re into sci-fi movies, check out Midnight Special. It’s a unique film you will enjoy.

More than enjoy, though, you will leave a better leader. Get ready for today’s Reel Leadership article.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Midnight Special

1. Leaders speak up when they see something isn’t right:

Lucas and Roy had stayed at a motel with Alton. As they were leaving, the front desk reception saw them leave.

She’d just seen a news report about the missing boy and made a decision. She was going to contact the authorities. She did.

Leaders aren’t idle when they see something is wrong. They take in the situation and make a choice. The choice that is made is to say something or do something.

You’re in a position of leadership because you were willing to do the hard thing. Speaking up is the hard thing.

2. Look for out of the box solutions:

Lucas was driving down a desolate road at night. He made an interesting choice to help them not be seen.

Lucas asked for a pair of goggles in the glove box. Roy retrieved them, and we see that the goggles are actually night vision goggles.

Once Lucas dons the night vision goggles, he kills the headlights and taillights of the car. He’s driving without any lights other than the night vision goggles.

Lucas thought out of the box in using the goggles to avoid detection. In what ways do you need to think outside of the box?

Outside of the box thinking will get you things you’ve never experienced before. Go for those crazy ideas.

3. We get caught in other people’s messes:

As the trio was driving down the road, there was a stalled car in the middle of the intersection and another vehicle hits it. Lucas avoids an accident and pulls over. He runs to the car to check on the woman.

She’s hurt and needs help. A police officer arrived shortly and recognized Lucas’ car. He drew his weapon and they were in a stand-off.

It wasn’t Lucas’ fault there was a car accident. He tried to do the right thing. He got caught up in another person’s mess.

Leaders will get caught up in other people’s messes. It’s not because they look for the messes. Leaders get caught in the mess because they’re in the action of things. They’re looking for ways to help.

Leadership is messy. It will involve you getting your hands dirty. Don’t avoid the mess.

4. Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepard):

You all have no idea what you’re dealing with, do ya?

Calvin was the leader of the cult at the ranch. The FBI had brought him in for questioning in regards to Alton’s missing/kidnapping.

Calvin knew more about the boy than the FBI did. He knew what Alton was. The FBI didn’t.

He warned the FBI agents, Paul Sevier (Adam Driver from the new Star Wars movies) and Agent Miller (Paul Sparks), that they were getting mixed up in something dangerous.

Leaders step into situations where they have no idea what they’re getting into. That’s part of leadership.

Leaders not only get into the messy situations. Leaders get into the unknown.

Be prepared as you can for the unknown.

5. Allow for altered schedules:

Hannah (Allison Gabriel) was one of the cult members brought in for questioning. The FBI asked about Alton. Hannah shared the interesting pieces of Alton’s lifestyle.

The cult had allowed Alton to alter his sleeping schedule. Instead of sleeping at night, Alton slept during the day. The night was when Alton would be awake.

It was strange. It was altered. It worked.

What can be altered in your business or workplace? Can schedules be altered to accommodate the lifestyle or needs of your team members?

I encourage you to take an exhaustive look into what you can do to help your team members work on the best schedule possible.

We’ve already seen shifting schedules and remote work can work as we led through COVID. What other kinds of schedule shifting can be done?

6. Lucas:

That’s why he needs them. Reading’s reading.

Roy got upset with Lucas. Lucas had given Alton comic books to read.

Roy thought it was a waste of time. Lucas saw something different. He saw Alton reading and growing from the comic books.

I’m with Lucas on this one. Reading is reading.

We can nitpick and tell people they should only read non-fiction books or self-help or personal improvement books. Ugh, get over yourself.

Leaders and aspiring leaders can grow from any kind of book if they’re willing. I mean, we’re learning from a movie now. Why not comic books or non-fiction books?

I’ve learned lots of great leadership lessons from The Walking Dead comic book series or The X-Men. Leadership lessons are out there for you to find them.

7. A crashing leader’s damage goes far:

While at a gas station, Alton used his powers to bring down a satellite. The satellite came crashing down and destroyed the gas station. However, the gas station wasn’t the only place to experience damage.

The debris from the satellite was spread over 60 miles. It wasn’t localized. It was all over the place.

When a leader crashes and falls from grace, the damage isn’t only to the organization he was leading. The damage from a fallen leader goes far and wide.

Be ready to handle the fallout if one of the leaders in your organization falls.

8. Listen to your team members:

Alton’s condition didn’t allow him to be out in the daylight. If he did, bad things would happen.

Toward the end of Midnight Special, Alton told his father (Roy) that he needed to be awake during the day. He had to go out in the light.

Roy was hesitant. He knew what could happen. Alton pushed and pushed and Roy eventually relented.

When Alton went outside in the light, something began to happen. There was a small explosion and then Alton was okay.

Are you willing to listen to your team members? It would be best if you listened to them. They’re on the front lines. They’re experiencing what’s really happening in your organization.

Leaders who listen to their team members, rather than being a dictator, gain inside knowledge. They’re able to use this knowledge to help improve the organization.

Be a listening leader.

9. You can work together even if you disagree:

Roy believed one thing about Alton. He believed in it so much that he gained others’ trust to help him get Alton to the coordinates he needed to arrive at.

Lucas believed something else about Alton. He believed they should have brought him to a hospital or gotten him help.

The crazy thing is, even though the two men disagreed, they worked together. They did everything they could to help Alton and accomplish the mission.

You, your team members, and others in your organization will have moments were they don’t see eye-to-eye. Someone will believe it is the end of the road and they must get off.

This doesn’t have to be the case. People can work together even if they disagree with one another.

Being willing to work together is all about the mission. Knowing what you’re working for will allow you to make the compromises needed to get things done.

10. Leaders carry others:

As Roy and Alton stepped out into the light, Roy scooped up his son. He began to carry Alton and hold him in his arms.

The explosion and transformation took place shortly after this. Yet, Roy carried Alton.

It can be frustrating to lead others. They can be needy or too slow. It may seem like you can never get anything done because they’re slowing you down.

Have you considered carrying the ones that you’re frustrated with? They may have an issue that needs addressing. Carry them through it. They may have no idea what’s going on. Carry them through it.

Be a leader who carries others.

11. Sarah:

What if Alton doesn’t belong with us?

Sarah asked a hard question. She began to believe Alton may not be from this world or plane of existence. She asked the question of “What if we have to let him go?”

It’s a tough question to ask. Roy and Sarah struggled with the thought of giving up their son.

In the end, they did what was right. They allowed Alton to go where he belonged.

Leaders, you have to ask this question about your team members and future leaders. You’re going to train these men and women to do the work, lead well, and so much more.

Many times, these team members and future leaders aren’t meant to stay in your organization.

Ask the question, “What if Bob doesn’t belong to ABC Company?”

Then help them get to where they belong.

12. People will mislabel you:

The Ranch thought Alton was their savior. They believed he would take them somewhere they had never gone before.

The FBI believed Alton was a weapon. He was something to be controlled or manipulated.

Alton knew the truth. He was neither. He was something else entirely.

People will look at you. They will see a loser or a hardnose or brownnoser.

Reject these labels. Discover who you truly are. Don’t let others tell you who you are.

You know who you are. Be that leader.

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