Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Mile 22

A Reel Leadership Article

Mile 22 finds CIA operative James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) leading a paramilitary team on a mission to extract a valuable asset out of Southeast Asia. His small team makes sacrifices along the way to see the safe transport of Li Noor (Iko Uwais) to gain access to an encoded hard drive.

Mark Walhberg and Iko Uwais in Mile 22

Mile 22 is an intense thrill-ride. There’s lots of action. Lots of moments where you’ll be holding your breath. And, of course, lots of leadership lessons in Mile 22.

Caution: Mile 22 spoilers below

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Mile 22

1. Learn to keep calm and working on:

The CIA had placed health monitors within their agents. As Mile 22 opens, you see the CIA monitoring the heart rates of James Silva, Alice Kerr (Lauren Cohan of The Walking Dead fame), and Sam Snow (Ronda Rousey) as they’re about the takedown a dangerous asset.

Each monitor showed something amazing. Despite the high-stress situation these agents were in, their heart rates all fell into an acceptable range. They weren’t stressed out. They were calm, cool, and collected.

These agents learned to control their bodies and minds. They were able to calm themselves and not freak out.

Leaders have to do the same thing. They need to learn how to calm themselves when in stressful situations.

By doing so, they’re going to have greater control over the situations they face. They will be able to go in and get the job done because they’re less worried about how they’re feeling and, instead, wanting to do the best job possible.

2. Danger comes from hidden places:

After the CIA team had breached the house, they secured all of the hostiles. Alice then went upstairs because of an unknown blip on the heat sensor. All she could find was a closet.

But there was more to the upstairs. There was a hidden room with no visible door.

From this room, a hostile shot Alice. And then mayhem ensued.

Alice couldn’t see the danger waiting for her. You probably can’t either. Most of the time leaders get in trouble, it is from unseen or unnoticed places.

Be on the lookout for the hidden dangers of leadership. If you’re not careful, they’ll spring themselves on you before you know what hit you.

3. James Silva:

I’ve made a lot of them (mistakes).

The CIA director Bishop (James Malkovich) had told the team to eliminate the hostiles they had captured. James was getting ready to execute one of the men when the man told him he was making a mistake.

James replied “I’ve made a lot of them” and then shot the man…

James knew he had made mistakes in the past. He was okay with this and had come to accept the fact mistakes happen. Have you come to this point?

When mistakes happen, do you through a hissy fit or do you accept the mistake and see what you can learn from your error? This is what great leaders do.

They take the time to acknowledge their mistake. They see what happened. And then they live with the mistakes they’ve made.

4. Find a way to control your emotions and impulses:

As a child, Jimmy was impulsive. He had violent outbursts. He was also brilliant.

Those around him helped Jimmy find a way to control his impulses. They gave him a yellow bracelet and told to snap the bracelet when he became anxious.

Jimmy followed this advice throughout his life. Throughout Mile 22, you see Jimmy snapping the yellow bracelet to get his emotions under control.

If you’re anxious a lot, find a way to control this emotion. You may need to get a yellow bracelet like the one in Mile 22 to snap. Or you might be able to create a set of finger exercises that will calm you down.

Find something that will help you control your emotions and anxiety.

5. Sam Snow:

He hears everything… But never listens.

Sam was another CIA agent. And she knew James pretty well. Enough to know he hears everything but struggled to actually listen.

Many leaders are this way. You may be this way.

You may hear everything being said. Yet you may not listen well.

Listening is a crucial skill every leader needs. Learn how to listen better and your leadership improves.

6. Paint a clear picture:

James was talking to the code breakers at the CIA. He used images from Hiroshima to get their attention.

The picture he painted was a grim one. People’s skin falling off. The melting of their skin. The death and destruction…

You couldn’t mistake what he was going for. If their mission wasn’t successful, things were going to get ugly.

The picture James painted was clear. You need to be as clear as James is when pitching the mission and vision of your organization.

Give people the full picture. Help them see what is at stake and what can be gained if the organization is successful.

7. James Silva:

Everything can go right. Everything can go wrong.

There’s two ways things can go. They can go right or they can go wrong.

Help to ensure things go right.

8. James Silva:

Ego is not your amigo.

This was a great quote from Mile 22. James was talking to one of the other agents who had a little bit of an ego. He let her in on this truth.

Ego is not your friend. Ego is the enemy.

Your ego will tell you you’re better than what you really are. It’ll tell you to go bigger. It’ll bring you down.

Be careful of your ego. Don’t let your ego grow too big.

9. Sometimes you have to step down to get the job done:

James Silva and his people turned in their resignation to the CIA. This was so they could go on a black ops mission as Overwatch.

Overwatch is an elite unit of the CIA that the CIA can deny. Thus, the team had to quit before they could go on their mission.

There are times when you will have to step down as a leader. This is because your skills aren’t always the thing your organization will need.

Sometimes you’ll have to step down so someone with more knowledge can step in to fill your gaps. Or you might need someone who has a different leadership style to lead your team.

Don’t hog the glory. Be willing to step aside when you need to.

10. Know the health of your team:

James’ team each had a monitor implanted beneath their skin. This implant monitored their health vitals, like I mentioned earlier.

Their vitals were monitored via screens in the CIA secret office. As team members passed away, they could instantly tell who was dead, who was alive, and who was injured.

They were monitoring the health of their team.

Are you monitoring the health of your team? You won’t want to implant them with a technology to do so. What you will want to do is to take the time to make sure everyone is doing okay.

Have 5-minute meetings with people. See where they’re at, what they’re struggling with, and how you can help them.

This quick 5-minute monitoring of your team will help you to know how everyone is doing.

11. You will lose people:

The Overwatch team lost multiple people. They lost King (Keith Arthur Bolden), Knight (Jenique Hendrix), Rook (Billy Smith), and Pawn (Myke Holmes). They also lost all of the agents at the secret CIA base.

You won’t lose people in the same, grisly fashion James did. But you will lose people.

People will leave your organization. They will be fired. They will pass away.

You have to be prepared to lose people. It’s a part of the leadership position.

12. There are rules that are okay to break:

Bishop had ordered James to leave Alice behind. She was stuck in an apartment complex and James had to get Li to the airplane.

James couldn’t leave his friend behind. He knew this was a rule/order he needed to break.

Did you know there are certain rules and orders that are okay to break? You have to weigh them carefully because there are consequences to breaking the rules.

Yet you will have to if you want to get the job done well.

13. James Silva:

That’s the real weapon of mass destruction: A killer who looks like a hero.

You know, there are bad leaders out there who look like good leaders. They say all the right things. They do all the right things. Yet they’re not good leaders.

They’re doing what they’re doing out of selfish ambition or to look good. Sometimes, they might not even be doing the right things. It just looks like it.

Beware of these leaders. They’re going down a dark and dirty path. And they’re taking plenty of people with them through their deceit.

Question: Have you seen Mile 22? If you have, did you take away any leadership lessons from Mile 22? If you haven’t seen the movie, what leadership lessons from Mile 22 that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comment section below.

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