There’s something special about movies from the ’80s. It was a mystical time for movies when even bad movies are fun movies.
Missing In Action is one such ’80s movie.
Starring the quintessential action star, Chuck Norris, Missing In Action tells the story of Colonel James Braddock as he seeks to go back to Vietnam to find missing United States soldiers. He is sent to Vietnam, first, to sit in on a government investigation.
Braddock couldn’t wait to get out and begin searching for his lost comrades. He upsets those leading the investigation and is given a chance to sneak away into the night.
While out, he discovers what he’s looking for: The missing in action.
Chuck Norris’ James Braddock found the people he was looking for in Missing In Action. Viewers of Missing In Action will discover something else. They will discover Reel Leadership lessons.
Today, we’ll dive into the leadership lessons you will find in the Missing In Action movie.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Missing In Action
1. Great teams help wounded members:
In a flashback or a nightmare, Braddock is leading a team of soldiers in Vietnam. Vietnamese forces are attacking them, and one of Braddock’s team members is injured in a mortar attack.
The team doesn’t leave behind this injured team member. Instead, they put him on a fabric cot and help get him to safety.
In business, it seems we’ve been taught to do something else. We’ve been taught to leave our wounded team members behind. If they can’t pull their weight, you leave them.
I want to challenge leaders to do something strange. Let’s begin helping our wounded team members. These team members are the ones who may not be able to pull their own weight yet. They’re the ones who cause a bit of grief here or there.
If we begin to understand why these team members are struggling, we can find a way to help them become productive team members.
2. Leaders have to repeat themselves:
Braddock’s team is fleeing from the Vietnamese. They’re going as fast as they can to get to safety.
One thing you notice Braddock doing is repeating himself. He keeps telling his soldiers to “Move it, move it, move it.”
His repetition tells his soldiers something. They need to move it to safety.
Leaders can get tired of repeating themselves. They can feel like a broken record. They might even feel their team will get tired of hearing the same words again and again.
That’s perfect. They should get tired of hearing it.
That’s when what you say really begins to sink it.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. It helps to reinforce the message.
3. James Braddock:
Who am I trying to impress, Senator?
Senator Maxwell Porter (David Tress) was one of the delegates at the governmental investigation into the United State’s POWs in Vietnam. He was talking to Ann Fitzgerald (Lenore Kasdorf) on the airplane flight to Vietnam. He didn’t realize Braddock was sitting two rows behind him.
Porter said Braddock wouldn’t be a good representation of the United States. He didn’t look put together and wouldn’t help the case.
Braddock heard Porter and confronted him. He wanted to know who he was supposed to try to impress.
As leaders gain influence, they can fall into the trap Porter did. These leaders can believe they have to impress those they lead or those they’re around.
You have to make a choice. You can choose to lead well, choose to try to impress others, or a combination of both.
Whatever you decide, you have to know your reasons for doing so.
4. Ann Fitzgerald:
What made you change your mind?
Braddock had turned down over 20 requests to be a part of the investigation. He was adamant about not being a part of it.
Then, he changed his mind. He chose to go and share his story and try to find the missing POWs.
Ann was shocked by this.
While Braddock never answered, he did show up. He became present.
A lot of people think a leader must stick to the plan the leader has laid out. Changing the plan is just bad leadership; people will claim.
Leaders can change their minds. They do this not because they’re wishy-washy. Leaders change their minds because they gain new information or because they’ve finally manned up.
5. People think they know a leader when they really don’t:
Ann claimed to know Braddock. She rattled off a bunch of facts about him. She was proud of herself.
Still, she didn’t know Braddock at all. She only knew facts.
The people you lead will think they know you through their time working with you. They might, but only if you let them.
A leader has to be willing to open up and let their team into their life if they want to be known truly. Only then will people know their leader.
6. Leaders can have personal missions:
The official reason Braddock went to Vietnam was to take part in the investigation. He was part of an official delegation and was there to work through the issue at hand.
Braddock had a different mission. A more personal mission.
He wanted to go free the POWs held in the Vietnamese prison camps. It was his personal mission to see them rescued.
There are multiple missions a leader must decide to take on. The first mission is the mission of the organization. This is what the organization would like to see accomplished as a whole.
The organizational mission is important. It is what will keep the organization afloat.
While pursuing this mission, leaders can also pursue personal missions. This can include a larger paycheck, more influence, helping create the next generation of leaders, etc.
Don’t let there be only an organizational mission you’re pursuing. Pursue a personal mission as well.
7. Great leaders demonstrate:
Braddock had met up with an old Army buddy, Jack Tucker (M. Emmet Walsh). Tucker had a connection to an arms dealer that could get them the gear they needed to get into Vietnam.
Tucker and Braddock were looking at an assault raft. It looked like it would sink on the first shot it took.
The arms dealer knew better. He knew the assault raft had been reinforced with Kevlar. He then asked Yang (Protacio Dee) to shoot the boat.
Yang shot the boat. It was unscathed.
Leaders can learn something from the arms dealer and his demonstration. They can learn people want to see things demonstrated.
If the leader can take time out of their busy day to show their team what can be done, the team will have more confidence in the possibilities available to them.
Be willing to step down from the ivory towers. Be willing to show your team a demonstration of what can be done.
8. Jack Tucker:
Do we run or fight?
Tucker helped bring Braddock into Vietnam. As they made their way in by the assault raft, they ran into trouble.
Braddock began to take on the Vietnam soldiers one on one. When it looked like he was in big trouble, Tucker began to shoot them. This drew the attention of the Vietnamese soldiers in a boat.
They had to make a choice. They could stay and fight, or they could run.
You have to make decisions like this all of the time as a leader. You will have to decide whether you continue down the same path or do you change course. You will have to decide whether to keep on with the same set of team members or if it is time for a change.
Your choices will determine where you and the organization goes. Make wise choices.
9. Find a good vantage point:
Braddock went into the Vietnamese POW camp. He began to take out huts by placing C4 explosives underneath the huts.
He used the explosions as a distraction. When he’d begun blowing up the huts, he skittered up one of the guard towers. There, he had a better vantage point of the soldiers in the camp.
This new vantage point gave him a clear line of sight of what was happening.
Do you have a good vantage point for your organization? Could it be better?
I think it could.
It would be best if you looked at all of the different vantage points you can have in your organization. One of the most overlooked vantage points is that of your team members.
Your team members are on the ground. They’re working in the muck and mire. They know what’s going on.
Get their vantage point. Let them help you get a better lay of the land.
10. Your prize may be in another spot:
Braddock was so excited once he had cleared the POW camp of the enemy soldiers. He could now rescue the POWs.
A big surprise was waiting for Braddock when he opened the cages. His POWs were not there.
In the cages were Cambodian Black Panthers. They had been captured and held in the cages. They also had important information for Braddock.
The captured Black Panthers told Braddock what had happened. The POWs had been moved just a few hours prior.
You may be pursuing hard after a goal. You think you know where the finish line is. You get there only to realize the prize you’d been working toward isn’t there. It’s in another castle (as Toad would say).
The goal you’re attempting to accomplish isn’t always achieved in the way you expect. It could move, or it may not be there at all.
Be willing to keep searching for the goal line. It is there.
11. Leaders inspire others:
Braddock did something special for the Cambodian Black Panthers. By rescuing them, he inspired them to fight for their freedom.
They were no longer going to sit idly by and give in to the Vietnamese. They were going to fight.
Great leaders inspire. They find ways to get people to join their cause or find their own.
Through their hard work and efforts, leaders show others what can be done. They help their team to understand they can do it as well.
Be a leader who inspires.
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