Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Skyscraper

When I first saw the trailer for Skyscraper with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I was hooked. The trailer for Skyscraper looked like a cross between my favorite Christmas movie Die Hard and Liam Neeson’s Taken. With those two movies combined, it had to be good.

Dwayne The Rock Johnson in Skyscraper movie

Skyscraper tells the story of Will Sawyer. Will is a former FBI agent with a prosthetic leg after a botched hostage negotiation. He goes on to build a security consulting agency and is tasked with assessing the security and safety of the world’s largest skyscraper, The Pearl, in Hong Kong.

Things begin to go bad and the skyscraper goes up in flames. While this would be issue enough, Will soon discovers his wife Sarah Sawyer (Neve Campbell) and their twin children, Georgia Sawyer (McKenna Roberts) and Henry Sawyer (Noah Cottrell). Will knows he must go to extreme lengths to save the ones he loves.

Skyscraper brings action and suspense to the theaters. Not only will you find these two things, you’ll also find leadership lessons in Skyscraper.

Caution: Skyscraper spoilers below

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Skyscraper

1. Leaders face the unexpected:

Will was leading an FBI team on a hostage rescue mission. A man had taken his family hostage and killed multiple police officers. The team Will was leading breached the house and confronted the angry man.

The man had his back to Will and the other agents. When he turned around, you see him holding his son. Will talks the man down and he releases his son… But that didn’t end this saga.

The man begins to apologize and say he’s sorry. Then he pulls back his clothes to reveal a suicide vest. He triggers the suicide vest and blows himself, his family, and some of the FBI agents up.

Will wasn’t expecting this turn of events. He was expecting the situation to resolve peacefully. Unfortunately, the hostage situation did not end well.

While I doubt you’ll ever face a situation quite like Will’s, you will face situations you weren’t prepared for. These situations will be unexpected and happen quickly.

Great leaders know they won’t be fully prepared for everything leadership will throw at them. They are prepared as well as they can be.

This preparation helps them through these unpredictable times. They know situations rapidly change and they’re ready for them. Are you?

2. Will Sawyer:

Screw it. I’m just going to shake his hand.

Will is preparing to meet with Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), the man who had built the Pearl. In his preparation, Will wanted to impress Zhao so he tried to learn Chinese to communicate in Zhao’s native tongue.

Try as he might, Will continued to stumble over his words. Eventually, he said, “Screw it…” and decided on shaking Zhao’s hand instead.

How many times have you wanted to make a great first impression? The time spent trying to learn specific mannerisms or phrases may have been frustrating. And you may not have landed the first impression you had hoped for.

Instead, maybe it’s time to say “screw it.” 

First impressions are great. They imprint a lasting idea of who you are on a person. Yet you can over-prepare for a first-time meeting.

Instead of trying to be flashy or fancy, go for effective. Go for a handshake or a great smile. Those will go a long way towards leaving a great first impression.

3. Nerves affect everyone, even leaders:

Meeting Zhao had Will nervous. He’d never approached a client this big. In fact, Will was still running his security company out of his garage.

This meant nerves were reeking havoc on Will. He was trying to land a great first impression. He was trying to figure out the perfect pitch. And he wanted to be remembered.

He was nervous. He knew it. But he didn’t let his nerves stop him. Instead, he went in and presented his pitch and findings.

You know what? The people in the room responding favorably. His nerves were telling him one thing, results told him another.

You’re going to be nervous leading teams of people. You may not know who they are or you may not be clear on how you’re going to accomplish the vision you’ve presented.

Don’t let this stop you. Leaders don’t allow nerves to stop them. Rather, they lead into the unknown. They work through problems. They get the job done.

4. People will betray you:

Ben (Pablo Schreiber, half-brother to Liev Schreiber) was a former FBI agent. In fact, he was in the explosion with Will.

Will consider Ben a friend. Ben acted like a friend to Will. He even helped him land the gig with the Pearl. However, you soon learn Ben wasn’t the friend he claimed to be. He had betrayed Will.

He’d set up Will to be robbed by a thug after a boating excursion. This was to obtain a tablet that would provide access to the Pearl’s security system.

Ben wasn’t the friend he appeared to be.

You’re going to have your fair share of betrayals. People are going to turn on you or let you down.

I know. I’ve had my fair share of this as well. From friends falling from grace to believing you destroyed their website, people have let me down and attacked me.

If you’ve had this happen to you as well, know you’re not alone. Ego, pride, sin, and humanity will mess with people and transform them into someone you don’t know.

When this happens, you can’t let yourself get down. You have to continue leading well.

5. Bad luck isn’t always bad luck:

Many people would consider losing a leg bad luck. People in Will’s life did. Will lost one of his legs in the explosion.

However, Will had a different perspective. Had the bad luck never happened, he wouldn’t have been where he was today.

Will wouldn’t have met Sarah. Sarah and Will wouldn’t have had their twins. He wouldn’t be running his own company.

There are two ways to look at bad luck. You can look on it with a negative lens or you can look at your bad luck and see the good that has sprung from it.

Are there situations in your life you’ve considered to be bad luck? Have you looked at these bad luck situations and seen what good has come from them?

You’d be surprised. If a man can see good from losing a limb, you can most likely see good from your situation.

6. Great leaders learn about their team:

Zhao met Will’s wife and children. Upon their meeting, Zhao already knew their names and parts of their stories.

Zhao had studied Will and his family. Why? Because he knew what was important to Will.

This impressed Will. He was blown away by the fact Zhao had taken the time to learn about him and his family.

Great leaders do what Zhao did. They learn about the families and interests of those they lead.

They take time to figure out what drives their team members. They discover their story. And they show interest in the story.

What can you do today to learn about your team? Can you show interest in them? Do it!

7. Great leaders help their teams to prepare for what’s to come:

Sarah, Henry, and Georgia had come back early from a day at the zoo. They were supposed to spend a late evening there watching the panda exhibit. When Henry fell ill, they returned to the Pearl.

This wasn’t part of Ben’s plan. Their apartment was supposed to be empty. This would have made the Pearl completely empty of life except for a few of the executive team.

The terrorists didn’t want to hurt any unnecessary parties. At least until things got messy.

They set fire to one of the lower floors of the Pearl. This fire went upwards, towards the Sawyer’s apartment.

Sarah knew the fire was rapidly approaching. So she told Henry to take two puffs of his inhaler before they went out the door and into the smoke.

Henry resisted. He didn’t want to take the inhaler. He felt fine.

His mother knew better. She knew going out into the smoke would hurt his lungs and possibly kill him. After a bit of back and forth, Sarah made Henry take his inhaler. Because of this, they were able to move through the smoke with little issue.

Great leaders know their team won’t be fully prepared. They also know some team members will push back as they’re trying to help them prepare for what’s to come.

These leaders feel the strain of the pushback of preparation. But they don’t let pushback or resistance stop them.

They know the value of proper preparation. They help their team understand this. And they help them prepare as best as they can.

8. Great leaders are recognized for their actions:

The Hong Kong police believed Will was the one behind the fire inside the Pearl. They were seeking him and found him once. Then he escaped.

Inspector Wu (Byron Mann) and Sergeant Han (Elfina Luk) were on the hunt for Will. They discovered him.

Their discovery didn’t come because Will was putzing around Hong Kong. No, they discovered and recognized him because he was doing something extraordinary. He was climbing a crane in an attempt to enter the Pearl.

Your actions will get your recognized. People will seek you out as you help build, sustain, and grow the organizations you’re leading.

Or they’ll recognize your failures. If you go the other way.

Do great work. Strive to do the best you can.

9. Ajani Okeke:

I don’t need facts. What is your guy telling you?

Sometimes facts get in the way of intuition. There are times when you need to listen to your gut instead of the facts.

Your gut can guide you to places the facts won’t. Or don’t just yet.

If your gut is telling you something, stop and recognize what it is. Listen to your gut. See if it should be followed.

Your gut may tell you exactly what you need to do.

10. Great leaders have to take leaps of faith:

Will had ascended the crane. He had made a way to access the Pearl but the entry point failed. There was now a giant chasm in front of Will.

He had a choice. He could stand in place and let his wife and children burn. Or he could run, leap, and possibly enter the building.

He chose to take a leap of faith. He leapt across the open space and landed in the room with a broken window.

You have plans laid out. You know exactly what needs to be done. Until you get there.

Then you notice something is out of place or a task wasn’t finished. And it’s going to take a leap of faith to be successful.

This is your leap of faith moment. You have to take action. If you don’t, something bad will happen.

So, jump. Jump long and hard. Make it to the other side. You can do it.

11. Know what people want:

The terrorists had seen Will enter the building and attempt to rescue his family. They knew he wanted their safety.

Because of this, they began to go after Sarah and the kids. They were going after what Will wanted so they could get what they wanted out of Will.

While their actions weren’t with good intentions, you can turn this to be used for good. You can learn what your team wants, help them get it, and have them help you get what you want.

Give your team members what they want or desire. Help them to reach their goals.

When you do, they’re going to return the favor. They’re going to be loyal and help you achieve your goals.

12. Will Sawyer:

Let’s figure this out.

Will and Sarah were separated from Henry by a broken bridge. Below them was a raging fire and certain doom.

Sarah, Will, and Henry were all anxious. This was a scary moment. Yet Will had the clarity of mind to think through the situation.

He had everyone pause. Then he sought to find a solution.

By taking a minute to think, they were able to figure a way across the broken bridge. They disassembled a wooden structure and used a piece of wood to create a makeshift bridge.

When you run into an unknown situation, you have to come with a positive mindset that you can figure out a way around the problem. This means you have to stop, think, and then act.

Don’t rush headlong into a situation. Think through your problem. Work out a solution. Make it work.

13. Will Sawyer:

In order to be brave, you’ve got to be a little scared.

Will knew bravery wasn’t the absence of fear. Bravery was working through fear.

When you’re feeling afraid, you can still be brave. In fact, this allows you to be brave. Without fear, what do you need to be brave about?

Use your fear to flex your bravery muscle. It’ll strengthen you and your resolve. Give it a try.

14. Don’t be surprised when people understand you:

Wu and Han were speaking Chinese to each other. They were doing so because Sarah was in the room and they didn’t want her to hear what they were saying.

Sarah surprised them. She understood Chinese and chimed into the conversation.

You may think your production employees or lower-level team members don’t understand the inner-workings of a business. You may think they won’t have anything to offer so you leave them out of important discussions.

This may come as a surprise, but they may have a better understanding of the inner-workings of the business than you do. Don’t exclude people because they don’t have a degree or look like you.

Instead, bring them into the discussion. You may be surprised when these people understand you and the business.

15. Sometimes the simplest solution is the solution that works:

Will and Georgia were cowering in the Pearl expecting to be burned alive. The fire was raging around them and no solution had been found.

Suddenly, the fire suppression system activated. How did this happen?

Sarah did the oldest trick in the IT handbook. She rebooted the security system. With the reboot, the system reactivated and saved her husband and child.

The simplest solutions don’t get the fanfare they deserve. By going with tried and true methods, you can get tried and true results.

If a method is simple, use it. Don’t complicate the process. Go with what works.

16. Recognize what you have:

Inspector Wu told Will he had a nice family. Will responded with “I’m a lucky man.”

Will recognized what he had. He had a great family. One he was there to protect.

Do you recognize what you have? Do you have an awesome family? Is your organization treating you well? Are you team members like superheroes?

Look around you and recognize what you have. You will realize you have more than you think.

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

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.