Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Gray Man

A Reel Leadership Article

My latest book, Reel Leadership, is now available <a href=”https://amzn.to/3qb8s2R”>on Amazon</a>. If you love movies and leadership, you will love this book.

The Gray Man is a Netflix original movie released directly to streaming and movie theaters simultaneously. Starring Ryan Gosling as Six, Chris Evans as the lunatic Lloyd Hansen, Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda, Jessica Henwick as Suzanne Brewer, and Billy Bob Thornton as Fitzroy, the cast is all-star quality. The movie stutters here and there but sets us up for a great new world as it appears The Gray Man world will be expanding. A sequel has already been greenlit.

When Six, a CIA operative whose identity is known to no one, discovers there are dark agency secrets, his world changes. He goes from following orders to hunting down the truth. Unfortunately for him, Lloyd sets a bounty on his head. He must avoid assassins, other agents, and more as his world comes crashing around him.

Ryan Gosling in the Netflix original movie The Gray Man

The thrills are there. I can attest to that as my wife was jumping and jittery throughout the whole movie. The movie was entertaining though it could have been so much more. And it may be in the universe Netflix is creating for the characters.

However, you know there’s more to the movie than action, intense thrills, and a story. There are leadership lessons hidden within The Gray Man. We’re going to look at those lessons today.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Gray Man

1. Six:

What’s the catch?

A young Six is in prison for killing his father, justifiably. One day, Fitzroy comes to visit Six. He has a proposition for him.

Fitzroy told Six his sentence could be commuted. He would be a free man.

Six knew better. He knew there had to be a catch. There was. He would have to become a Gray Man agent.

Question it whenever you hear something that sounds too good to be true. Ask what’s the catch. Dig deep into what will happen.

You may discover your golden goose may be an ugly duckling.

The catch to many good things is a bad thing. Make sure you’re not walking into a situation you can’t get out of.

2. Define the terms:

Six asked Fitzroy how long he’d have to work for the agency. Fitzroy let Six know that it would be indefinitely.

While this term wasn’t ideal, the idea of being a semi-free man beat being in prison. Six agreed to join the team.

Have you ever made a deal without defining or understanding the terms? I have. Those situations never end well.

Make sure you’re getting the full rundown of what the deal entails. You’ll be glad you did if things don’t go according to plan. You’ll have the detailed plan and what was expected. This way you’ll be able to hold the other party (and yourself) up to the agreement.

3. Leaders don’t endanger innocent people:

Six was ordered to assassinate a man codenamed Dining Car (Callan Mulvey). This man was supposedly extremely dangerous. He was about to sell government secrets.

Uh oh. Can’t go having that, right?!?

Six is trying to get a bead on Dining Car. He has him in his thermal sights when a young boy ambles into the shot. Six decides to stand down and not take the shot.

When you’re making decisions, do you consider the collateral damage? Who could you be putting in danger?

Consider all of the outcomes that could result from your decision. Is it dangerous to others? Maybe it’s time to consider another course of action.

4. Leaders anticipate their actions:

An extraction team was transporting Six. Unfortunately, Lloyd had gotten to Fitzroy. Fitzroy had given up Six’s location.

This put Six in a predicament. Six didn’t know his location had been compromised. Yet, Six was ready when the extraction team came to kill him.

He was waiting with a fire extinguisher to blast the extraction team. This allowed him to fight them off and make a messy escape from the airplane.

Imagine if you could anticipate the actions of those around you. You can.

Think of the game of chess. The best players think three or four moves ahead of their competition. This gives them insight into the moves they’ll have to make. It also allows them to win.

Begin thinking like a chess player, or Six. Look ahead of the competition. Figure out their moves, consider your moves, think of theirs, and then create more moves for yourself.

5. We can learn from our trauma:

Six’s father (Shea Whigham) was abusive. He treated his children poorly because he thought he was training them up to be tough men.

During one session, we see Six’s father taking a car cigarette lighter and burning the young Six’s (Cameron Crovetti) arm. We then hear his father tell him:

Fight through the fear. Fight through the pain. You master that, and you’ll never lose again, son

Massively abusive. Lots of trauma. But the words stuck with Six. They helped him fight and become effective.

Our trauma impacts us in multiple ways. Many times trauma leaves scars.

Sometimes, if we’re intentional, we can channel the trauma we have faced into something useful as Six did.

Look at your past experiences. What good could come from the negative? Find it and use it.

6. Margaret Cahill (Alfre Woodard):

He’s using the agency as his own personal hit squad.

We discover Dining Car wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he was part of the same group Six was. Dining Car’s real identity was Four.

Four had obtained secret information that reflected poorly on Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page). Carmichael wasn’t the good guy; he was abusing his power and turning the CIA into a hit squad.

You may be tempted to use your position of leadership to benefit yourself. You see the possibility of gaining more wealth, power, or authority.

Be careful.

Bad leaders see their position as a way to power. They see ways they can abuse what they’ve been given.

Instead of using your position for your own gains, look for ways to help those you lead and serve. You’ll discover this is what a true leader does.

7. Great leaders provide protection:

Six and Miranda go to Maggie’s apartment. Six had posted a pendant with all of the data on Carmichael to her. He needed to get his hands on the information and discover what was on the drive.

While the pair were at Maggie’s, a hit squad attacked. Six instinctively moves to provide cover for Maggie as one of the goons tosses a grenade into the room.

Six saves Maggie in this instance.

Great leaders know that the team they lead is under their protection. They have a special responsibility to care for and cover their team.

Make sure you’re providing protection for your team.

8. Great leaders inspire the faith of their people:

Claire (Julia Butters) is the daughter of Fitzroy. Lloyd and his goons had kidnaped her. After getting information out of Fitzroy, Lloyd brings him to Claire.

At one point in the movie, Claire and Fitzroy are lying in bed together, with Fitzroy comforting her. Claire asks if Six would come for them. Fitzroy believed Six would as long as Six could walk. In fact, Fitzroy said Six will walk through those double doors as long as he can walk.

Do you inspire this kind of confidence from the people you lead? Would they think you would protect and guide them well regardless of your cost?

Great leaders inspire their people to believe in them. They do this because of the way they treat their people. These leaders know that by having integrity, doing what they say, and taking care of the team, they will inspire their people.

Be that kind of leader.

9. Lone Wolf/Avik San (Dhanush):

Take it. I don’t care about the money anymore. These are not honorable people.

Lone Wolf was one of the people hired by Lloyd to retrieve the data drive. He had been offered a large sum to retrieve it.

Finally obtaining the drive, Lone Wolf sees the truth. The people he had been working for were not honorable. They weren’t worthy of being followed.

He went so far as to give back the data drive and renounce the money. The money wasn’t worth it.

There are two leadership lessons here.

The first is that some things aren’t worth the money. Make sure you’re doing work that is honorable and respectable.

The second is that you have to be careful whom you work for. Lone Wolf discovered the people he was working for weren’t respectable. He stopped working for them. Would you be willing to go that far? Would you be willing to say “no” to a leader you couldn’t find honor in?

10. Beware of bravado:

Lloyd thought he was physically better than Six. He released Claire and challenged Six to a fight, mano a mano.

Laying their weapons aside, the two begin to throw punches. Eventually, Six gained the upper hand. This is when Lloyd dies but not at Six’s hands. It was by another party.

Lloyd’s bravado put him in a precarious situation. Had he taken action the moment he had the upper hand, he would’ve bested Six. Instead, he’s six feet under.

Beware of bravado. Thinking of yourself too highly puts you in a dangerous position.

Think less of yourself. Think more of others.

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