Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Old Guard

A Reel Leadership Article

While movie theaters are still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, streaming services are still releasing movies. Netflix recently released the comic-based movie The Old Guard on their service. (If you’d like to check out the comic book The Old Guard is based on, you can pick up one of the collections at Amazon.)

To say I was geeking out a bit is an understatement. I’m always a sucker for a good comic book movie. Many others are as well… maybe even you?!?

Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, and Luca Marinelli standing in front of a board of notes in The Old Guard

The Old Guard tells the story of a group of immortals who take whatever gigs they deem worthy. The team consists of:

  • Andy (Charlize Theron)
  • Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts)
  • Joe (Marwan Kenzari)
  • Nicky (Luca Marinelli)

We get into the thick of things quickly. We see that the team is betrayed by Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) when they were sent on a mission to South Sudan. There, they are gunned down only to be resurrected.

Betrayal is a strong storyline in The Old Guard. We will see it repeated many times. Each time it is a little more shocking.

But The Old Guard offers more than betrayal. It offers a great, entertaining action movie. It brings the comic book to life. AND you will find leadership lessons in The Old Guard.

Let’s dive into today’s Reel Leadership lessons.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Old Guard

1. Repeating what made you successful can be dangerous:

Booker brought a new job to the team. He wanted the team to meet with Copley and take a mission in South Sudan.

Andy, the leader, spoke up. She said that repeat missions were dangerous. She was right.

As a team of immortals, going to the same place over and over again can get them noticed. Whether it is through old photographs, running into the same people, or some other way, people could notice the unchanging team.

Trying to repeat the same things that made you once success can be dangerous for you as well. Not in the life or death sense but in the sense that you might not be able to repeat what you did before.

We have to be careful about going back to the well of success.

These successful methods are in the past. They have changed. We can’t use what we once used.

2. Great leaders miss their teams when they’re away:

Andy had to take a break from The Old Guard. She traveled the world to recharge and renew. Upon returning, she mentioned how much she missed them.

The team grew together through wars, missions, and friendship. Leaving the team, even for a period of time, was hard on Andy due to the relationships she’d formed.

Great leaders feel like Andy when they have to leave their team for a period of time. It’s not a sadness or a depression. However, it is a sense of longing to be together with their teams.

You may have felt this when you went on a sabbatical or an extended vacation. The time to rest and recharge was great but there was something missing.

Know it is okay to miss your team while you’re separated.

3. Even great leaders can feel like they’re not making a difference:

Looking at the news, Andy felt The Old Guard wasn’t making a difference. There was still war, famine, hatred in the land.

Despite all the good, nothing seemed to change in the world. She felt down and out.

We can do a lot of good in the world and still feel as if we’re not making a difference. There’s still sex trafficking or slave labor. There’s still angry employees or customers.

We try our hardest and it never seems good enough.

That’s okay. We don’t lead to see the results. We lead to plant the seeds for a better future.

4. Smooth talk is often a trap:

Copley complimented The Old Guard. He told them he wanted the best. They were the best…

His words enticed Andy and the rest of the team to go forward with the mission. This was a trap.

Copley had played them. He had led them into a trap to get a recording of them being killed and resurrected.

We have to be careful of the people around us killing us with smooth talk. Smooth talk is an overabundance of compliments, always sharing good things, and them trying to make you feel like you are the one.

The Bible even warns us against smooth talk. In Romans 16:18 it says:

For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people.

Measure the words people speak to you. Even the good words. Make sure they’re what you need to hear and not what you want to hear.

5. Nile Freeman (KiKi Layne):

It never hurts to repeat it.

Nile is a United States Marine in The Old Guard. She’s getting ready to talk to a group of Muslim women and tells her team to keep it respectful.

The team responds that they’ve heard it before. They didn’t need to hear it again.

Nile felt differently. She knew the wisdom of repeating what needs to be heard.

Leaders, we have to constantly remind our teams of what is important. We have to bring up the mission and vision on a regular basis. We have to remind them of what we expect from them.

You are the one who can be the constant reminder. Be it. Repeat it until it’s annoying. Then repeat it more.

6. Andy:

It’s happening whether you want it or not.

Andy went to the military base where Nile was. She had gone there to bring Nile into The Old Guard and train her.

Nile was confused about what was happening. How did she return to life? What did this mean for her life? Is there hope?

Nile really didn’t want what was happening to her… But it was happening. Andy knew Nile would have to deal with it at some point.

Boy… what can we say about this quote from The Old Guard? I think we can say it is truer than true.

Leadership throws us into situations that are good, bad, and indifferent. These situations may not be where we want to be. Or it may not be what we want to happen.

Yet, we’re there. We’re there to lead and help our team get through it. Be the leader that understands this.

7. Those you lead may see you as selfish or uncaring:

Jean-Pierre (Orlando Seale) was Booker’s son. He battled with cancer and eventually succumbed to the disease.

Something sad happened as he battled death. He saw his father unaged, always able to recover. Jean-Piere wanted this for himself and believed Booker could give him the answer.

When Booker couldn’t give his immortality to his son, Jean-Pierre called Booker all sorts of names. He thought Booker was being selfish and uncaring. He wasn’t.

This is a hard, hard lesson for leaders to understand. You cannot do everything for everybody.

There will be times when your team or team members think you can do something you cannot do. They will look at you and see someone who is selfish, uncaring, unmoving.

You know you’re not. They know, deep down, you’re not either.

We have to take these lumps as we lead. We cannot solve everyone’s problems.

8. Store Clerk:

You need help. What does it matter why? Today I put this on your wound. Tomorrow you help someone up when they fall. We’re not meant to be alone.

Andy’s immortal powers were beginning to wane. Her wounds weren’t healing and she needed help patching them. She couldn’t ask her team because then they would know something was wrong.

Andy chose to go to a convenience store to pick up medical supplies. She was planning to patch herself up and asked the clerk if there was a bathroom. There wasn’t. The clerk did tell her there was a storeroom.

The clerk went with Andy to the storeroom and began tending to her wounds. She didn’t ask questions. She didn’t wonder what happened. All she did was help.

Leaders could learn quite a bit from this store clerk. We could learn that there are many things that don’t matter. We may think they do but they do. Or we could learn that we can do what we can to help someone out. Our help today won’t be repaid to us but to someone else. Or, we could also learn that we’re not meant to be alone.

There are great leadership lessons in this scene. Let’s begin implementing them.

9. Stop justifying poor decisions:

Nicky and Joe were captured by the team at Merrick. Merrick was a pharmaceutical company founded by Steven Merrick (Harry Melling). They were paving the way to all sorts of scientific breakthroughs.

One of those was immortality. Or longer life.

To get there, they were willing to experiment on human beings to discover the mysteries they held. This including Nicky and Joe.

One of the scientists asked Nicky if he believed she had gone too far. She didn’t care about his answer. She just wanted justification.

We may be doing great things with our organizations and teams. We may be making huge breakthroughs.

However, we have to make sure we’re doing things ethically, soundly, and morally right.

Too many organizations slip down a slippery slope and begin to do things wrong. They then justify, justify, justify.

You’re not like this. You’re not willing to justify poor decisions to see success.

10. We make a difference:

Early on, we see Andy doubting the difference she and her team had made. She felt like they were doing things that had no value.

Copley saw differently. He began to connect the dots and figured out Andy and her team had made a huge difference in the world.

The people they’d saved often went on to do great things. Maybe it wasn’t the people they’d saved but their descendants.

There was a difference made in the world thanks to The Old Guard.

There’s a difference made in this world thanks to you.

I’m often reminded by former youth students that the work I do in youth ministry made a difference. I have run into random students, many of whom I don’t remember, and they will tell me the difference I’ve made in their lives.

You’re making a difference too. All the hard work you’re putting in changes the world.

Know this.

11. Andy:

We don’t have all the answers but we do have purpose.

Andy, Booker, Joe, and Nicky (along with the new Old Guard member Nile) knew they didn’t have all the answers. They couldn’t.

What they did have was a purpose. To protect the world. To make it a better place.

This, they could do.

Guys… we don’t have all the answers either. Leadership takes us to places we’ve never been or knew of. We can’t know the answers.

What we can have is a purpose. The purpose will guide us to the right place, right people, at the right times.

You don’t have to have all the answers to lead. You do need a purpose.

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