Think for a minute: What would you do if during a soccer game a wormhole opened, out stepped soldiers from the future, and they called the current generation to a war that happens in the future? That’s the premise of the Amazon Prime movie The Tomorrow War.
Starring Chris Pratt as Dan Forester, Yvonne Strahovski as Colonel Muri Forester, and J.K. Simmons as James Forester, the movie shoots us 30 years into the future once the call for help is made. Dan Forester travels to the future once he is conscribed to service, as almost every living and able-bodied human is in this world.
One of the best direct-to-streaming movies I’ve seen, The Tomorrow War hits all the right notes. Great action. Great story. Great personal interactions.
Today, we’re going to dive into the leadership lessons in The Tomorrow War. We’ll look at what the movie hits on and how it can make us better leaders.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Tomorrow War
1. Great leaders give missions their team can understand:
Dan enters his home. There was a party happening in the house. Dan called his daughter to him. He gives his young daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) a clear mission.
The mission? To bring the groceries into the kitchen.
It seems so simple. Yet, this is something we miss as leaders. We build this grand mission for our organization. Then we expect our team to understand it.
I want to encourage you to create smaller missions for your team members. Give them these small missions that they can carry out.
It will do two things. The first is it will help your team members actually accomplish something. The second, it gives your team members a sense of success.
I like to think of this as the baby steps of leadership. If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey, you know how he encourages the debt snowball through the use of baby steps. These baby steps help those deep in debt understand they can be debt free. You can help your team understand how to be successful through baby steps.
Give this a try and see how it impacts your team!
2. Dan Forester:
I will do what no one else is willing to do.
Dan and Muri were watching a soccer game on the television set. The pair begin to talk about what it takes to be the best.
Dan tells Muri the key to being the best is to do what no one else is willing to do.
Great leaders understand this. They know they have to go above, beyond, and further than other people are willing to go.
What are you willing to do to lead well? Think about this. Figure it out. Then do it.
3. Your team knows when you’re not telling them the truth:
Dan had been drafted to fight in the Tomorrow War. He didn’t want to go but knew he had to.
Talking to his daughter, Dan told her he had to go on a week-long trip (the draft experience lasted for 7 days). Muri started to cry. She knew this wasn’t a regular trip. She understood the “trip” was her father going to war.
We try to sugarcoat things in leadership. We tell our teams what we think they want or need to hear. The truth can get lost in our attempt to make others feel better.
In these instances, we need to be willing to tell our teams the real truth. We need to stop hiding the truth in gentle lies. They see past them and it hurts the truth we’ve built with them.
4. Things move rapidly:
The civilians that had been conscripted to fight the war were told that the deployment was going to happen in days. The truth, they needed to bump up the deployment to hours.
This was because things became extremely dire in the future. Things moved faster than they thought and they needed the new soldiers there to fight.
We set timelines thinking we have a good grasp of what the future will bring. The reality is that things change rapidly. We can think everything will go smoothly. Then everything goes sideways.
We have to be ready to shift and change when things begin to move faster than we anticipated. When we do, we’re able to continue leading and get things done.
5. Charlie (Sam Richardson):
How are you so calm?
Charlie was another civilian who had been drafted. People were freaking out because of the change of deployment. They didn’t know what to do or how to fight.
Dan remained calm. He didn’t let the change rattle him.
Charlie noticed. He asked what was Dan’s secret to remaining calm.
There’s a difference between leaders and followers. One of those differences is the ability to stay calm in stressful situations.
Over time, leaders learn to control their emotions. They reign in their anxious thoughts and handle them in a productive manner.
Learn to reign in your stress levels. Stay calm in situations that demand your attention.
6. Know why you lead:
Dorian (Edwin Hodge) was another soldier in the fight. He had gone on 3 tours of duty in the Tomorrow War. He also said nothing mattered.
Dan knew this wasn’t the truth. There was something pushing him forward. He asked Dorian why. Dorian’s answer wasn’t the truth. He told Dan that nothing matters so that’s why he kept going back.
While Dorian’s reason was weak, he had a why. Nothing mattered to him because he was going to die.
I want to ask you what is your why. Why do you lead? Why do you do what you do?
Knowing this will keep you focused, directed, and connected to leadership.
7. Great leaders encourage others:
Dan had been redeployed to another part of the war. He was scared. He voiced this to Dan by saying he wouldn’t be able to survive another deployment.
What does Dan do? He encourages Charlie. He tells him that he could and would survive.
Leaders don’t talk down to their team members. Rather, they encourage them. They help them understand they can succeed.
How do you talk to your team members? Are you encouraging? Or do you tell them how worthless they are and won’t amount to much?
Be the leader who encourages. You will get more from your team.
8. Success takes multiple tries:
Whitespikes were the aliens in The Tomorrow War. Muri, Dan, and the future soldiers were able to capture the female Whitespike. The female was able to resist the toxins they had created that could kill the males.
Upon capture, they began to experiment to find a toxin that would be deadly to the female. Muri tried again and again and again to create the toxin. After many failures, they were able to create a toxin that would bond and kill the female Whitespike.
We fall into the trap of thinking failure is the end. We can think there’s no recovery from failure. Yet, failure is often a stepping stone to success.
We cannot look at failure as the end. We have to see what failure has taught us and build upon it.
What failures do you need to reexamine to see what you can learn? You may discover the next step to take.
9. There is shame in hiding:
We discover Charlie made it back. He survived his redeployment. YAY!
Then we discover why. Charlie hid. He didn’t fight. He cowered in fear.
This led to a deep shame he carried with him. He had a hard time looking people in the eye.
When we hide from our leadership calling, we can feel a sense of shame upon us. We know that we’re not doing what we’re supposed to. We’re holding back our best from the world.
Let’s stop feeling the shame of hiding. Instead, let’s be the leaders we are called to be.
10. We need to relook at the problem:
They believed the aliens had arrived shortly before the attack. They tried to find a timeline but the timeline didn’t fit, especially after they tested the Whitespike claw Dorian had taken. The claw had signs of being on Earth a lot earlier than that.
Everyone thought the aliens arrived in 2048 or so. They were wrong. They had looked at the problem through the wrong lens.
What are you looking at incorrectly? What do you need to relook at?
Sometimes the problem isn’t the problem. We have to go back further than when we think the problem arose.
Figure out the start date and you can find the origin of the problem.
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but people just hate spending money on research.
Dan had brought back a viable solution to stop the aliens. He, his family, and friends had also discovered where the aliens had been.
Dodd (David Maldonado), a government agent, had been approached by Dan. He was presented with the evidence and turned them down.
Why? Because they didn’t want to spend money on researching the issue.
Many issues arise in organizations because leaders hate spending money on research. They think it is a waste of money and they will discover the answers without the waste of money.
The truth is that research needs to happen. Research prevents many problems from arising, thus saving organizations money.
Don’t be stingy on research. Research solves things.
12. Bad things in organizations can be hard to kill:
Dan contacted his father to bring them to the location of the aliens. When they got there, they awoke the aliens, including the queen.
They easily dispatched the lesser beings. The queen, a different story.
The queen kept fighting. In the battle, the queen was shot, stabbed, and poisoned. Finally, she was kicked off the snowy mountain and exploded. It took a lot to kill her.
Bad things in our organizations can be like the queen. They can be hard to kill once they’ve embedded themselves into the organization.
What could these bad things be? Bad policies. Bad attitudes. Bad procedures. Bad spending habits. Bad ideas.
Make sure you’re not letting bad things fester.
13. Bad leaders take credit for work they didn’t do:
Dodd had denied the team’s request to search the area for the queen. When the rogue mission was a success, guess who claimed credit? That’s right, Dodd claimed credit for sending Dan and the team.
Don’t be like Dodd. Don’t claim credit for the things you didn’t do or tried to stop. This just makes you a bad leader.
14. Second chances should be given:
Dan had held a grudge against his father for a long time. James had sent Christmas cards to his granddaughter Muri. Dan had thrown them in the trash. He didn’t want his daughter to know his father.
Yet, by the end of the movie, Dan was ready to give James a second chance to be a part of their lives. He finally introduced James to his granddaughter.
Second chances can be hard to give. We have to get over the pain and hurt of past transgressions.
However, second chances are amazing. They give someone who may not deserve it another chance.
I often think of ex-cons. They serve their time and then have a hard time getting employment. They then turn back to a life of crime. It’s a vicious cycle perpetuated by a lack of second chances.
Give second chances. Help people succeed after their failures.