The world of comic book movies changed on July 14th, 2000. This date was the release date of the original 20th Century Fox film X-Men. Based on the Marvel comic book series, X-Men, X-Men brought to life the stories children had been reading for years.
Both of those movies were fun. They stayed pretty true to the original comic book characters. Except one thing never happened: These two films didn’t kickstart the comic book movie craze. X-Men did.
Bryan Singer directed the X-Men movie. David Hayter wrote the screenplay (I interviewed him for my book, Reel Leadership).
X-Men hits the spot if you want to enter the world of live-action mutants. The character portrayals were spot on. There were romantic tensions between the characters. There were great action scenes. And, as usual, great leadership lessons.
In this article, we’re going to look at the leadership lessons in X-Men.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From X-Men
1. Our strengths are forged in stressful circumstances:
We see young Eric Lensherrr (Brett Morris) being forcefully removed from his parents in a Holocaust death camp. The guards were separating young children from their parents. When they removed Eric, his powers began to activate.
Eric reached his hand toward his parents. The metal gates separating them began to shake. They eventually began to crumple as his power of metal began to manifest.
The same thing happened to Rogue (Anna Paquin). She is lying on her bed with her boyfriend. They begin to kiss. Her powers activated and she began to drain his life force.
Two totally different circumstances activated the powers of these mutants. Yet, the situations were similar. Both were under an intense amount of stress.
We understand the concept that our strengths are forged and strengthened under difficult circumstances. Even then, we do our best to remove ourselves from challenging situations.
We need to stop running from stressful situations. Instead, we need to learn to embrace them.
Let the stressful situations begin to forge your strengths. You’ll see yourself stepping up, strengthening up as you go through your crucibles.
2. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart):
Don’t give up on them, Eric.
Professor Xavier saw Eric at a debate between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison) at a senate hearing about the Mutant Registration Act. Eric removed himself from the meeting.
Professor Xavier followed him. He needed to confront his old friend and figure out what he was doing—or going to do.
During their confrontation, Professor Xavier asked his friend not to give up on non-mutants. There was still hope for them.
You’re going to deal with people who are sick and tired of the way things are being done. They’ll think businesses are crooked. They may believe leaders are selfish.
Whatever their feelings, you have to extend an olive branch to them. Help them to understand that there is good in the business world.
You have to help your people have hope. Without hope, they will go off the rails.
3. We have an idea of where we want to go but may not like where we end up:
Rogue hitched a ride with an over-the-road truck driver. Her request was to be brought to Laughlin City.
We see the truck driver opening the door for Rogue. She protests. She thinks he’s trying something with her.
The driver protests. He tells her that they are in Laughlin City.
Laughlin City wasn’t what Rogue expected. We’re left wondering what she was expecting, but we know it wasn’t this dingy city.
You will experience this often. You have a vision of where you want your organization, family, or life to go. You’ve got the perfect idea in your mind.
You arrive at the destination. Except the destination isn’t what you expected.
You’re still unhappy. People still don’t listen to you. Your family is upset with you.
Know that you can have the best vision in the world. Still, the outcome of obtaining your vision may not be the reality you expected it to be.
4. Use tact when approaching failures:
Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) was supposed to return to Magento’s hideout with Rogue. He failed.
Toad (Ray Park) was painting Magneto’s Mutant Conversion Machine when Sabretooth returned. Toad quipped to Sabretooth about the package Sabretooth was supposed to bring back.
The statement hit a sore spot with Sabretooth. He didn’t deal well with failure. He especially didn’t deal well with people who didn’t use tact.
You have to use tact when dealing with your team members who experience a failure. You cannot barge in, attack the team member, and expect them to continue working well with you.
Tact always wins in the end. Be gentle. Use kindness. Get to the bottom of the situation.
Don’t be rude. Be kind.
5. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn):
You know, it’s people like you that made me afraid to go to school when I was a child.
As Senator Kelly left a rally opposing mutant rights, we saw crowds of people cheering him. He’s happy, waving at his adoring fans.
He then enters a helicopter that is to take him to his next destination. Except the helicopter didn’t. Magneto’s mutant team, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, had commandeered the helicopter to take Senator Kelly to Magneto.
On the helicopter ride, Mystique tells Senator Kelly it was people like him who made it difficult for her to attend school. She was, after all, a blue-skinned mutant who could shapeshift.
We must create environments where it’s safe to be who you are. Whether you’re African American, Indian, Caucasian, a nerd, geek, weird, Christian, Hindu, or something else, you deserve to be free from fear where you’re working.
Work on creating an accepting environment where people won’t be harassed or abused when they come to work. The more you can do this, the more people desire to work with you.
6. Find a mentor:
Jean Grey had the mutant ability of telekinesis. This power meant she could move objects with her mind. Need a door closed? She could close the door with her mind.
Jean also had a secondary mutant power. Her lesser power was telepathy. Telepathy is the ability to communicate with others through your thoughts. The power also includes the ability to read the thoughts of those around you.
Jean was working with Professor Xavier to increase her ability of telepathy. She knew if she could work on her power with someone more skilled, she could become more powerful with the skill.
We all have areas where we’re strong. We also have areas where we’re weak.
It’s not wrong or right to be strong in one skill and weak in another. However, you can work on those skills regardless of whether you’re weak or strong in a specific area. The best way to improve your skills is through a mentor.
A mentor will help you answer questions, guide you through your challenges, and improve yourself. A mentor is your genie in a bottle if you listen to them.
7. Fearful leaders are dangerous:
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) was dreaming of the Weapon X program. The Weapon X program was the program that gave him his Adamantium claws. The scientists there experimented on him and transformed him into something new.
While Wolverine was dreaming, Rogue approached the sleeping man. She tried to wake him. When she did, Wolverine popped his claws and stabbed her.
His actions were not on purpose. They were a reaction to his dreams and fears. Still, his actions almost cost Rogue her life.
What happens when a leader reacts out of fear? They hurt people. These leaders are dangerous.
The best leaders I’ve met are leaders who have learned to control their fearful reactions. Sure, they still feel fear, but they don’t react out of fear.
The best way I’ve found to control the fear is to work on controlling it. This happens by putting yourself in safe situations where you experience the emotion or feeling of fear. You work through the situation, watching how you react. Continue to do this enough, and fear will not control your reactions. You will be able to lead through the fear.
8. Use the tools you have effectively:
Rogue takes the advice of the fake Bobby Drake. She leaves Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. When Professor X discovers this, he heads to a tool he has used many times before.
That tool is the mutant detecting device called Cerebro. This device amplifies Professor X’s mutant ability of telepathy. Cerebro extends the range his power can find mutants.
He uses this device to locate Rogue. He finds her seated on a train taking her to who knows where.
When we work on our strengths, they become stronger. Still, there are times when our strengths still aren’t enough to get us through our day. This is when we need to look at the tools around us.
There are amazing tools that will amplify our abilities. Just think about the way we use computers to get our work done. They can be fantastic tools to become more productive through the use of electronic calendars, productivity software, and artificial intelligence.
When we combine the tools available to us with our skills, we amplify our strengths. We can get more done faster than ever before. We can reach an audience we’ve never dreamed of.
Tools are a great way to amplify your strengths.
There’s not many people out there that’ll understand what you’re going through but I think this Xavier is one of them.
When Wolverine finds Rogue on the train, he comforts her. He lets Rogue know that he’s okay. He also offers sage words of wisdom.
He isn’t quite sure what Professor X’s endgame is, yet he knows he can trust Professor X. He also knows that Rogue can trust him.
Wolverine encourages Rogue to go back to the school. He tells her that the students and Professor X are not mad at her. More importantly, he believes Professor X understands what she’s going through.
Do you have people in your life that can understand what you’re going through? Sometimes these people are mentors in your life. Other times, these people are other leaders. Still, you may find them in your church, local organizations, and other places.
These people won’t be your twin. They will be people who have gone through similar situations.
Find them. Let them help you get through the difficult times of leadership and life. You’ll be glad you found them and listened to them.
What would you prefer, yellow spandex?
There were a lot of outcries when X-Men was released. The X-Men uniforms had been changed from yellow and blue to black leather outfits. These uniforms didn’t align with the idea people had of the X-Men.
The writers of the movie addressed this issue in the film. They had Wolverine look uncomfortable in the outfit. Wolverine asked Cyclops if they actually went outside in these things.
Cyclops’ answer is laugh-out-loud funny when you think about it. Cyclops asks Wolverine if he’d rather be in yellow spandex to be more comic-accurate.
I loved this scene. It made me laugh, maybe even snort, because I was one of those haters regarding the black uniforms. I didn’t think they fit with the X-Men. Now, they’re one of the things I love about the X-Men movies.
I also loved how the writer addressed an issue that the comic book fans had. He had one of his characters ask about yellow spandex. Adding the interaction meant he was aware of the concerns and addressed them by pointing toward the fact that yellow spandex could look ridiculous.
What concerns do your team members have? Are you addressing them?
Every team has concerns. Every leader needs to address these concerns in one way or another.
Find an appropriate way to address the concerns your team members have. Help them to understand why you are leading the way you are. The more you address concerns, the more your team will understand you have a reason behind your actions. Addressing concerns will help them go along with your ideas when they may not buy in one hundred percent.
11. Make sure you’re bought in:
Magneto thought changing humans into mutants would alleviate the tensions between the two groups. He created the Mutant Conversion Machine to do just that.
However, did he genuinely believe in his vision? Wolverine didn’t think so.
Wolverine saw Magneto sacrificing Rogue for his mission. Magneto knew the Mutant Conversion Machine would kill the one who used it. That person wouldn’t be Magneto.
Wolverine challenged Magneto on this. If Magneto believed so strongly in his cause, why wasn’t he willing to sacrifice himself to see the vision fulfilled?
Who are you sacrificing to see your vision come to fruition? Are you willing to suffer to see your dream realized?
Don’t be a leader who throws their people away because you’re unwilling to take on the pain and suffering your vision requires. Great leaders don’t allow their teams to suffer. Instead, they put themselves in the path of danger.
They know that their dream requires their sacrifice.
12. Great leadership takes time:
The X-Men are able to stop Magneto from unleashing his Mutant Conversion Machine on the unsuspecting humans. Storm uses her powers to lift Wolverine to the top of the Statue of Liberty that Magneto uses to house his conversion device. Wolverine attempts to stop the machine but needs help.
Cyclops unleashes an eye blast on the Mutant Conversion Machine. The blast knocks Magneto off of the Statue of Liberty, frees Wolverine to destroy the machine, and Wolverine is able to save Rogue.
Or maybe not.
Rogue is lifeless when Wolverine reaches her. He touches her body. He wills Rogue to take his mutant regenerative powers. She’s not stirring, and he’s not feeling the drain.
All hope is lost.
Or is it?
We see Wolverine’s face begin to change. Rogue’s ability to absorb mutant powers is starting to work. It only took time for her to draw the power from Wolverine.
We live in a world where everything has to be done right now, right away. The desire for quick results has become a significant pox on leadership.
Great leadership isn’t microwavable. We cannot call on a leader to be successful in a day, a week, or even a year. Great leadership takes time.
Don’t be discouraged if you do not see results right away. Don’t be frustrated if you’re not seeing the results you desire from your team right away, either.
Success, and great leadership, take time. Do what you know to do. Continue to plug away.
If what you’re doing is right, you will see success.