Set in the near-future, Upgrade is a world of upgrades. Cars are self-driving and self-sustaining. Humans are implanted with technological upgrades. And computers run the home (okay, this one isn’t too far off with the proliferation of automation in the home).
Upgrade tells the sad tale of Grey Trace (Logan Marshall-Green). Early in Upgrade, Grey loses his wife Asha (Melanie Vallejo) after an accident caused by their self-driving car. Grey soon discovers this was no accident and he was played the whole time.
The loss of the love of his life causes the technophobe to accept an implant. The implant would help Grey regain movement and discover who killed his wife. Eventually, leading to an outcome that was unexpected.
Upgrade was a fun romp in a sci-fi setting. Lots of action and intrigue. There’s also plenty of leadership lessons in Upgrade. Let’s check leadership lessons out below.
Caution: Upgrade spoilers ahead
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Upgrade
1. Do what you love:
Grey was old-school. He loved classic cars and being away from technology. So he pursued a career as a mechanic and repaired original cars, ones that were not equipped with technological enhancements.
When he finished repairing one car, he looked at the car and said he loved it. His passion and love shone through for what he was doing.
Leaders need to have a passion, a love for leading. They can’t lead effectively if they only go through the motions.
Make sure you love leading when you enter into the field. If you don’t, get out. If you do, lead well. Lead with the passion you have.
2. Be careful of double standards:
In a humorous scene in Upgrade, Grey told Asha she talked to her car too much. To Asha’s credit, the car responded to her commands. In response, Asha told Grey he talked too much to his.
Both of the characters found themselves talking to their cars. One called the other out on it.
Grey had a double standard he didn’t recognize. He couldn’t see past his bias towards technology to see he did the same thing as Asha.
Having double standards is an easy thing to do. You can see the fault in others, seeing the fault in yourself is much harder.
Be wary of the double standards you hold. When someone calls you out for your double standards, don’t get angry. Learn from their noticing and begin working to rid yourself of the double standards.
3. Grey Trace:
There are some things humans do better.
Grey’s world was one where robots were taking over. They were able to do almost as much as humans could.
Grey knew this. Asha knew this. And others in their world knew where robots were headed.
Yet Grey knew of one thing robots couldn’t do better than humans. Robots can’t make new humans.
As our world progresses towards a technologically advanced society, leaders need to be cautious how much they rely on technology. Technology is great. It is helping you and I reach audiences we could never have before. It’s also bringing people closer together.
You will find yourself wanting to rely on technology for everything. From creating action plans to connecting with those you lead.
These are great things technology can do. But remember, technology cannot do everything humans can do. Sometimes, technology can’t do it as well either.
Use technology when it makes sense. Use yourself and others when it makes sense. Find the compromise and use it.
4. People are fearful of new things:
One of the problem’s Grey had with technology was the fact technology and advancement could take over his job and the jobs of others. Robots and computers were getting more and more advanced.
This scared Grey. He didn’t want to lose his job or see others lose theirs. His fear made him hesitant to embrace technology.
New things are scary to people. They may feel like their job is in jeopardy or that technology may break something that is already working.
Help walk people through change. Show them they have nothing to be afraid of. Let them see how new is beneficial.
5. Your social skills matter:
Eron keen (Harrison Gilbertson) was a tech innovator who was the head of the technology company Vessel. He created a technological implant called STEM (Simon Maiden). STEM would change the life of the now crippled Grey.
However, when Eron approached Grey in the hospital, his social skills were lacking. He said inappropriate things to Grey regarding his disability and the death of his wife. Grey was offended…
I believe leaders need to work on their social skills more than anyone else. While social skills are important to everyone, leaders need to be able to clearly speak to a wide variety of people.
From production workers to those in the office to customers and vendors, leaders are communicating with multiple people. The way you communicate and interact says a lot about you and your organization.
People will look to you to be clear and appropriate in your communications. Be that. Use Toastmasters or a college class to help improve your social skills. They matter.
6. Technology can do some amazing things:
The reason Eron approached Grey in the hospital was to help him. He wanted to help Grey restore his bodily functions.
The human doctors couldn’t repair Grey’s body. Technology could.
While technology may not be able to do everything humans can, technology can do many amazing things. Technology can transmit voice and video across the globe via the internet. You can use technology to mark up your calendar on your computer and have it synch to your cell phone. Or you might use technology to share your vision through a blog.
These are amazing things! Many of these couldn’t have been imagined by the masses 15 years ago.
Don’t stop using technology. Use technology appropriately.
7. You can see sudden results:
A nurse asked Grey to move his toes. He couldn’t. The nurse told Grey this was okay because sometimes it takes awhile to see results.
Just as the nurse was saying this, Grey began to move parts of his body. Then he jumped off the table.
Results from the implantation of STEM were sudden.
Everyone knows results can take time. Sometimes too much time. We also know results can be rather sudden.
Be ready for sudden results.
8. Grey Trace:
This feels weird.
STEM was a remarkable piece of technology. Implanted on the spine of Grey, STEM allowed Grey to do all sorts of things. From walking in his crippled body to seeing minute details in a grainy video, STEM enhanced Grey’s senses.
This was a new sensation for Grey. It was also weird.
New can be weird. New can be disorientating. And new can be challenging.
Still, new is good a lot of times. Don’t be opposed to something new. Give new a try and see how it impacts your ability to lead.
You will have a choice afterward. You can continue with the new or you can get rid of it. The choice is yours.
9. Technology isn’t always needed:
Grey used STEM to find the first of his wife’s murderers. The clues they discovered led them to a rundown home in Grey’s hometown.
Upon arriving at the house, they see the suspect leaving. Grey moves to the door and STEM tells Grey there’s no technology. He can’t help Grey get in.
This doesn’t deter Grey. Grey pulls out a couple of tools and begins to pick the lock on the door. He didn’t need technology at this point.
Technology is wonderful. We’ve already gone over how technology improves our lives. Though sometimes we rely too heavily on technology.
There are times when technology isn’t needed. You won’t always need to be connected via a cell phone or your laptop. You can get away and not have technology in your face all the time.
10. People will take you literally:
Once Grey broke into the house, he asked STEM for a second to think. After one second passed, STEM told Grey he had his second.
STEM took Grey’s words literally.
Leaders have to be careful with their words. People are listening. And they’re taking your words at face value. They’re taking you literally.
Make sure you’re communicating clearly and effectively. Make sure you’re saying what needs to be said in a way others will understand them.
11. Leaders need help:
The next place Grey went to was a bar called Old Bones. He ordered a whiskey from the bartender.
The bartender placed the drink on the bar. Grey had a problem. He couldn’t reach the drink from his wheelchair. So, he had to ask for help from another patron.
It was humiliating. He had to ask the patron to pick up the drink and bring it towards him. Then he had to have the patron hold the glass while he sipped from the straw.
Asking for help can be humiliating. Yet every leader will need help at some point.
The help could be advice. Or a leader may need help in running their business. Still, the help may be in dealing with a family issue.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. The help you get will assist you in getting the job done.
It was just a job.
Tolan (Christopher Kirby) was another thug who helped kill Grey’s wife. Grey found him at Old Bones and confronted him.
The answer Tolan gave to Grey was the attack was just a job. He was doing what he was told to do.
People will view what you tell them to do as a job. You have a responsibility to make sure the job they do is ethical.
Your requests will be carried out by people. Even if they are unethical or inappropriate.
Be a leader who won’t request inappropriate or unethical actions from your team members.
13. Grey Trace:
Why someone would choose to live in a fake world is beyond me.
After his fight with Tolan, Grey was informed STEM was being shut down. He had to get to a hacker named Jamie. The hacker would be able to reprogram STEM and allow it to continue to help Grey move freely.
Jamie was holed up in a VR warehouse. People would put on Virtual Reality goggles and live in a fake world for hours, days, weeks on end.
Grey questioned why someone would live in a fake world. Jamie’s answer provides insight into the real world. They chose to live in a fake world because it was less painful than the real world.
Ouch… This stings. The world is a painful place and people are looking for an escape.
This is why so many people turn to drugs or alcohol. They want to dim the pain.
In your role as a leader, you can help them. You can be a kinder, gentler leader. You can lead with kindness.
This doesn’t mean you don’t hold them to a standard. This means you treat them with dignity and respect.
14. You can be used:
Once Jamie unlocked STEM, we learn a dark truth. STEM was manipulating Grey. He wanted to destroy Eron, his creator. And he wanted to take over Grey’s body for good.
Grey didn’t know he was being used. He went along with STEM because he thought he was being helped.
He was wrong.
You may come across people who appear to want to help you. In reality, there are people who see you as a stepping stone or a way to advance their careers.
Be careful of these people. They will use you and then toss you aside.
Question: Have you seen Upgrade? If you have, did you find any leadership lessons in Upgrade? If you haven’t, what leadership lessons from Upgrade that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comment section below.
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