It’s not a surprise to people who know me that I love the new Marvel films. Me and my boys were in the cinema watching Age of Ultron as it came out 1 minute past midnight!
Now as a film, it’s about a team of heroes who are changing the world – but they are still learning themselves. Here are seven leadership lessons from the film (watch out, there may be spoilers ahead!)
1. Celebrate the Victories
The film starts right in the middle of the action with the Avengers taking down a Hydra base. When they have completed their mission successfully, it’s right back to Stark Tower to party and celebrate. Celebrating victories is important – especially when the long-term mission is an ongoing task. So, in church life you might have a vision for a 3000-strong church – celebrate the day you make 50, 100, 200, 500. Celebrate the healing, celebrate the marriage that is saved, celebrate each success.
It is a tribute to Josh Weadon’s story telling that I could have just watched the Avengers party for the whole film, the characters and the way they interacted was priceless. If you are running a team – it cannot just be about work. Yes good leadership must always be about results but it must equally be about relationships too – and one of the best ways to build healthy relationships is to celebrate together.
There is a scene where Tony Stark / Iron Man lets loose with a four-letter word, and Captain America – raised in the 1930s – calls him on it with the one word “Language!”. It then becomes a running joke in the film, but the point is still made. Profanity is invariably unnecessary. We are seeing a change in this nation, and in the Western world, where it is seen as cool to swear. Pastors are swearing from the pulpits to charge up a message and to “wake their church up”. In the short term it may have that positive effect, but the long terms effects will negative. You cheapen something by adding profanity to it, you are not adding something of value.
3. Secrecy is trouble
The protagonist of the film, Ultron, is created by Tony Stark. In secret. Telling only Bruce Banner / the Hulk, Tony starts and finishes his project without the awareness of the rest of the team. His intentions were good – but his personality blinded him from seeing any ramifications from his actions.
Listen carefully. whenever you are doing something in secret from the team, there is a potential of danger. That’s why we have teams. That’s why we function better with other people around us. You don’t have to tell everyone everything, but you do have to tell someone. Make sure you have someones around you! And don’t keep secrets from them!
4. Learn to think 3-dimensionally.
Sometimes things go right, sometimes they go amazingly right, sometimes things go wrong. If you learn to think like that, then you can be prepared. The Scarlet Witch at one point in the film touches the Hulk and sends him on a rampage throughout the city. But Tony Stark has been thinking about different possibilities, and has a Hulkbuster suit of armour ready for this kind of situation.
I’m not saying wallow in the problems, think negatively or assume failure. I’m just saying having a back up plan is never a bad idea and is good leadership.
5. Disagreement is not Dissolution
The Avengers have a bit of a barney in this film. When everyone finds out Tony Stark invented the bad guy, and why, there is a definite argument. The Avengers have different ideas, different perspectives, different philosophies. But the disagreement in the team is not the dissolution of the team. A disagreement on how to raise your children is not the end of your marriage.
A disagreement on how church should be run does not mean you throw your dummy out of the pram, walk out the door and are never seen again. A disagreement on the way the team is run, or who is promoted, should not mean the team is ripped apart.
The Avengers all had this – they were able to look at the big picture and work out the real goal. Their real goal was to save the world, which meant they in humility could lay down their agendas, their plans, their goals and their philosophies to get the job done. The church in this nation desperately needs some people like this. Save us from deacon’s meetings where there is a 3 hour argument on the colour of the new church carpet, elders who only tithe if they are leading worship, people who hold churches to ransom because they can’t see the big picture. Like the Avengers, the church is here to save the world. Let’s get with the bigger picture and work together!
6. Not Everyone will Appreciate You
In one scene, the city is in danger, so Iron Man summons an army of robots to help defend the people and save them. The reaction was not one of appreciation, rather the people attacked the Iron Legion and told them to go away.
I am sure every leader has been in a similar situation (barring the robots!) – you offer help, you know you can help, you have the resources to help – but it just isn’t appreciated, it isn’t welcome. That’s just how it is sadly, and all you can do is shake the dust off your feet and move on. You cannot help people who don’t think they have a problem, you cannot help people who think their problem is unsolvable, and you cannot help people who think you are their problem. Invest your energy on those you can help, and don’t stay awake all night about those you reject your help and reject you.
7. “Our Job is If”
Tony Stark gives in my mind the finest quote in the whole film: “our job is if”. As leaders our job is “if”. What if. We need to be the dreamers of impossible dreams, those who see things differently.
The truth is the world is a mess. We can’t solve all the problems, but there are some problems we can solve. We have to take the time to question, reflect and challenge the way things have always been done. In my last post, I said that leaders have to reflect everyday. We have to ask the big questions. We have to consider and bring out the “if”
If things could be different
If we could inspire people on a bigger scale
If we could create something worth owning and worth fighting for
If we could do church as it’s meant to be done, not how it’s always been done
If we could lay down our agendas and genuinely love and support one another
If we could stop sweeping stuff under the carpet and deal with it
If we could overcome this obstacle.
Take some time today to figure out and dream some IFs. Our job is if.