Please note: this article contains spoilers.
The end is upon us. Not the end of Marvel's incredible run of great movies, however. Marvel's Phase 3 that began with Captain America: Civil War has now ended with Spider Man: Far From Home - the coda to Avengers: Endgame that deals with the death of Iron Man and the super hero power vacuum that occurs as a result. The latest outing from Spider Man serves as an excellent digestif to the Michelin Star meal that was Endgame and also works very well as a standalone sequel that further thrusts leadership and responsibility upon young Peter Parker.
The synopsis of the film goes: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever. Our friendly neighborhood Super Hero decides to join his best friends Ned, MJ, and the rest of the gang on a European vacation. However, Peter's plan to leave super heroics behind for a few weeks is quickly scrapped when he begrudgingly agrees to help "Nick Fury" uncover the mystery of several elemental creature attacks, creating havoc across the continent.
On one level, this film is about stepping up into a leadership capacity whether you are ready or not. But this movie is also very much about the importance of proper leadership succession and the consequences when it is not fully thought out. As John C. Maxwell rightly states:
A leader's lasting value is measured by succession.
With this thought in mind, allow me to present 5 key leadership lessons from this action-packed movie.
1. Look beneath the surface: The inciting incident of the film occurs in Ixtenco, Mexico where Nick Fury and Maria Hill find themselves under attack by an elemental force and saved by a mysterious new hero named Quentin Beck. Had they dug a bit deeper into Beck's backstory as well as did more analysis of the elemental danger they might have been able to stop a lot more destruction later on in the picture. Leadership Lesson: Problems are rarely solved by acting on the surface of the issue. Leaders are driven to investigate the true root of the problem by asking themselves the 5 Why's and then seeking to develop actions that truly address the real issues.
2. Try the direct approach: One of the drivers of the film is Peter's desire to reveal his feelings for MJ and hopefully find those feelings requited. In order to do this, he constructs a romantic (and quite convoluted) strategy which quickly goes off the rails. He could have gotten his answer much quicker had he directly revealed his affection for her. Leadership Lesson: One of the most challenging situation leaders face is providing feedback (either positive or constructive). Looking to avoid confrontation, most leaders delay the giving of feedback or invent complex processes that miss the point. But direct is best. If you see an undesired behavior manifest, speak on it immediately and then move on together.
3. Be a zero not a hero: Peter struggles throughout the film with the fact that Tony Stark apparently chose him to be the new leader of the Avengers. He reluctantly accepts the responsibility even knowing that he is not nearly ready for this new challenge. The more he tries to step into shoes too big for him, the more mistakes he makes until he realizes there is no one to blame for the failures but himself and he must find the resolve to bounce back. Leadership Lesson: Astronaut Chris Hadfield in his fantastic book
An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth discusses how he approaches new situations. He says there are three ways a person will be viewed when thrust into an unknown situation - as a minus one - or someone who actively creates problems; as a zero - someone who doesn't do any harm nor adds significant value initially; or as a plus one - someone who actively adds value. The soonest way to become a minus one is to try to be a plus one without yet understanding how to do so. As he states, "when you have some skills but don't fully understand your environment, there is no way you can be a plus one. At best, you can be a zero. But a zero isn't a bad thing to be. You're competent enough not to create problems or make more work for yourself."
4. Active disengagement is a killer: Antagonist Quentin Beck's motivation in the movie goes back to being fired by Tony Stark after being disperaged by his boss for recommending out of the box applications for a new technology he has developed. So Beck rounds up a cadre of other disgruntled ex-employees of Stark and they work together to create the elemental threats and Mysterio as the new hero who can address them. Leadership Lesson: Everything you do or don't do as a leader matters. Every decision has weight and comes with a potential negative consequence. Being more calculating and asking yourself what if questions to identify potential risks is crucial to improving the quality of decisions. Especially when it comes to how you deal with your people. There is a right way to treat people - even when it comes to termination decisions. Being human, empathetic, and supportive even in difficult moments can go a long way.
5. Trust your gut: Peter's Spidey sense (or Peter tingle as Aunt May describes it) is malfunctioning for most of the movie resulting in some brutal beatings for the young hero. By the movie's climax, however, he has learned that he must trust his instincts. And by doing so he is able to defeat Mysterio. Leadership Lesson: Sometimes the facts lie. When what you can see doesn't fully add up it's time to interrogate what you feel as a leader. Instinct is built up over time and can be relied on in moments of uncertainty. However, one person's instinct should never override a group's collective feeling about a given situation. Effective leaders multiply their gut by seeking the opinions of others before making decisions.
Overall, Spider-Man: Far From Home was a fun follow-up to Homecoming and raises the stakes even more for Marvel's Phase 4. While not perfect, I would still highly recommend it especially in a 4DX theatre where the seats move! (4.5 out of 5 stars from me).
What other leadership lessons did you glean from the film? Let us know in the comments below. And please give the article a thumbs up and share with your network if you enjoyed and got anything out of it.
Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Amazon.com. Please follow him on instagram, twitter, and/or LinkedIn for more information and engagement.