What makes us want to be like some of our favorite characters from nerdom’s best movies?
Besides wanting to don their wardrobe and possess their special powers (I’m looking at you, Star-Lord), I think it’s because certain characters inspire us by how they respond to challenges. We can identify with their struggles and vulnerabilities, and we’re galvanized by how they overcome them. Our favorite protagonists often have qualities that we’d like to see in ourselves.
So let’s take a look at some movie characters from a handful of nerd culture’s favorite flicks and explore what lessons they can teach us about leading.
Frodo Baggins In The Lord Of The Rings
Lesson: Sacrifice for something bigger than yourself.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo volunteers to take the one ring (“my precious!”) to Mordor so it can be destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom. And this means he has to endure some really tough trials along the way. Would any of us have volunteered to carry the ring? His willingness to sacrifice for the sake of a larger purpose is inspiring. As a leader, what are you serving that’s bigger than yourself, and would you fulfill that mission even if it meant taking risks and stretching outside your comfort zone?
Peter Quill, A.K.A. Star-Lord, In Guardians Of The Galaxy
Lesson: Use humor during times of tension.
In this popular Marvel movie, Star-Lord and the gang get into lots of hairy situations—and when things are at their worst, Peter will crack a joke or launch into an impromptu dance break. This keeps everyone’s spirits high and his enemies guessing. Humor is one of his superpowers. And it’s a skill that leaders can learn to harness as well. How might you use humor at work to lighten the mood?
Marty McFly In Back To The Future
Lesson: Tap into creative problem-solving.
Along with Doc Brown, Marty demonstrates how important it is to tap into creative problem-solving when the pressure is on. In all three installments of the trilogy, Marty and Doc consistently find themselves up against time-sensitive challenges as they mess around with the time continuum. And it’s their ability to think on their feet to devise kooky and creative solutions that saves the day. Do you rally your team to think creatively when problems pop up?
Emmet Brickowski In The Lego Movie
Lesson: Have confidence in yourself.
In this funny animated flick, Emmet starts out just wanting to fit in and follow the rules and doesn’t see himself as special. Later in the movie, he can’t save his friends until he finally believes he has something unique and important to contribute. This boost in confidence enables him to courageously save the day. As leaders, self-doubt can sometimes take over and cause you to hold back. Are you working to lessen your inner critic so your strengths can shine?
Hermione Granger In Harry Potter
Lesson: Don’t go it alone.
Hermione is a smart, independent thinker. She doesn’t appear to need anyone’s help. But throughout multiple Potter movies, we see how she, Harry and Ron have to rely on each other’s unique strengths in order to stand against he-who-must-not-be-named. Although, at times, various characters try to go it alone, it’s only through collective effort and mutual support that good prevails over the evil of Voldemort. As a leader, are you comfortable asking for help? Are you relying enough on the support of your team?
Jake Sully In Avatar
Lesson: Be open to the new and different.
In the first movie, we’re introduced to the character Jake Sully, an injured Marine veteran who’s dejected and jaded. When he arrives on the planet Pandora to take his dead brother’s place as an avatar driver, he doesn’t have much left to live for. This unenviable condition ironically gives him an advantage—it means he has an “empty cup” that enables him to be completely open to learning something new and different, the Na’vi way of life. As leaders, preconceived notions can blind us from being truly open to change and innovation. How open and adaptable are you?
Westley, A.K.A. Dread Pirate Roberts, In The Princess Bride
Lesson: Stay optimistic amid tough situations.
When watching Westley lead Buttercup through the Fire Swamp, I’m always struck and delighted by his unexpectedly upbeat attitude as they encounter treacherous obstacles—pools of sinking sand, jets of flame that shoot up from the ground and the famous RUSs, Rodents of Unusual Size! “It’s not that bad,” Westley says, “I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.” He’s clearly choosing optimism to bolster both his and Buttercup’s resilience. As leaders, modeling optimism in the face of challenges can give your team an important boost. And, yes, it has to be balanced with honesty and realism (no toxic positively, please). So are you communicating optimism, verbally and nonverbally?
Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games
Lesson: One person’s courage can inspire big change.
Katniss Everdeen begins as just another lowly citizen of an outer district of Panem—living in poverty and fear. But when her sister Prim is selected for the Hunger Games, Katniss becomes the first person from District 12 to volunteer as Tribute in her sister’s place. This initial act of bravery thrusts Katniss into the spotlight where her strong character and repeated willingness to act courageously sets off a full-on revolution. In our own lives, it’s easy to think our actions won’t make much difference. But is that really true? As a leader, are you stepping out in courageous ways that could spark larger change?
As you can see, many of the most popular movie characters from nerdom have some pretty enviable leadership qualities (and, yes, they also have some flaws… just like us!). After reading about these various heroes, which ones are you most drawn to imitate while on your own journey as a leader? Which leadership qualities would help you level up the most?
This article was originally published on Forbes.