7 Leadership Lessons From The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

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What are some leadership lessons from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Yesterday when I was watching the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I could not help but admire the leadership skills of Caesar, the main character and the leader of the ape community. And in a pleasantly surprising way I found similarities with real-life leaders. It got me thinking, are there any leadership lessons from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Below are 7 leadership lessons from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

1. Be farsighted

In the movie, Caesar displays superb wisdom and farsightedness when he gives the humans 3 days to enter his territory and work on a dam, despite fierce reservations from his fellow apes. Caesar’s logic is that if he did not allow the humans to work on the dam, then the humans might use armed force to get access to the dam which would result in huge casualties for the ape community. Caesar decides to give in to the humans for a few days to get a longer and greater benefit of keeping his community alive.

Recently, Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, in her interview in the Aspen Ideas Festival revealed how she decided to focus more on Pepsi’s environmental, healthy foods and talent issues despite reservations from some shareholders who obviously wanted her to focus on increasing profits. Her argument was that she could have devoted all her resources to increase profits and earn brownie points from the shareholders. But that would have only benefitted the company in the short run. In the long run this strategy would have fizzled out. Instead, she decided to focus on healthy food, environment and talent to ensure a more sustainable business over a longer period of time and in an increasingly challenging business environment.

2. Shed your ego

Caesar not only allows the humans to work in his territory but when things get terribly out of control, Caesar allies with humans to stabilize the situation despite the fact that he never trusted humans completely. For Caesar keeping the ape community alive is more important than his personal feelings towards the humans.

In 1997, Microsoft and Apple joined hands together, despite the fact that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did not really see eye to eye. However, for both the leaders their companies were more important than the individual. So, they rose above their differences to forge a relationship of mutual benefits. The rest, as we know, is history!

3. Take ownership for failures

When Caesar is betrayed by his lieutenant Koba it leads to a devastating state of affairs. However, Caesar neither blames Koba nor Caesar’s son who used to support Koba. Rather he takes the blame on himself for having trusted Koba despite getting cues of his betraying attitude several times.

In an interview, scientist and ex-India President APJ Abdul Kalam tells how his team failed in their first attempt to launch a rocket into space – an event that was of national importance. Mr Kalam was responsible for the failure. However, during the press conference, Mr Kalam’s boss and the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Mr Satish Dhawan, took the blame on himself as he was the leader of the organization. The following year when they succeeded in launching the rocket, Mr Dhawan allowed Abdul Kalam to address the press conference. Learning – a true leader takes responsibility for failures in his organization even if the failure is not his handiwork per se. And (this is not in the movie)when there is a success – he gives it to the team!

4. Bounce back after setbacks

In the movie, Koba shoots and injures Caesar and declares himself as the leader of the ape community. While Caesar is down and injured, Koba wages war on the humans thereby creating a chaotic situation. Caesar takes help of the humans to get cured, forgives his son for having supported Koba, regroups with his small team of loyal apes, devices a plan and brings the situation under control. He does not give up even when the odds are stacked high against him.

Similarly, when Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple, he did not sit back and cry on his misfortune. Rather he used his time to forget the past, get back to shape, nurture his creativity, ally with like-minded people and move on. He started all over again with Pixar and gave us one of the best animated movies – Toy Story.

5. Be bold like David

When the humans first encroaches on the ape territory, Caesar shows tremendous courage to take his entire armed battalion to the human settlement to tell the humans – who are far stronger than the apes in terms of weapons – that they do not want any fight but they will if they have to. Caesar acts as the David that refuses to be deterred by the Goliaths.

When Sunil Mittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel which is the 4th largest mobile operator in the world, started mobile phone services, his company was one of the smallest in the Indian industry. It did not have the capital and the brand that the other big players enjoyed. That did not, however, dissuade him from entering the competition. With courage and faith he propelled his company to be the number 1 in the country.

6. Do not live in utopia; be practical

At the end of the movie even after things get under control Caesar rightfully judges that even if he does not want war, a full scale war between the humans and the apes was inevitable as the humans would never forgive the apes for having started the fight. Thus, he does not stay in some kind of utopia but rather faces the situation head on and prepares for it.

The digital music revolution was gradually killing the bricks and mortar music stores. Richard Branson despite being so passionate about his businesses sold off the Virgin Megastores after judging that it did not make sense to stay on in the business. He was rightfully being more practical even if it was painful.

7. Be fair and wise

Caesar makes friends with humans when he knows humans are right and he goes against apes when he knows apes are wrong. Just because he himself is an ape does not make him support apes blindly. By getting humans in his team he controls the situation from getting worse.

In France, it is extremely hard for a non-French guy to reach a company’s top echelons which are usually given to French guys. However, Sidel, the French company that I work for, has set examples of being a wise and fair leader. Sidel gave fast track promotions to a Bangladeshi guy for his superb performance and has people from Iran and Algeria in its top management. It did not give these positions to the local guy just because of his “French connections”. Sidel dared to look beyond France for the sake of the company’s welfare. It is today the world’s number 1 beverage packaging company!

In short, be like Caesar 🙂

Do you know of any other leadership lessons from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Can you suggest other leadership lessons from the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Maybe you know other films that have taught you valuable lessons? Let us know in the comment box below.

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7 Leadership Lessons From…

by Aninda Baruah time to read: 5 min
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