Leadership in the Movies – Outside the Wire

leadership lessons from outside the wire

Ready for a new movie? A few weeks ago Netflix released Outside the Wire. As soon as I saw the movie promo and read the description, I knew it was my kind of movie – part action, part sci-fi, and part fantasy. 

“In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack.”

Outside the Wire

Without giving away any spoilers, the movie follows the journey of Harp, a UAV pilot (unmanned aerial vehicle) – commonly known as a drone pilot in the U.S. military. At the start of the movie, we see that Harp works from a military base in southwest America, safe from the war in the Middle East. However, while he sits in America flying the drones, he is working with soldiers in an active warzone. 

Values drive decisions.

We see a conflict arise as Harp wants to make war decisions based on numbers and forecasting, whereas the soldiers in the warzone make decisions about the humanity of the team. This ethical conflict is fascinating to consider. Harp is behind a screen, wearing headphones, and making decisions with the click of a finger. At the beginning of the movie, we see that he does not feel the impact of his choices. He considers causalities merely numbers and never served time in a warzone – in harm’s way himself. Yet, he is making decisions that directly impact the lived experiences and lives of the soldiers in harm’s way.

What are your personal values?

The movie is labeled sci-fi and fantasy. But with the rapid advances in technology, the reality presented in Outside the Wire is not too hard to imagine. What can our business leaders learn from the storyline? What analogies may ring true in a business setting? 

  • Have you taken time to consider the impact of your decisions? 
  • What values drive the decisions you make? 
  • Do you know your values? 
  • Have you considered how your values may have changed and evolved over the past year?

These questions are two-fold because we each have our own personal values, but we also have the value sets of our organizations. Bonus question: Do your personal values align with the organizational values? (If not, you may need to find a context allowing for a better fit).

Understand the impact of your decisions.

In our hyper-digitized working environments (thanks to the pandemic), it is easy for businesses to forget or choose not to acknowledge humanity, the lives, and the families impacted by decisions. 

  • How do you ensure that consideration for humanity is included in your decision making processes? 
  • How do you ideate or brainstorm potential implications of your daily decisions?

Ethics and the future of technology

As the movie progresses, there are undoubtedly other ethical questions that come to mind involving the future of technology, humanity, and war. Harp (fully human) is partnered with Leo, a top-secret android officer (again, not a spoiler because the Netflix description tells us that much!), while on a war-related mission. 

Doing better is at the heart of leader development

Near the end of the movie, Harp offers a piece of advice to Leo:

“Humans can learn to do better that is the greater good, Leo.”

– Outside the Wire

As a Leadership Doctor, I’m obligated to find this the most valuable line in the entire movie. Doing better is literally at the heart of leader development and leadership training. Doing better is connected with self-awareness, continuous learning, and leader authenticity. 

  • How do you practice self-awareness?
  • How do you ensure continuous growth through learning?
  • How do you practice authenticity in your context? 

Though I certainly do not have experience working in a warzone with an android officer, as a Leadership Doctor, I can relate to these essential questions on ethics, values, humanity, and self-awareness. 

What about you? 

What are some leadership lessons you learned from watching Outside the Wire? What’s your take on values and ethics in organizations and across teams?

What about your organization?