leadership lessons from Wonder Woman 1984
This time last year, when Friday night rolled around, we’d head over to the local theater, recline the chairs back, and soak up the new movie with the mammoth movie theater sound system and a massive screen. However, that was before the pandemic. Wonder Woman 1984 was released on Christmas, and of course, we had to see it!
We all huddled on the living room couch, logged into HBO Max, and then cast the movie on the TV. On the bright side, Clark Kent and Tony Stark (our two dogs) were able to enjoy the screening as well!
The opening scene is a teachable moment.
The message of Wonder Woman 1984 is more critical than ever before! The film’s opening scene is a flashback to Diana’s childhood. And, within 10 minutes and 15 seconds, we are granted a teachable moment. We see young Diana running around the lush green forest within the island of Themyscira – the island given to the Amazons by the Greek gods.
Adult Diana recounts, “Some days, my childhood feels so very far away. And others, I can almost see it. The magical land of my youth – like a beautiful dream of when the whole world felt like a promise and the lessons that lay ahead yet unseen. Looking back, I wish I’d listened. Wish I’d watch more closely and understood. But sometimes you can’t see what you’re learning until you come out the other side.”
Diana starts the contest.
Some of the most seasoned Amazon warriors warm up near the start line of the Amazonian contest. An eager young Diana joins at the start line. Robin Wright, who plays Antiope, a General with the Amazons and Diana’s Aunt, comes alongside her.
“I’ve seen this contest humble even the most seasoned warriors, Diana.”
“I can do it,” ignorantly claims Diana.
“Just do your best and remember, greatness is not what you think. Pace yourself and watch,” Antiope shares.
The contest starts with the gong’s bang, and the warriors start their sprint through the course. A coliseum of Amazons, all fashioned white & gold attire, cheer on the warriors from the stands as they eagerly watch from the sidelines.
Diana is in the lead.
The warriors overcome obstacles, complete an open water swim, ride horseback – checkpoints at multiple steps signified by them shooting through a target with their arrow. As they hit the mark, their powder color erupts high into the sky, signaling their banner hanging in the coliseum to lower. As the flag continues to lower, the Amazons see the progress of the warriors on course.
Young Diana is in the lead most of the course, but then she gets knocked off her horse by a bush as she looks back. At that point, she goes rogue and off the competition course to catch-up to her horse to cross the finish line first. Skipping multiple points along the route, Diana connects with her horse again. She charges into the coliseum to claim victory over the other warriors as the first Amazon to return.
Diana is held accountable.
Antiope stops young Diana, takes her spear, and pulls her off the track. Antiope steps in to halt Diana from claiming ultimate victory before throwing her spear through the final target within the coliseum. Antiope’s actions allowed the rightful warriors to complete the contest by throwing their spears with the crowd cheering.
Diana cries, “No, that’s not fair. No, no. But…”
“You took the short path,” says Antiope, the General.
“You cheated, Diana,” replies Antiope.
“No, but that…”
“That is the truth. That is the only truth and truth is all there is.”
“But I would’ve won if you didn’t…” continues Diana
Antiope concludes, “But you didn’t. You can’t be the winner because you are not ready to win and there is no shame in that. Only in knowing the truth in your heart and not accepting it. No true hero is born from lies.”
What can we learn from Wonder Woman 1984?
We need leaders who uphold accountability.
Antiope is an example of a leader who held Diana accountable. She spoke the truth to Diana. Diana being the queen’s daughter, may have caused hesitation in a weaker leader to act. But Antiope knew it was part of her duty as General and Aunt to teach Diana an invaluable lesson. As Wonder Woman 1984 continues, we see how important the lesson that Antiope taught her as a child is to her adult decisions.
As Diana had Antiope hold her accountable for her actions, we often need support from leaders around us to ensure our teams and organizations are held responsible.
- We need leaders that hold us to the truth.
- We need leaders who share tough messages.
- We need leaders who uphold the truth.
- We need leaders who enforce the rules.
- We need leaders who maintain accountability.
We need systems that ensure accountability.
Had Antiope not stepped in, the Amazons would have still known the true winners of the contest because of the system and rules they had in place.
As each warrior made it to the checkpoint, a colored powder shot into the sky. The powder served as a visual indicator of the warrior’s progress. The Amazons who monitored the contest looked for that colored powder so that they would lower the warrior’s banner. By lowering the warrior’s flag, the Amazons in the coliseum saw the warriors’ progress during the competition. Had Diana thrown that final spear, the contest’s rules would not have allowed her to claim victory. This is an important point. By having systems in place, leaders can enforce rules. Diana was the queen’s daughter, which would make the situation pretty tricky when considering power dynamics across the group.
- We need to ensure that our organizations’ systems and rules are fair and transparent to all our team members.
- We need to ensure our team members are held accountable to those fair and transparent systems as well.
What about you?
What are some leadership lessons you learned from watching Wonder Woman 1984? What’s your take on accountability in organizations and across teams?