4 leadership boo-boos by Ultron
WELL, the biggest movie has come and gone to the fringes of movie listings by now.
The Avengers: Age Of Ultron strolled to the US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) mark in global takings barely 24 days after its initial release, becoming only the third film in history after The Dark Knight and the first Avengers movie to hit the US$300 million mark in the United States 10 days after opening.
The numbers and popularity of the franchise are, frankly, quite staggering.
Why wouldn't they be? It's a movie headlined by Hollywood A-listers such as Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson. Featuring fit and buff superheroes and evil maniacal robot tyrants is also an almost bulletproof formula for blockbuster success.
It's easy to dismiss the movie as cinematic fluff, one for kids, but when examined closely, there's more meat to it than meets the eye.
Director Joss Whedon has somehow managed to balance the expectations that come with a huge franchise, along with the introduction of characters, development of existing characters and load the film's 141-minute runtime with enough entertainment to leave you smiling rainbows by the end of it. No mean feat.
There's plenty of heart and sophistication to its many developing plotlines and many lessons to take away.
It would almost be cliche to use The Avengers as the basis of a simple study on team dynamics or the essential characters that make an effective team (having a chiselled-jawed Norse god on your side does give you certain advantages).
Instead, we are going to shine the spotlight on the other character that makes up the film's title - the maniacally charming robot baddie Ultron, brought to life by the velvety-voiced James Spader.
Proceed with caution if you haven't watched the movie but intend to do so, as the rest of the article has spoilers.
Granted, it would be safe to assume that everyone expects Ultron, the big bad guy, to bite the dust by the end of the movie. This is, after all, a superhero movie based on a comic. You have to check some of the more humbling expectations of reality at the door.
So, whatever we are going to learn from him is basically what you should not do as a leader of an organisation, given that he did not lead his band of robot clones to success.
1. DIVERSITY ISN'T A BAD WORD
Ultron may have amassed a sizeable army to battle the Avengers in the movie, but they were just mindless clones of himself who offered little variations in strategy and whose only strength appeared to be numbers.
As leaders, we must not be afraid to build teams consisting of members who are diverse, not just among themselves, but also from you.
It's easy and comfortable for a leader to build a team around characters who share similar personalities and backgrounds with him. After all, he can at least ensure that decision-making meetings will be short and no idea of his would be greeted with anything less than enthusiasm.
But teams that lack diversity will also likely lack imagination and, potentially, efficiency. Imagine having a hand with five thumbs and you'll get the idea.
2. DON'T BE TOO EMOTIONAL
For a robot, Ultron was inexplicably a huge sack of emotions. His sophisticated artificial intelligence came with a set of problems, namely the ability to feel.
He allowed his emotions to get the better of him, in particular his senseless hatred of the Avengers and the humans they swore to protect, resulting in poor decision-making and, ultimately, his downfall.
As leaders, it's crucial to remain objective and sensible at all times. Being too emotional about something can cloud your objectivity about that very thing, which will result in negative consequences.
Plus, no one respects a leader who is emotionally volatile and appears to struggle to keep his temperament in check.
People naturally gravitate towards leaders who can make objective and sound decisions, and who can steady the ship amid troubled waters.
Don't mistake being emotional with being passionate - they are not the same thing.
3. BEING AMBITIOUS TOO QUICKLY CAN BE DANGEROUS
If Ultron had decided to execute his nefarious plan of ridding the human race in stages, who knows? He may have succeeded.
Instead, he decided to go for the jugular with his first strike, namely lifting the fictional nation of Sokovia into the sky and dropping it down with a bang, supposedly resulting in an extinction-level event.
Such a brazen plan was easily discovered by the heroes, who naturally foiled it and saved the day.
There's nothing wrong with being ambitious as leaders. After all, Steve Jobs didn't create the iPod by telling himself that he just wanted to work with what's already out there.
But being too ambitious without proper cost-calculation and thought can result in an extinction-level event - for your organisation, that is.
You don't have to strike with a bang to signal your ambition. Ambition can be something you unveil slowly over a period of time, based on solid planning and effective goal-setting.
4. CASCADE YOUR VISION CLEARLY
One of the key reasons for Ultron's downfall in the final act of the movie was the defection of the Maximoff twins, Wanda and Pietro, from his side to the Avengers.
The key reason for that? Well, he "forgot" to mention to them that he intended to wipe out the entire human race, for one thing.
As much as the twins hate Tony Stark, it somehow doesn't quite cut the mustard that their hatred would drive them to side with a maniacal robot that intends to end their species. Maybe Ultron intentionally decided not to tell them, or maybe it slipped his mind.
The point is, a leader of any organisation would never be able to lead his team to success if he does not clearly tell them what that "success" would be.
If you consider yourself a good leader, then you would have a vision of how you want to run your team, department or organisation. You need to cascade that vision clearly down to your team.
Failure to do so would result in a team pulling in different directions, ultimately leading to failure, simply because no one person is pulling in the same direction.
As a leader, it is your duty to make your team understand what your vision is, and to manage them towards it.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK