It’s the movie that has the entire country talking. The latest DC Comics-based film, Wonder Woman, blasted into theaters, inspiring a new generation of future leaders. But that inspiration isn’t limited to children and teens. In fact, entrepreneurs and business leaders have found plenty to learn from the female superhero.
No matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from the lessons scattered throughout Wonder Woman. Since 1941, the mythological superhero's search for justice has served as a role model through comic books, TV series and movies. Here are three ways today’s business leaders are getting inspiration from the blockbuster. Beware, spoilers lie ahead.
Beating the odds.
The Greek mythology built into Wonder Woman gives every retelling an additional layer of intrigue. Long before she donned her headband and cuffs, Diana Prince was a warrior in training, born to battle. But her mother, Queen Hippolyta, forbade Diana to train, even though she knew that her daughter was fully capable of accomplishing great things.
Does that stop Diana? Not at all. Instead of giving into her mother’s demands, she simply begins training in secret, working with her aunt, Antiope, herself a fierce warrior (and played in an inspired bit of casting by Robin Wright of House of Cards). When Diana’s mother eventually learns about her daughter’s hard work, she instructs Antiope to make Diana the fiercest of all Amazon warriors.
Watching Diana pour her heart into learning what she needs to do to dominate any battle is inspiring. Entrepreneurs can relate to her training in private, only taking that work public once she’s fully ready. Many small businesses are built in the dark by leaders who keep their products or services top secret until they’re ready to introduce them to a wide audience. They’re usually not hiding it because they’re rebelling, but rather they’re trying to avoid a competitor from swiping their idea and beating them to market.
But perhaps the biggest inspiration comes from the relentless discipline Diana puts into her training. Resilience and hustle are almost always listed among the top traits of successful entrepreneurs. Diana never let up in her training, eventually putting in so much effort she was better than her trainers. A leader’s own journey to bringing a business to market should be a months (or even years)-long version of the Wonder Woman training scenes, ending with the triumphant moment when that new business is introduced to the world.
Knowing when to pivot.
Ares, the god of war, was struck down by his father long before Diana’s birth. However, Diana heard the stories all her life. When she finds herself in the middle of a war, she’s sure Ares is responsible. Believing she must kill Ares to end the war, she puts her full focus on achieving that goal, ignoring Steve Trevor’s determination to complete his mission to end the war in other, down-to-earth ways.
Diana finally achieves her goal of killing the person she is sure is Ares but that doesn’t bring the war to the rapid end she expected. She realizes that what she’s always known about her birth and parentage was incomplete. That changes everything. It doesn’t stop her from fighting, but she must rethink her original strategy and change her mission, on the fly.
In a similar manner, entrepreneurs often discover their original plan won’t work. They may find, through feedback or other “lean startup” methods, that their concept has already been patented or the market has shifted and there’s no longer a demand for what they’re developing. When that happens, they have two major choices. They can either give up completely or take their concept in a new direction.
Although there are many ways a business can pivot, the hard work its leaders put in during the months and years prior to that pivot aren’t wasted. In fact, some of the most well known companies in the world today experienced a pivot at some point, including Starbucks and Twitter. All the relationships the leaders build and the lessons they learn as they’re growing their company will apply as they discover they must move in a new direction. Just as Diana’s training gave her the experience she needed to be Wonder Woman in the midst of a battle, an entrepreneur’s hard work can pay off no matter when or why they have to suddenly take their product or service somewhere unexpected.
Inspiration is a leadership skill.
Wonder Woman is a born leader, taking on larger-than-life villains without fear. At one point, she almost single handedly pushes back German soldiers occupying World War I trenches that hadn't moved in years.
Women in business face entrenched obstacles every day. They must defy the odds to beat the competition, even when society holds them to a higher standard, often based solely on their gender. Business leaders don’t have the benefit of superpowers to help them achieve their goals, however. Instead they must rely on their intellect, persistence and creativity.
But women aren’t the only ones who can learn from Wonder Woman’s leadership attributes. Diana’s flexibility as things changed around her is an excellent lesson for leaders in business today. Even if a business doesn’t face a pivot along the way, a leader will likely find his or her business goals shift and evolve over time. Being able to tackle changing challenges over the months and years is essential to survival in competitive marketplaces.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons leaders can learn from Wonder Woman is the compassion she shows for the village of Veld. Chris Pine, the actor who played Steve Trevor in the film, commented on the importance of showing Wonder Woman’s compassion over the course of the movie, and viewers can see that in the way the character of Steve is inspired. Similarly, leaders with teams can see how compassionate behavior can impress employees, who will then feel motivated to demonstrate that same level of compassion in the work they do.
Wonder Woman will continue to inspire moviegoers for the foreseeable future, thanks to upcoming sequels and whatever roles she'll play alongside Batman, Aquaman and the rest of the Justice League. As business leaders take in each film, they can better themselves by paying close attention to the many leadership lessons the superhero will learn as she battles evil. Whether you’re coming up with an innovative invention or just trying to win new clients, channeling Wonder Woman’s many inspiring leadership qualities can help you or your business reach new heights.