What can a mere fictional character teach us about leadership? The answer is plenty. Whether it’s animation, manga or Disney movies, they teach and instill values into us more than we may realise it. Every plot has it’s hidden meaning waiting for us to unveil and learn from it.
Most of us know Optimus Prime from the Transformer series and if you go to Universal Studios Singapore (USS), there’s even a Transformer Ride! How fascinating, isn’t it? Of course, you’ll be guided and protected by Prime.
Having consistently being portrayed as having strong moral character, excellent leadership, fearless and sound decision-making skills, he’s someone who possess the legendary Matrix of Leadership.
As the leader of the Autobots (what they call themselves in Transformers), he has demonstrated acts of courage and heroism in the heat of their battles and here’s what we can learn from Prime himself:
1) Prime Delegate Important Tasks to His Autobots
In the movies, each Autobot is responsible for something. Whether it’s Bumblebee’s optimism and loyalty or the action-loving Ironhide, they all excel in their duties under the leadership of Prime.
You’ll find the Autobots working together to conquer victory and teamwork is always their key factor in doing so. Though they may bicker, they protect and look out for each other all the time.
You don’t ever see Prime selfishly taking credit of the accomplishments by the Autobots. Or see him trying to battle it out all alone, leaving his teammates behind.
What Prime does here is what we may have found ourselves lacking in, whether it’s at work or school. We may have encounter those who take credit for our work, or doesn’t know how to work as a team efficiently.
This person could be you or a friend. And the result is frustrating, pointless and drains your energy. This is something we all want to avoid.
You want others to have an opportunity to showcase their skills in order for you to find out who’s noteworthy and deserving of more challenging tasks.
Or who simply need more training and guidance so they can improve.
2) Display a Strong Sense of Integrity
The main difference between Optimus Prime and the leader of the Decepticons (the enemies of the Autobots), Megatron, is integrity.
Prime values all forms of life — he doesn’t even like it when a Decepticon is killed. Optimus Prime never asks his followers to do what he won’t do himself, and he steers clear of any dirty tactics along the way.
Prime leads without fear or intimidation. Others flock to him because of the selfless devotion he has shown to those whose lives he touched. He stands by his morals in doing the right thing no matter the circumstances.
No one wants to work with someone who’s dishonest and lack moral principles. Adding Prime-like integrity to your arsenal of leadership qualities means winning the loyalty of your people and building the kind of following you want.
3) Stay Committed to Your Values
Your values come from your beliefs. One of the biggest factors that separates Prime from his peers, is his commitment to his values.
Prime uses his values to guide his decision-making during any dilemma he may faced and he firmly stands by his decision.
As a leader, you need people to stand by you and believe in you. You need to be serious and passionate in what you do for people to want to follow you. You need to earn their trust and favour by knowing what you want and how you plan to achieve it.
And once you do that, you’ll attract like-minded individuals who possess the same values.
4) Find a Successor to Pass the Baton
In the 1986 Transformers movie, we witnessed a young and reckless Autobot name Hot Rod taking over the reins of leadership, eventually becoming Optimus Prime’s successor, Rodimus Prime.
What does this tell us?
Similarly, a King needs to pick his next King, so does a Director needs to pick the next Manager of his company. To be a leader that people can look up to, you need to be unbiased and assess capabilities of potential candidates objectively.
He needs to pass down his position to the next leading man who may be even more capable than he is.
A leader is constantly on the lookout for budding candidates to take over the reins of leadership by paying close attention and grooming the individual to be better.
5) Everyone Work Towards the Same Goal
In all of the Transformers series, the Autobots, share a common goal in restoring peace and prosperity to their home planet, Cybertron.
In a company, it’s critical that everyone share the same vision and values while working towards the same ultimate goal. If one person selfishly cares about himself, the goal only gets further.
A simple example is a soccer match. If one player only thinks of his own glory and wants to be the one who scores the goal without demonstrating teamwork and coordination with his other members, chances are they’ll lose the match.
One person can cause an entire team to lose everything they’ve built. Don’t let a lack of vision and team spirit ruin your leadership. Whatever you do, if it’s not for the greater good of everyone, don’t do it.
Being a leader means you often check-in with your team, ensure they’re on track and guide them throughout their roles.
6) Ensure There’s a Plan B
No plan is ‘perfect’ as you may have planned it out to be.
There’re bound to be bumps and challenges along the way that can disrupt the almighty plan. This calls for Plan B.
In the case of Prime, when Jazz was unfortunately killed in battle by Megatron in the first live-action Transformers movie, Ironhide stepped up and took over the position of second-in-command, and when he was killed by Sentinel Prime in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Bumblebee eventually took over.
Unexpected incidents happen everyday out of our control. It could be a top employee wanting to quit his job or a crisis happening on social media.
How prepared are you? Do you have a plan to turn this around?
In order to prevent and solve unexpected occurrence, it’s crucial to have a Plan B. Besides having a plan, you might also want to prepare beforehand and foresee any situations you can prevent if you act differently now.
7) Listen to What Your People Have to Say
How many of us actually listen? When others talk, do we genuinely pay attention to their words and expression? Or are we distracted and unable to catch what the other person is saying?
Prime doesn’t believe his views or opinions are always 100% correct, nor does he put pressure on others to listen to him. Instead, he listens to everyone, even the humans.
He accepts opinions freely and analyse them accordingly. Even though he wields tremendous power over the Autobots, he never uses his authority to incite fear. He doesn’t fail to listen, no matter the rank or size of the Autobots.
Some take years to master and some are still struggling with it. It’s no surprise to witness discrimination with junior employees from their senior supervisors.
If a rookie speaks at a meeting, his ideas may not get accepted or judged objectively because he’s labeled as someone with no experience and skills. This is terribly wrong. Creativity can come from anyone, it doesn’t have to be someone with years of experience or numerous awards to prove it.
It’s about creating a healthy relationship with your people that motivate, trust and inspire them to do better.
It’s remarkable as it’s fascinating as to how much a fictional character can teach us so much about leadership. With so many excellent role models out there, we can surely learn a thing or two.