The Martian Movie Review with Leadership on My Mind

I saw The Martian movie this weekend and was planning to give the rest of my family a thumbs up or thumbs down assessment. No spoiler alerts here, but my review took a twist when about 20 minutes into the movie I whispered to my boyfriend, “Wow, happiness really IS a choice.” From that moment on, I couldn’t help but see the film through the lens of Leadercast.

The premise of The Martian revolves around a U.S. astronaut named Mark Watney, who is left behind on a mission to Mars. With limited food and oxygen supplies, Watney, a botanist, decides he has only one choice (and I’m paraphrasing because our blog has a G-rating): I’m going to have to science the heck out of this situation. (Yep, this movie is the best thing to happen to the glamour of scientists since buddies Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer!)

What struck me early on is that Watney makes decisions as if he were leading a team – but he is alone on an uninhabited planet. That made me think of a story General Hugh Shelton tells about the need for leaders to act as if people are ALWAYS watching. The General recalls a time when he was new to his rank and made what seemed like an insignificant decision not to use the “company car” for a ride home in the rain. Within 24 hours, “Word had already spread to the West Coast that the General had done the right thing versus the wrong thing,” says Shelton. “I wonder what would have happened if I had taken the sedan?” (Hear the whole story from General Shelton in his video, Make Integrity the Cornerstone of Your Leadership.)

Mark Watney’s actions spoke volumes about his internal leadership compass. Now I couldn’t help it; scribbling in the dark, I jotted down other leadership points from the move, The Martian:

You have to build up a legacy of trust with your team if you expect them to follow you when you’ve made a tough decision… and then another one. Check out Dr. Henry Cloud’s video, Do Your People Trust You? for more about building trust with your team.

A leader is the first one in, the last one out. Hank Fortner says, “Leaders have that look in their eye … they are not going to let their team fall or fail.” Get more candid insights from Hank in Three Principle Strengths of Leaders.

Even if everyone shares a common vision, the path to that vision may differ—and that can cause big conflict. If you’re the one in charge, you’ve got the final accountability. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean it’s any easier. Check out Mike McGuillard on what it means to be a lone wolf.

If you’re not fully engaged in your work (or any part of your life), take the time to define your passion. At one point in the movie, Watney says “I love what I do and I’m really good at it.” Julie Bauke can help you define your “career happiness,” too.

And one final tip I gleaned from the movie, The Martian: Wherever you go, make sure you’ve loaded a ton of your favorite music on your mobile device, and, barring any planetary cloud coverage, a solar-powered charger might be helpful.


Want to add your own review of The Martian from a leadership perspective? We’d love to hear it and share it! Tweet us @leadercast or post on our Facebook page!

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