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What Civil War Taught Me About Management

Time has never been better for superhero buffs who are not comic book readers. We have had a stream of quality releases, and it all started with The Dark Knight. Marvel came up with pumped up versions of Avengers, and the latest release is spoken about as the best Marvel movie ever. Well, Deadpool is much better as a movie but what the heck. Civil War had a bunch of things to teach us about management!

Leading a team is a lot about getting people to care, bringing them onto the same page (your page) and holding your ground. Our history is full of stories where forts were held, invasions repelled and how a belief was used to further your agenda. It works, because visionaries lead with a promise of delivery. Every city needs a Pied Piper to take the rats away.

Compromise, and position it right

Negotiating and doing business with people does not involve clamping down on dissidents and silencing alternate schools of thought. Debate ought to be encouraged, ideas need to be expressed and instead of choosing which path take, a leader encourages the public opinion to choose the right one. Apt arguments are presented by the leader, to have a buy-in from the right sections. Victory is almost always in the long term. Lost battles do not mean a lost war. Compromising on aspects which do not harm your core purpose is alright, if it’s helping you lead a larger audience. We ought to choose which battles to fight. Knowing when to hold your tongue is courage.

Positioning the compromises right is crucial. A retreat is not a retreat if the world views it as a strategic advantage. Holding the upper hand is merely a game of perception. Taking a step back often hurts team morale. Cutting costs and laying off people hurts the morale too. But if you could weave everything into a convincing & relevant perspective that suits everyone – you have made a tough journey quite easy for everyone.

Avengers cannot escape the fact that they live in a world governed by human laws and human politics. Enhanced Humans hasn’t been a part of the mainstream equation, and allowing them to destroy human lives and public property in apparent disregard is wrong. Avengers need to compromise on their freedom to operate, because humans would act swiftly enough if their existence is under threat. And you need to position this process of ‘reining in’ right, to ‘captains’ and ‘birds’ who don’t see sense. Team Ironman rules.

Plant yourself like a tree

While compromising on things is alright, there are times when you ought to plant yourself deep like a tree and ask the person to move. Intuition is quite a strong factor that good leaders take into consideration before arriving at a decision. Have you heard the little voices in your head? Have you had a conversation with your gut feeling? If you haven’t been on hallucinogenic mushrooms, that’s your intuition speaking, which allows you significant motivation to work hard.

Understand what are the factors that you won’t compromise on. For service companies, it ought to be customer experience and service. For product companies, it ought to be the product quality and whether it delivers results. For a CEO, it could be shareholder value & integrity. For an employee, it could be ethics and organizational goals that have been assigned. If you compromise on your core values, you change, as a person, probably not for the better. As they say in Dorne (Game of Thrones) – unbowed, unbent, unbroken.

Captain America feels that his buddy Bucky, the dreaded assassin, is still a good man at heart. Captain believes that surrendering even an ounce of freedom would severely impair the reason why the Avengers exist. He almost picked up Thor’s hammer, and is a true hero at heart. You cannot blame him for being idealistic, and not seeing through practical sense. He refuses to compromise, and asks the world to move aside. Team Ironman, guys, Team Ironman.

Strengths Invite Conflict

This plays out in an interesting manner. The more you are aware, the more you know things, the more you spot things. Someone who pays more attention to detail has the ability to spot more things that are wrong. For someone whose multiple abilities allow them to solve more problems, they actually go looking for more problems to solve. Ambitious kings always fought more battles. Able managers end up resolving a lot of issues. Able managers are tested at every corner. Talent and strength do invite conflict.

At an organizational level, you ought to let these able managers loose, but with a plan. By giving them a fixed agenda, and taking their help in creating the agenda, you ensure they toe a certain line. You help young rockstars perform by having them create a plan and then having them execute it. Unleashing rockstars trusting them to build a plan without guidance disorients them, and everyone loses. Race horses need a track, they cannot run with focus in an open ground.

I also prefer the spiritual angle to this argument. You currently co exist with at least one table at your home. The harder you push on the surface, the harder the surfaces pushes you back. If you let the table be, it lets you be and you co exist in peace. The more anger you throw at the world, the more anger you receive. The more you fortify yourself, the more fear you breed. Add Thor to the Avengers, and you have the other worlds being enemies with Earth as well. Stark’s fear had already resulted in the Ultron saga, a desperate attempt to fortify us against unexplained fears.

The stronger the Avengers get, the stronger their enemies would get, and Earth would be in a bigger danger. That is the premise of this movie plot, and why the world seeks to rein the superheroes in.

Be yourself no matter what

Martin Freeman is quite an actor. Whether you see him as a Hobbit, or Dr. Watson or as a CIA badass agent – he would obstinately be himself in every role. Change the name or change the costume – Martin Freeman would stay Martin Freeman in every role. While that might not work out very well for Directors and Producers, it teaches us a very important lesson of being yourself in every situation.

You are unique, and you ought to be proud of it. As Editor Asha pointed out in her hard hitting Facebook post –

“But of course you are important!

To someone.

To at least one person on this earth.

Never allow anyone to make you feel less important.

or insignificant.

You are unique and offer the world something unique every single day.

You are not replaceable as a person.

If you don’t already know that, or don’t feel that way

then ping me in my inbox.

I will tell you how unique you are.”

Martin knows how unique he is. And that’s why he’ll continue to not act. God bless him.


Communication is underrated, and almost all problems inside an organization are caused by insufficient & low quality communication. We have silos as departments, with presumptions and assumptions flying around. Often, teams forget the bigger picture and play petty games which hurts everyone in the long run. Leaders often go low on empathy, and they forget how important appreciation is. An ’employee of the month’ award might not mean a lot to you, but it might mean the world to someone else.

As always, superheroes go low on communication skills when its needed the most. Superman could not explain things to Batman which led to some serious fighting, wastage of resources and damage to public property. Captain America is unable to explain things to Ironman due to some pressing issues which results in the movie.

Right from Chanakya & Parshuram’s Dad to our very own Frank Underwood (House of Cards) – they ask us to stay calm in the most trying situations, because anger and rash actions cause irreversible damage. It helps to sit down and talk to the other person, understand their perspective, match it with ours and find a solution.

Brands offer an escape too

I love watching movies, and the thrilling escape they offer into stories and characters made real. What grips me is the power of narration, and the strength of this visual medium to dictate how I feel. Words fall short to convey how my heart clenches while watching my favorite characters do something amazing on the screen. We often fail to notice, but brands have the power to create that fluttering moment inside us too. Winning Brands have been able to craft experiences for their customers, and that’s resulted in Starbucks and Apple. All hail the storyteller who delivers these powerful stories. Thank you, Stan Lee, the courier guy.


[first published on Frankaffe]


You can read all of Sushrut’s discussions on TRH here!



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  1. WOW. it’s incredible how you pull out something so valuable from every movie you watch sushrut!!! i’m in total awe!! i watched deadpool and it wasn’t for me, so i was thinking of skipping this marvel one too :()

    now i’m having a re-think!

    my fav part in this is MY GOODNESS PEOPLE JUST TALK. 

    when i was doing my first degree in journalism & comm in baroda, i began to feel i’m a people’s kind of person and wanted to explore doing a degree in HR!! i had already deviated from my core degree in clothing & textiles and thought it wouldn’t be such a good idea to pile up degrees of different kinds and not sink my teeth into any particular career! but wherever i worked (in not so large ad agencies) i was always a part of the core team and involved myself in HR activities 🙂 

    i love your people-centric posts. i can relate to them (no matter what metaphors you use!!!). sometimes i think one of the most amazing things that could’ve happened to me (after momhood) is communityhood :))

    thank you ever so much for quoting me. i’m quite speechless and don’t really know how to react!

    sushrut, pls look up FTII’s film appreciation course. it’s a one month long very intense programme – you have to stay in pune for a whole month (may to june i think) – but it’s so worth it. i did it in the year 2000 and have never looked at any film the same way since…

  2. GooD Read.. Like the way you look at thing… . 

  3. Thank you, Nikhil!

  4. Thanks a lot, Asha 🙂 A thumbs up from you means a lot. The FTII course sounds fantastic, would have a lot to learn from it, shall plan a month long vacation around it 🙂

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