The Avengers Challenge
Major spoiler alerts!
The last we saw The Avengers, they had suffered immeasurable loss. All hope of a victory against Thanos was completely and utterly destroyed when he successfully wiped out half the population of the universe by activating the Infinity Gauntlet. With some of our most beloved heroes turned to dust, they prepare for Avengers: End Game, broken-hearted, but willing to do “whatever it takes”.
For an entire decade, Marvel has been building up to this moment. There has been much speculation about the trajectory of this film, how this phase will “end”, and what’s to come next. We’ll find out how it all goes down when the movie premieres this week, but in the meantime we can recognize the contributions of some major players whose leadership surely has and surely will shape Marvel history. Beyond their obvious super abilities, they each lend their own leadership style to the Avengers. We’ll be using James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® to discuss their strengths:
Tony Stark, Iron Man – Inspire a Shared Vision
Over the last ten years we have seen him transform from a war profiteering egomaniac into a do-gooding egomaniac. He is, in his own words, a “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”. While he may be arrogant, he works to use his intelligence and resources for good. We’ve seen him humbled and hardened over the years. From being captured in Afghanistan to the traumatic attacks on New York City, Tony is not the spoiled, rich tycoon he once was. It is these experiences that have now made him an influential leader of The Avengers. Tony passionately believes that heroes can make a difference, and that the world can be a better place because of their initiative. In this way, I think he exemplifies the practice of Inspiring a Shared Vision. Leaders of this practice are able to inspire others to believe in their dreams, and Tony has been able to rally and enlist his fellow heroes to believe in this ideal future and to fight to make these possibilities a reality as a team. However, since Civil War, The Avengers have been on hiatus. In Endgame, Tony will have to put the past and his pride aside and use this leadership practice to bring The Avengers back together so that they can save the universe united.
Steve Rogers, Captain America – Model the Way
When asked what makes him special, Steve Rogers responds, “Nothing, I’m just a kid from Brooklyn”. This one statement highlights everything there is to love about his character. His humble beginnings made him the perfect candidate for the Super-Soldier serum, and he has never lost sight of the great responsibility he has because of his powers. He uses his heroism to set an example for what is right. His fellow Avengers follow him because he is fiercely loyal, principled, and has faith in the inherent good in people. Leaders who Model the Way, “establish principles concerning the way people should be treated and the way goals should be pursued”. We saw this most clearly in Captain America: Civil War, when he risks everything to protect and preserve the rights of his fellow heroes. If Tony Stark is “the brains” of The Avengers, Steve Rogers is certainly “the heart”. With the impending departure of actor Chris Evans from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), we have suspicions that this valiant soldier may pave the way for The Avengers victory by making the ultimate sacrifice to restore balance to the universe.
Thor Odinson – Enable Others to Act
Thor knows the universe in an entirely different way than his fellow Avengers. As a god, he comes from a place of honor, destiny and greatness. He has come far from being the hot-headed son of a king, and has risen to the occasion as the hero he was meant to be. Thor knows he is a formidable force as an almighty god, but that does not keep him from recognizing the contributions of his fellow heroes. Leaders who Enable Others to Act build spirited teams by “strengthening others and making each person feel capable and powerful”. Thor’s character has certainly seen the most experimentation in development by the MCU, but I believe he finally hit his stride in Thor: Ragnarok. In this film we see him band together with a group of unlikely heroes, “The Revengers” to escape imprisonment and try to save Asgard. Fans have grown to love Thor’s affinity for making friends wherever he goes, and it is this mutual respect for all creatures great and small that makes Thor really great. Now, in Endgame, matched with his new hammer, Stormbreaker, and new teammates, we think Thor is unlikely to let Thanos get away so easily this time.
Scott Lang, Ant-Man – Challenge the Process
I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t have much faith in Ant-Man as a character or storyline when Marvel first announced the films. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by his development as a character. Scott Lang is a scrappy underdog with good intentions, which actually makes him a perfect candidate for the Ant-Man suit. Leaders who Challenge the Process seek to challenge the status quo through experimentation and risk-taking. To other’s, Lang’s actions may seem impulsive and self-destructive, as he often ends up behind bars as a result. While these decisions may not be perfectly executed, they come from an unyielding desire to combat injustice. From buglaring his scheming employer to going against Hank Pym’s orders to join Captain America in Civil War, he always finds an unorthodox way to fight for what’s right. With the obvious involvement of Ant-Man in Endgame, we anticipate his recent experiences in the Quantum Realm to be key in finding our fallen friends.
Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel – Encourage the Heart
Carol Danvers is the newest Avenger on the scene. In her breakout film Captain Marvel, Carol battles a crisis of identity (on top of fighting a real battle against the Kree). For as long as she can remember (which isn’t long because: amnesia), she has been told to control her emotions so that she can become a better warrior. But, it is actually when she breaks free from that control that she is able to be the most powerful version of herself. Even before she had super powers, Carol was a leader who Encouraged the Heart. This leadership practice is known for “making other people feel like heroes”. From supporting her friend Maria “as a single mother and pilot when no one else did” to changing the course of Nick Fury’s life forever, Carol Danvers was a hero before heroes and she made others believe in their own powers to achieve greatness. She’s been gone from this galaxy for decades, and we can only assume she’s become stronger and wiser. We have a feeling that she will play a key role in keeping hope and determination alive as The Avengers try to achieve the impossible.
There are obviously so many other incredible heroes that exemplify these practices, and make the MCU all that it has become. For many of them, we are anxiously awaiting their miraculous rescue, hopefully at the hands of some of the heroes we discussed above. Check back after the premiere to see what we took away from Endgame!
Read all about the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® and think about which practice seems like your best fit! You can conduct your own mini 360 assessment by asking friends, family, and teammates which practices they think are your strengths!
*Meet the Author*
Caelan Cooney is another Millennial who wants ‘to make an impact’, a self-proclaimed movie critic, avid explorer, lifelong learner, and Chapman University graduate.