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Six lessons in leadership from Indiana Jones

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Six lessons in leadership from Indiana Jones

Don your fedora and bring out the bullwhip! With the release of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, let’s celebrate the adventures of Dr Jones by exploring what it is about this legendary and loveable rogue that’s kept us hooked all these years.

Raiders of the Lost Ark was released over 40 years ago, and as the fifth and final film hits our screens, we’ve explored some of Indy’s unforgettable movie lines and identified some special qualities we think leaders could learn from… 


“I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go…”

When Marion is taken hostage in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy tells Sallah he’s going to rescue her, although he admits he’s no idea how! It’s rather relatable to see a hero trying their best, even when they don’t have all the answers. 

Our leaders are only human. So in testing situations, characteristics that reflect an ability to remain calm, make decisions and adapt swiftly set them apart. Despite stressful circumstances, Indy understands the importance of clear and concise communication. He confides in Sallah, sharing his goals and plans effectively while taking on board his thoughts and opinions.


“It belongs in a museum!”

In the Last Crusade, young Indy thwarts a plot to steal an artifact. The scene cuts to the present day, where adult Indy fights for the same artifact, still determined to return it to its rightful place. 

Indy has always taken great pride in his profession as an archaeologist, respecting historical artifacts and believing in their preservation. His passion for his work inspires his comrades to approach their own tasks with dedication and pride as well as high ethical standards and a strong moral compass.


“Jock! Start the engine!” 

Raiders of the Lost Ark’s opening scene could well be one of the greatest openers of all time. Indy heads into an ancient temple in the depths of the jungle to uncover an old relic, avoiding all the booby traps with his natural ease and style. But when things fall apart, he’s much less cool-headed, rushing to his plane screaming, as he’s chased by his enemies.

Indy has captured a relatability and the hearts of audiences for decades by demonstrating his own unique brand of style and charisma along with his more human characteristics. This humility, determination and perseverance are also matched by his witty sense of humour!


“If you want to be a good archaeologist, you gotta get out of the library!”

In the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the wild chase scene through a college library sees Indy pause to advise a student that learning should also take place in the great outdoors before he speeds off on a motorbike. Indy’s studies of ancient civilisations and thirst for learning lead him on adventures where he embraces the opportunity to expand his understanding of the world.

A leadership style that thrives on a love for experiential learning beyond the office will always be a winner. These qualities contribute to Indy’s personal growth and development as he also encourages others to adopt a similar mindset of curiosity, creativity and embrace continuous learning.


“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”

Every great character has a weakness, from Superman’s Kryptonite to Marty McFly’s disdain for being called a chicken. When Indy finds himself in an ancient tomb to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant, he’s horrified to find it filled with snakes. But, like any legendary hero, he faces his fears with courage and determination. 

His ability to overcome obstacles makes Indy an inspiring leader, encouraging vulnerability and self-awareness by recognising that everyone has fears and weaknesses and being open about his own. 


“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”

In The Temple of Doom Indy arrives at an Indian village, discovering that a mysterious religious cult has taken the villagers’ children along with their precious Sankara stones. Just as they’re about to head off on their rescue journey, Short Round asks, “What is Sankara?” to which Indy replies, “Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory,” as he acknowledges the true value of this treasure.

Here we see Indy’s visionary leadership style characterised by a clear sense of purpose, an inspiring vision and a resilient pursuit of his goals. His ability to inspire and empower sets him apart as a leader as he guides his protégé towards a shared vision that will leave a lasting legacy.


That’s a wrap…

As Harrison Ford reprises his iconic role to perform one last time, we’re reminded of all these timeless qualities. Our noble treasure hunter is far from perfect, but that’s not what anyone should expect in a leader. What we do experience is the way he communicates his vision with passion and conviction, resilience in the pursuit of his goals that extend beyond personal gain, and an inspiring approach that encourages others to contribute to something greater than themselves.


By Caroline Roodhouse for Alive!

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