Die Hard is not just an action-packed thriller; it’s also, at least in our opinion, a quintessential Christmas movie. Beyond the gripping storyline, explosions, and a shoeless Bruce Willis, this holiday classic imparts some pretty valuable leadership lessons that resonate in the corporate world. Read on for five leadership lessons from Die Hard and a strong case for why Die Hard has earned its rightful place on the list of unconventional Christmas classics.
Lesson 1: Adaptability in the Face of Adversity
Twinkle lights and Christmas trees aren’t exactly the backdrop you’d expect for flexing your counter-terrorism chops. But, John McClane took on the challenge anyway with very few details (and resources). And that’s what leadership is about, stepping up even in the face of unforeseen challenges and having the grit and adaptability to roll with the punches.
Lesson 2: Effective Communication is Key
If you want to survive unexpected implosions, take a page from McClane’s book––communicate early and often. Right at the start of the movie, he dialed 911, getting reinforcements on the scenes as soon as possible. Then, throughout the movie, he stays in touch with Officer Alan Powell, winning him over as an ally while giving him key information on the hostages and the severity of the situation. While McClane no doubt makes the herculean lift throughout, he still has people he can lean on for help. When everyone’s on the same page, that’s when you weather the storm safely (and keep Nakatomi Plaza from blowing up).
Lesson 3: Lead by Example
Ok, so maybe McClane was a “one-man army” most of the time. Yes, get everyone on the same page, but when you’re working at a break neck pace sometimes you have to charge ahead. Lead by example. To be an effective leader, you have to show your team what matters by doing it yourself. That’s where the inspiration starts.
Lesson 4: Stay Calm Under Pressure
Christmas carols and other holiday music might be the backdrop of many of your most stressful moments (hello holidays with loved ones), and it sure was for John McClane. Despite increasing stakes and bodily injuries, McClane manages to keep his head on straight. He does that by focusing on the task at hand, knowing the why, relying on his training, and keeping his sense of humor.
Similarly, when times get tough, leaders need to take it day-by-day, focus their team on the mission or purpose, be confident in their knowledge, and of course, create moments of connection and positivity for their team.
Lesson 5: Embrace Innovation and Resourcefulness
Whether it’s using a fire hose as a makeshift rappelling device or fashioning explosives from stolen goods and Christmas wrapping paper, McClane relies on his wit and resourcefulness to overcome challenges. Leaders need to embrace this same kind of resourceful, innovative attitude to guide their team through challenging situations. Focus on what you can do with the resources at hand.
Do McClane one better––get your team involved in figuring out the solution. When one door closes, don’t get stuck in the room…find the ventilation shaft.
Beyond Leadership Lessons from Die Hard: The Christmas Movie
Ok, SNP! Enough about leadership. Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
Not only are there Christmas festivities and decorations but there are consistent themes of redemption and togetherness. Plus if Harry Potter can be even tangentially Christmas related so can Die Hard. No further comments.
P.S. Please use this blog post as your official permission to re-watch Die Hard as a leadership learning and development exercise.