3 Leadership Principles from Captain America

Sean L Adams
4 min readFeb 15, 2017


I'm a Marvel and DC movie fan. I grew up reading comic books, and seeing all these characters portrayed on the big screen is so cool! My mom would work late nights at the local grocery store, and I would read comics and sleep. After binging on a few Marvel movies over the weekend, I thought about Captain America's leadership style and picked out three principles leaders can take away from the First Avenger.

Success is More Than Money

In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, reached Germany and found his fellow soldiers captured behind enemy lines. At the time, he was just a stooge to help raise funds for soldiers carrying on the good fight — that is what he was. But Cap understood his actual value. He knew that in the hands of poor leadership, his abilities were just an extra buck and a stage show, but being a leader to himself, he could save lives, increase efficiency, and end a war.

Sure, you're valuable, but are you bringing that value forward to an end of more than just an extra buck? Outstanding leadership can push the needle on the success meter forward far beyond a financial advantage.

Negative Energy is Still Energy

During The Avengers (2012) dramatic climax, Captain America wonders if he and his team can pull it together. He uses this time and nervous energy to shore up holes in his self-confidence and handle the animosity and negativity within the team. Cap doesn't let his emotions about present circumstances get out of hand. He has to lead when the mission is going well and when it's going bad.

Great leadership has the ability to push the needle on the success meter forward far beyond a pecuniary advantage.

Whether it be self-doubt or any other negative emotions, use it constructively. Clearing the emotional clutter and focusing on completing the task or simply redirecting that frustration is critical to all leaders. Get your head in the game! Someone is going to win. Whether it's you or not is your choice.

Ask The IMPOSSIBLE of Your Team

In The Avengers (2012), Captain America asked five people to stop an invading alien armada numbering tens of thousands from attempting to conquer the earth, starting in New York City. While he spoke to Thor and The Hulk, there was regular folk in that group too! That's asking a lot, but great leaders can do just that.

Great leaders ask a lot of those around them and expect it to be done. Great leaders lay down the processes and plans for their teams to accomplish grand goals. I've had the pleasure of working with some great teams in some incredible organizations changing the landscape of healthcare in the US. These teams accomplished what was regarded as impossible by others, but it's only because someone (the leader) asked for the impossible, pushed for the impossible, and believed in the impossible. Great leaders get their hands dirty, too, and do it with the team.

BONUS: He changes with the times…sort of

Cap was an icicle for the better part of a century. While he's still catching up on modern history and current colloquialisms, he's exhibited flexibility in all areas except a few — his morals, his values, and his beliefs he's willing to stick by. Methodology, commanding officers, etc., he's willing to be flexible, and that's very important for any leader.

Flexibility is the quality of maturity in leadership, and knowing when to bend and when not to bend is essential. Bending in morals and ethics is never an option, and as a leader, you must be clear on that as your team will follow your lead in that area.

Flexibility in the areas of skill management is different. Product management, for example, is getting better as time goes on. From the days of the "Brand Man" to the Line Managers of Japanese automakers to present-day Agile team Product Owners, the abilities to improve skills and the roles' KPIs are improving and becoming more explicit. However, the old product management techniques and know-how still help drive products forward, such as managing stakeholder priorities, eliciting requirements of equal value, and speaking truth to power.

If you're a fan, I'm sure you wish I mentioned some events from the comics, but I like to keep my posts short.

Hi, I'm Sean; I'm passionate about CX and Products. Over the last decade, I've been privileged to lead product organizations at some of the most impactful companies in the world. Mainly in the healthcare space and most recently focused on an internal platform managing work for hundreds of clinicians and care for millions of patients. SeanLAdams.com is my little corner of the internet; stop by anytime.