Some of the greatest leaders of all time never actually existed in real life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn the same lessons as if they had. Through movies, literature and television, we can transport ourselves into new worlds and insert ourselves into situations greater than our own. It turns out that plenty of people do this without even knowing, in order to better understand ourselves.
So, what can we learn from the years of stories and fictional characters that inhabit them? Let’s find out through the lens of a few of our favorite fictional leaders.
Captain James T. Kirk
James Kirk might be fictional, but to many he represents the integrity and determination that most people strive to achieve. Created by Gene Rodenberry for the 1960s series Star Trek, Captain James T. Kirk was the commanding officer aboard the starship Enterprise. He was based off several real-life leaders including Alexander the Great of Ancient Greece and Captain Cook of the British Royal Navy in the 1700s, and his leadership style in the show reflects that, as well as his enthusiasm to never stop learning.
As a commander, Kirk always consulted the other diverse members of his team before making any rash decisions. His two main advisors, Commander Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy, were often at odds with each other, allowing Kirk to act as a mediator and see both sides of any argument. This reflects his confidence as a leader, as he can make a fully informed decision no matter what side he decides to go with. This is a leadership style seen in the real world, and one that plenty of employers appreciate and prefer.
Not only that, but Kirk also always chooses to accompany the crew members when leaving the ship to go into dangerous or unknown situations. He leads by example, so his crew trusts him even more. The best leaders put the needs of the many over the needs of the few (or the one).
Louisa May Alcott touched the hearts and minds of millions when she wrote the novel, Little Women, in 1868. One of the many influential aspects of the groundbreaking story was the lead character, Jo March. The second eldest daughter in a family of four girls, Jo is told from a young age what is expected from her as a woman in society. Jo refuses to listen, and her determination and desire to work for what she wants makes her a great leader in the process.
Jo is loosely based on Alcott herself and her own struggle to become a published writer instead of a housewife. Nobody was going to give Alcott her life on a silver platter, and she knew that. In order to live her dreams, she had to achieve it herself and carry on in the face of failure and doubt. This is a trait that she instills in Jo March, and it’s one of the many reasons she is still a beloved character to this day.
Aragorn II Elessar
When J.R.R Tolkien published his sequel to The Hobbit in 1954, he not only created one of the most beloved stories of all time, but one of the greatest leaders of all time as well. Aragorn is introduced in the story as a humble ranger, looking to help Frodo on his quest to destroy the one ring of power. Over the course of the fantasy epic, however, he becomes the leader he was born to be and returns to his rightful place as the King of all men.
However, Aragorn’s birthright to the throne isn’t what makes him a great leader. He is great because he cares deeply for the people he is fighting for, and he knows that if he gives up, the people following him will doubt themselves as well. He carries on, even in the face of absolute defeat, and at the end of the day it’s his spirit and determination that leads the kingdom of middle earth to victory. Looking for even more reasons why Aragorn is an incredible leader? Check out this article from Forbes.
Be your own leader.
Being a leader means that you are willing to show others the way and to place the team’s priorities above your own. When we work together toward a goal, we often get greater results than if we act out of our own self-interest. These fictional characters are all great examples of what a good leader can be. Take those lessons and apply them to your own life, and you won’t believe the results.
Looking for even more inspiration from classic works of fiction? Check out our blog “Modern Lessons We Can Learn From Classic Movies.”