Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders

Dr. Gordon Schmidt & Dr. Sy Islam - Leadership and the Marvel Cinematic Universe

July 09, 2022 Scott J. Allen Season 1 Episode 131
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders
Dr. Gordon Schmidt & Dr. Sy Islam - Leadership and the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Gordon Schmidt is a professor of management and the Director of the David and Sharon Turrentine School of Management at the University of Louisiana Monroe. He has a doctorate in Organizational Psychology from Michigan State. He wrote a book on teaching leadership through Marvel superhero films.  He co-edited a book on social media use in employee selection. He is currently writing a book teaching leadership concepts through Avatar: The Last Airbender. Dr. Schmidt does research related to the Future of Work, including the gig economy and virtual leadership. He has researched the future of the field of I-O Psychology. He also researches leadership in lean production and Corporate Social Responsibility. He consults with organizations on various topics, including how superhero examples can help learning. Dr. Schmidt teaches courses in leadership and human resources. His teaching innovations have been published in journals. He is the co-editor of Management Teaching Review

Dr. Sy Islam is a co-founder and Vice President of Consulting with Talent Metrics Dr. Islam has over 15 years of experience providing data analytic, training, and organizational development support to organizations in a variety of workplace settings. Dr. Islam’s consulting work was recognized by the Society for Industrial-Organizational Psychology, when he won the Scientist-Practitioner Presidential Recognition Award for his focus on science driven practices in training and talent development. Through Talent Metrics he has consulted with fortune 100 companies like IBM and teams like the Florida Panthers.  Dr Islam has also served in leadership roles with ATD NYC and ATD Long Island. His upcoming book is entitled “Leaders Assemble! Leadership Lessons from the Marvel Cinematic Universe” and was published by Emerald Publishing on June 7th,  2022.

The Book!

A Quote From This Episode

  • "To me, this is part of outreach...we really need to think about how can we (academics) help people understand these concepts through things that matter to them."

About The International Leadership Association (ILA)

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Connect with Scott Allen

Note: Voice-to-text transcriptions are about 90% accurate and conversations-to-text do not always translate perfectly. I include it to provide you with the spirit of the conversation.

Scott Allen  0:02  
Okay, everybody, welcome to the Phronesis podcast. Thank you so much for checking in. We appreciate it. Today we have a fun conversation. My guest is Gordon Schmidt, Dr. Gordon Schmidt. He's a Professor of Management at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. And he has a doctorate in Organizational Psychology from Michigan State University. And he researches the future of work and how technology is changing the nature of company employee relations today, which has been published in a number of academic journals. He co-edited a book with Richard landers on how social media is used in selection and recruitment. He does research related to virtual leadership and how technology impacts the leadership process. He's done research related to the gig economy and communities of gig workers who have sprung up around crowdsourcing sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk, and he's written about the future of the field of IO psychology related to outreach of the field to those in practice. He also researches leadership and or motivation, in varied contexts, including lean production, corporate social responsibility initiatives, job apathy, and popular culture. He teaches courses in organizational behavior, training methods, employee relations, organizational development, organizational theory, leadership, and human resources. Listeners, I hope you're getting a theme here. His work related to teaching has been presented at conferences and published in a number of journals. He won a Teaching Excellence Award from his college in 2015. And he acted as the program chair for the 2020 virtual management and organizational behavior teaching Society Conference. He is the incoming co-editor for the Journal management teaching review, he consults with organizations primarily related to leadership, motivation, and social media-related arenas. Now he has just co-authored a book. And this is a fun conversation that we're about to engage in. But this is really all about leadership, but leadership through a very, very specific lens. This book is called leaders assemble exclamation point, leadership in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, I must admit, I was a little bit intimidated because I think I've watched probably six of these. And if I'm not mistaken, Gordon, there are upwards of 30 of these films now. I mean, they have just exploded in the last decade, decade and a half. But before we jump in, what blanks do we need to fill in about you, sir? What do listeners need to know about Gordon?

Gordon Schmidt  2:37  
So my background, as you had said, Scott, you know, I've got a Ph.D. in organizational psychology. My undergrad degree is in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University, which has a great program there. And so really going into sort of this whole world of work, I've always been really interested in how people interact with each other, you know, their relationships, they develop, how they kind of all worked together, it's been something I've always been interested in, from a research perspective, but just as, as a kid, I did a science research club as a kid, and everybody did biology or chemistry, often in like the labs of their parents. And I was the weird one doing a psychology project on attachment style, and how it affects the trust of people and groups in society. And so it's really that sort of the human experience, the human mind, how we interact, it's always been really interesting to me. And is that's developed over time, kind of as I went to graduate school. And as my career kind of started going, we've seen technology become sort of even more salient than we've seen before. Social media, and computers are really central to everyday people's lives. You know, they're sort of as an idea of people don't really need computers, you know, they're just for work, or they're just for a few people. And so this has really exploded into this, this stuff is essential for how we interact and how we connect, saying, there's an audience that's listening to a podcast, while talking to Scott through a zoom through the internet, like it's just this is an integral part of our life. And there was a time in our lives got even where this was just sort of starting, you know, it took a few years for the computer to even get here, where I had one with access. And so that really became interesting to me. And as I was going further in graduate school, I got very interested in the tech part of it to a significant degree. And so that's kind of driven a lot of my standing is really thinking about how does this really affect what we do and it's something I'm engaged in a lot. We do a lot of outreach through social media. We do a lot of connecting with people online. So that's kind of the piece for me. It's been a very natural flow. Although Not a lot of other people were doing it especially early.

Scott Allen  5:03  
So, Gordon, I appreciate that. We also have Sayeed Islam, who is the co-author of this book. And he has 10 years of experience in a variety of corporate, academic, and applied settings. He is an associate professor of IO psychology at Farmingdale State College, where he teaches courses related to training and leadership development. And he is joining us for the conversation today. Sigh What else to listeners, other than you are wrangling a two-year-old, you have your own leadership challenge kind of cooking right now.

Sayeed Islam  5:34  
Well, I've wrangled him into a nap. So that's really, you know, it's quite a miracle. I don't know how that happened. But he also woke up super early today. So maybe, maybe that's how it works. Leading a child is not recommended. No one, you know, because they don't really pay attention to what you want to say. There's not a lot of cask orientation, and the relationship piece is even harder to achieve. Unless you're some kind of unicorn or, or fuzzy animal.

Scott Allen  6:01  
Yes. Well, I'm excited to have the two of you here. I'm excited about this conversation. I think you're approaching this topic of leadership and a really fun, interesting, and engaging lens, the Marvel Cinematic Universe because obviously, the film can serve as a wonderful case study for a lot of these concepts that we discussed. As I was reading the book, I kept thinking back to, I used to give this one specific type of exam. And so the two of you reference whitening camera and that textbook in the book a few times, and I used to take some of the main concepts, let's just take the concepts from stressors, rapid change, and, and encounter stressors and all of these different concepts, I put them into like 100 Different kinds of unique, distinct concepts that I wanted the students to know. So the first exam was kind of get those things out of your head, what were they just do you have a general understanding of these things. And that was always very scary for students, but they always did incredible on that exam. And then the second exam was, okay, I'm going to show you a film. And in real-time, I want you to provide me with a narrative of what you're seeing. And it was beautiful. I mean, I could show the film whiplash, you know, the drumming film that won an Academy Award a few years ago, it's a little bit harsh in points are, I could show the film Cry Freedom, or I could show the film, glory, it really didn't matter what film I showed, it was always this, this really, really beautiful thing you all where they would be looking at the film. And in a certain scene, some of the students would see stressors are associated with concepts having to do with problem-solving, or any number of other influence tactics, in the same scene, they'd be seeing different things happening. And I would get back these 1012 Paragraph assays, as they're watching this film in real-time, they didn't know what it was going to be. And we'd get these just beautiful narratives. So the whole notion of using film and using this whole series of films as a backdrop for some of these concepts that we discussed, especially given the popularity of these films, I think it's just a great way to meet people where they are. So talk about the origin story of this project for the two of you, how did you all come up with this idea? I think it's brilliant.

Sayeed Islam  8:29  
We were both bitten by radioactive spiders.

Scott Allen  8:32  
Oh, that'll do it. Right?!

Sayeed Islam  8:35  
Radioactive editor, actually.

Scott Allen  8:35  
That's great!

Sayeed Islam  8:39  
No, so actually, Gordon and I are big nerds. And we really both love Marvel Comics. And Gordon brought this call for proposals for books, to my attention came from Emerald publishing, they were looking for people to write books, where we were exploring effective leadership practices in popular culture, Gordon kind of knew the editor of that series, Dr. Mike Urich. And he'd already written a book about Star Wars and about Lord of the Rings. And so we thought, you know, we both really love Marvel. And we've been talking about the Marvel movies and Marvel Comics off and on for years. And in the kind of outreach work that we've done, we were also finding the pop culture kind of, you know, helped us connect everyday people because the phrase IO psychology or even leadership development doesn't really resonate with people in the same way. And so we submitted a proposal and it was accepted. And we thought, wow, this is great. And we kind of took a lot of the conversations that we'd had about different types of leaders within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that served as sort of the basis of a lot of what we ended up writing about in the book.

Scott Allen  9:47  
Gordon, anything you want to add to that the backdrop of how you all came to this as the topic,

Gordon Schmidt  9:54  
I think, to sign I have worked on a decent amount of work-related this idea of sort of the outreach of industrial-organizational psychology and, you know, management ideas to the public. Because I think it's a real issue right is especially in leadership, there's a lot of, we'll just call it crap out there, or a lot of stuff that's really idiosyncratic is for this leader in this context. They did well. And so, therefore, we should also, you know, wear the same outfit every day, because then we're going to be successful, right? To me, it's especially vital that this research that's been done this empirically supported work, this rigorous work actually gets out there in the world. I and I have done a number of papers sort about industry, Organizational Psychology, and how can we do outreach through things like social media through things like memes, through sort of coming up with ways that this stuff is digestible to the public? Yep. And so I wrote a great blog post related to this as well related to the Marvel books to us this book really made sense. With that goal it's a really fun way to do outreach, it meant we had to watch a bunch of Marvel movies again, which is always fun. We got to have more discussions, I always end up sending SCI like, I'm like, I'm watching this movie. Here's my reaction to it. We're thinking about it through this lens of our work, right? What are these things mean? And how does it how does relate? And so the book was a great way to kind of act on some of those discussions. We have all the time through Twitter direct messages about these things. Especially because, you know, we don't necessarily, you know, younger age, we watched a movie like Empire Strikes Back and we didn't critically look at it or think about the concept. It's a fantastic movie still, by the way. Oh, I would say beyond just nostalgia. Some of the movies I watch. I'm like, nostalgically This is great. I'm thinking it was a kid. I was watching it recently with my four-month-old son and I was just like, "this movie is really good." Like, objectively it does a great job. Right.

Scott Allen  11:57  
Gordon, you just touched a nerve. I don't know if you can see in my background, but there is an R two d two. Oh, literally right there. Okay. Now, probably other than my children being born, and my wedding day, one of my best favorite days of my life. My cousin, I'm in Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, my cousin is older than me. I'm at this point, what? It's 1980. I'm eight years old. My cousin takes me to the theater. And we watch Empire like three times. I think I licorice and popcorn. That's all I ate all day. I think we snuck back into the film two times. So we saw empires is the best day of my life, one of them other than those other ones I just mentioned. So I can geek out with you on certain levels here. Because yes, I mean, it's fascinating, because, again, so many of the things that we discuss at times, we're using words and language that it's foreign to many. But you know what? That list of stressors in that textbook that I mentioned a little bit ago. That's what is great, that's what makes a great film. That's what great makes great sports. That's what it's humans under those stressors have to engage in, it's the hero's journey, right? That whole textbook is Hero's Journey type stuff. I need to put together a team to tackle this challenge because we have some evil-doers. And we're going to have to problem-solve. And we're going to have to influence people in that process and navigate all kinds of different puzzles. And you all are making that accessible, which I think is just I think it's wonderful. I really do. Can we jump into one specific chapter that I really enjoyed? Or? Okay, so Guardians, is a beautiful film about the importance of a team, right? A beautiful film for that. So would you all talk a little bit about that? What were some observations that listeners might be interested in?

Sayeed Islam  13:54  
So I think with the Guardians, one of the really interesting things we came across was that each of the members of the Guardians of the Galaxy are they're pretty independent. And they're very powerful on their own. Like Rocket Raccoon has its own adventures. Gomorrah has a whole history. Peter Quill (StarLord has its own history, Drax has its own history. And so one of the more interesting pieces with regards to the Guardians of the Galaxy is how do you get a group of people that are extremely independent, and don't really want to be a part of a team and have very little interest in being a part of a team together on a team. And we see that reflected a lot in some of my leadership, and coaching work. And then some of the examples that Gordon and I talked about in classes where sometimes you have a group of people that are technically extremely proficient, and their technical leaders, they're able to, you know, kind of spout off any sort of knowledge that they might have. But then bringing them all together as a team is really difficult. And we think something similar with this with the Avengers two right, where do you have a dream team of superheroes We definitely come together. But the guardians of the galaxy are actually very good at shared leadership, each Guardian leads at different points in the movies. So you'll see, at a certain point people turn to Rocket for a plan. They look to Star-Lord for some sort of improvisation. They look to Camorra to lead them in, in a fight. And so we can kind of illustrate this idea of shared leadership, how a team with a group of very talented individuals can switch off leadership roles in the midst of a fight. And we say this luck. And you know, usually, when we talked about shared leadership, we talked about this in like an army context. But it's hard to kind of help people who've never been, you know, in that kind of a stressful situation, to think about that. Because usually, when we think about teams, we have, to think about sports teams and things like that. Sometimes it's harder to parse. But in Guardians of the Galaxy in the first kind of Prison Break, in that movie, you see a perfect example of their kind of switching from who's the leader who's not the leader, and utilizing those different skills that they happen to have to kind of accomplish a goal. And it really illustrates that idea very well. Gordon?

Gordon Schmidt  16:08  
Yeah, I think so I did a great job talking about a lot of those elements to me, all the Marvel movies, there are so many of these strong individuals interacting, and they don't necessarily they don't have to listen to each other, you're still Iron Man, if Captain America doesn't, doesn't listen to you, or you don't want to listen to him, right. And so I think that's, that's such a much more like real life. My work is part of my life. But it's not the whole thing. And I don't have to listen, have to do some aspects, I got to do enough to stay not getting fired. But oftentimes we get, you know, a lot of leadership advice is, well, here's a great CEO, everyone listened, and he probably did all the work. And it's usually a key, of course, right? A lot of those CEOs we talk about all the time, we're dudes, while the Marvel movies show people working together, where there isn't necessarily an official leader, there isn't necessarily we have to be here, or, you know, we all get along perfectly. And I think it makes it makes us be able to really talk about leadership concepts as they happen, versus just sort of the best-case scenario, or even something like transformational leadership, right? It's great. But the idea that we have a transformational leader who speaks and all of us follow, can be bad. And we see a lot of people apply something like transformational in ways that are bad because they assume you listen to the boss, they inspire you to then do exactly what they say, while they're often micromanaging you, right? They lose what the concept is about. And they focus on that individual leader, the Marvel movies have all these people in conflict with each other from different perspectives. And so we see actual leadership is influenced as influenced tactics of us needing to work together versus just listening to the boss. Yes, which happens way too often in leadership in the wild, and how we think about it, when in fact, a lot of it is peers working with each other, influencing each other. And even the boss needs to actually influence people versus just telling them what to do.

Scott Allen  18:09  
Yeah, well, I definitely want to get to the because one of the last chapters is on gender. And I want to get to that, maybe we'll close there. Maybe each one of you talk about another chapter that you particularly enjoyed that you just found really fun to write and to apply some of these concepts to that chapter. And I could go to each one of you just to highlight, and again, give listeners a little bit of a taste, because obviously, we want them to go purchase the book, we want them to explore the text on their own. But what were some that stood out for you is just really enjoyable to write SCI.

Sayeed Islam  18:49  
I'm a big fan of Black Panther which might be my favorite of the Marvel movies. And I really love being able to kind of dig in and think about what makes to trial a great leader, you know, in Black Panther, and then also kind of think about this was not expected, but we kind of looked at the succession planning of, you know, a place like Wakanda, or a place like Asgard, where you have this royal succession, this lineage that they're supposed to follow, it was really a lot of fun when writing about Black Panther, in particular, to see how many different kinds of leaders there are. So there's T'Challa, who's the person who's he's given power, he has a formal title, but he also kind of earns that because he loses that title at a certain point. And then he has to do outreach to an enemy and build an ally out of an enemy. He's got to be able to assign roles to people on his team. We see other great leaders like especially female leaders, like Okoye, who have leadership in a very nontraditional female position of being a military leader. We get to see another kind of nontraditional female leader in terms of science with Shuri, and it was a really a lot of fun to kind of dig into that to be able to show what representation in these different settings kind of looks like, of course, I just really enjoyed talking about Black Panther as a character, the character I grew up with. So to see him on the big screen, and to see that that kind of come to life was a lot of fun. And I think readers will enjoy that as well. Because there's even if you've seen the movie a couple of times, there's a lot to dig into, in terms of the actions, right? And what, you know, Gordon mentioned earlier that we spend a lot of time on social media, one of the most interesting things about Black Panther is the number of people that are on social media that say, Hey, kill monger was right. Killmonger, he's right, he's got all the right facts. And that really highlights something that we know about leaders, sometimes a leader can be correct. So someone can be kind of factually correct, about what they're doing, what approach they're, they're taking, but still, because they don't really care about the group or the organization, which is, which is the case with Killmonger. That makes him not a very good leader. Yep. And so sure, you can say that he's right about what conduct should do you know, do more outreach, provide more support to people, but the way in which he wants to go about it, and what he really cares about is really what derails him as a leader, we see this all the time, in the real world where somebody maybe is correct, but they rub people the wrong way. They don't know how to build a team, they don't know how to negotiate effectively. And those things are really important to Leadership isn't just technical knowledge. It's also that ability to get people on your side and to really care about the organization and the team that you're a part

Scott Allen  21:40  
of. Yep, love it. Gordon, what stands out for you?

Gordon Schmidt  21:43  
Sure. One chapter that I definitely liked writing is we do a chapter on Captain America Civil War and this conflict on the Avengers related to basically how the Avengers should be run, and who should be in charge. And one of the things I like about it, and I think that that's something that sometimes gets missed when we talk about examples of leadership, is I think it's a good example of people making mistakes and doing the wrong thing. And so what you essentially have in Captain America Civil War is, there's a disagreement over who should have control over the team, Iron Man thinks that the UN comes in and says, We shouldn't be in charge, we should set you to know, the missions, we should be in control. And he says that we have too much power as individuals, we need this outside sort of oversight, we need this larger organization to be in control. Meanwhile, Captain America says, No, we should, it should be based on our own morals, our own values should drive this, I don't want to do that. And so we've got these two people that are, you know, significant leaders on the team and conflict. And what we see is bad conflict management here, it really is my way or the highway in both directions. When they both have good points. Those are both options of which way we should go. But instead of trying to come up with a compromise, or a collaboration, where we come up with something that meets their needs, the team basically breaks up. And I would argue a lot of the later Marvel films, The Avengers are in a much worse shape, or not even kind of together, because they couldn't figure out a way to really talk about their interest and figure out what's going on with something that would really work. Because they didn't really look at their positions, they didn't really dig into them and see what really matters. Sy and I've talked about this before, could have been the UN helps to pick some of the missions and members can decide what missions they want to do, or how they want to do them. Right, how they implement them how tasks are done. Maybe you can always opt-out of a mission. If it doesn't fit with your values. That might be a good compromise. It might meet people's needs, but instead, they just get caught in their own positions. And to me, I think that's a nice thing you can learn for movies where there's less ego, right? You can say Captain America was wrong Iron Man was wrong here. Well, it's very hard to say my boss was wrong. Or often myself, right, my own ego, but to see, okay, this happened. Was there a situation where I did that my way or the highway when we really should have figured out more about what our interests lie? Now it's possible after they worked everything through, they were still so far apart, that they could have come up with a solution. I'm willing to consider that a possibility. But they did not put in that work. And they did not really solicit other people's ideas. You know, for other things that can happen. They didn't really solicit other members to get involved in the discussion. Are you know, if everybody but Captain America agrees, maybe Captain America would go along or see the value. Instead, it was really, these two leaders thought and everyone else wasn't included and stepped back, which made it kind of one versus one when maybe the group kind of agreed in some direction. So to me, that was a really interesting chapter and to think about it, think about it a little differently than just, oh, you know, we have fisticuffs, that process work was really crucial to success. And that's part of the reason there were a lot of problems.

Scott Allen  25:15  
But even as you're talking right there, I mean, for some reason my mind went to I recently watched the Beatles documentary, where it was like, Get Back. Yeah, yeah, I think so. I mean, if the two of you have not watched that, again, fascinating, because you can look at that through the lens of conflict, and just the or Metallica has some kind of monster, you know, where they literally are trying to work through. And maybe that was a watershed moment for them because they're still together, they're still making music. But I mean, I do love this, aligning with what's in our environment to help people better understand these concepts, better understand how literally, the whole IO psychology in many ways, I shouldn't say whole, that's not a fair way of saying it. But many of the concepts we've discussed many of them, they have a little bit of a fancier word or name. But they're in front of us all day long on television, in sports, in our environment, in our families. And that's what I love when when I'm working with students, and they can see how these concepts permeate all aspects of our life. And speaking of you all, have this chapter on gender. Would you talk a little bit about that? Because that's a very real, real component when it comes to the cinematic universe, that female representation, and female leadership is underrepresented.

Gordon Schmidt  26:47  
Yeah, and I that's something that, you know, I'm proud of with the book a bit, too, is that we're not just ooh, Marvel's The coolest and they did everything right. And, you know, everything, everything was correct. Because, again, we want people to reflect and use this to learn. And so I would certainly are, and we argue, I think in that chapter, some that, you know, we really don't have female leader representation very well, within this marvel universe. In terms of the movies. In the comics, there are more female leaders, but also, you know, a lot more comics. So from a percentage perspective, it's still pretty low, we look at that within the movies, one big example that kind of came out when we watch the movies, again, in detail, thinking about leadership was this idea of Black Widow being the leader. So you have in the movie, you have this big event where half the population, you know, disappears, you have this the biggest crisis ever, essentially. And most of the male leaders, people like Captain America, Iron Man, or Hulk, basically leave, they go and do their own thing. to various degrees, Captain America is helping people deal with grief. And that's great. But it seems like he's stepped back from leadership of these Avengers, and the superheroes. And so we have this period, that's called kind of the five-year gap while people are missing during that. But while we call it a gap, we act like Oh, nothing, you know, five years passed. During those five years, the world was still happening with half the population. And so Black Widow, a female leader basically steps up and is essentially leading the Avengers, but also seems to be kind of leading the whole world of superheroes and superhero-related aspects. And it's kind of interesting because it connects to a number of concepts that we actually see with female leaders in the difficult positions they get put in. So I'm sure most of your listeners are familiar, with a glass ceiling idea, this idea that it's hard for women and often minorities to get above a certain level, that's pretty well known. A more recent phenomenon is this idea of what's called the glass cliff, which I think is a great visual as well, is that you have a woman be put in charge of an organization. But it tends to happen when the organization is in crisis. So they say crap, there's a lot of scandals, maybe if we get a woman in charge, she'll fix this, or we'll get some PR. And often they're difficult there's a crisis or there's a difficult situation, or there's a high chance of failure, a woman is a leader in those circumstances. And so we talked about that with Black Widow is that basically, all the guys who are in charge of left and we Black Widow has to be in charge of this. Again, the universe doesn't get into it much. We don't see a movie on this. But it seems like she does a pretty good job because what we see five years later is the world's working. We've had a catastrophic event. Right.

Scott Allen  29:46  
And what's interesting is she's done that for five years, but we still call it the gap. Is that accurate?

Gordon Schmidt  29:53  
Exactly. Scott? Yeah, it's a gap. And if you look at the leader show, that time she's talking to A group that includes, you know, War Machine and African American in charge of things we've got what con is represented by a woman, we've got Captain Marvel. And so we suddenly have a group of leaders in this world of superheroes, that is much more multiracial, much more female when before they weren't at the table, and it seems like you know, they got a meeting, it's not in crisis, the world is not in the fire, everybody is, you know, it's traumatic, and people are sad, but the world seems to be functioning, frankly, maybe better. And when you know, what we saw in the past, right? We don't care about big villains taking over other stuff, it seems like the world is doing okay. And that, I think, is a tragic element that again, the movie doesn't get, we don't look at this period. It's just Oh, things are bad. But they don't look that bad when we see them. And then we see in the movie Ant-Man, Scotland comes up with an idea to get people back. Great. Half the population back. Sounds good. But then all of the white dudes that were leaders before, come back, right. And they're the leaders again, and Black Widow goes back to being a supporting character, right? And so it really it does a disservice to her and, you know, female leaders is she led during a crisis, it looks like really well, that's I what would be more difficult situation that she was in. But instead, it's just a blip. And now we're back to normal. And we've got, you know, our white dudes back in charge, the leaders that we had before. 

Sayeed Islam  31:26  
And we also can't forget that she makes the biggest sacrifice like she's got to go so that we can get the Time Stone. And so we can do all of this again. Right? So she doesn't make it out of that final adventure.

Gordon Schmidt  31:39  
Yeah, yeah, she doesn't get as big a moment as other people to that die, either. Right? It's, it's a part it's a stamp versus a signature piece. And I do think that's a very real thing to consider when we look at organizations is are we promoting women and minorities in times when it's dangerous when they don't have much power when they're going to fail? And it's especially a bad situation on that, because then we're like, oh, look, a woman failed, it must be that women are bad leaders. So again, you don't say that when a white dude fails, stop making white dude leaders. But we see that way too often women or minorities in those positions, when the research does suggest they're often put in worse situations, they're less likely to be ahead of the board of directors and CEO at the same time. And so the chapter goes into that quite a bit. So again, I don't think the Marvel movies are trying to argue Black Widow was done wrong. But that's certainly something that we saw emergent in it that I think is an interesting point for discussion of our readers thinking about how these issues really happen.

Scott Allen  32:39  
This part of the conversation reminded me of a documentary on Netflix that I just watched, which is called This changes everything. And it's all about gender disparity in Hollywood, and just some of the themes that we've just discussed. And if you look at Hollywood as an industry over the decades, it's a really, really so listeners, I'll put a link to that in the show notes so that you can check it out. It's important, it's an important view. I would like to kind of wind our time down. Sy, I sense a nap ending at any moment!

Sayeed Islam  33:19  
Well, you know, just like a good movie, there has to be a ticking clock. Yeah. There's a ticking clock. Yeah. So Well, we'll see if we can finish it up before that happens.

Scott Allen  33:29  
So I guess maybe just a couple of comments from each one of you just anything that we haven't mentioned, that's just on your mind, as you think about this work. It's a lot of fun.

Sayeed Islam  33:39  
I think that that aspect of fun is, I think one of the most important elements that we can talk about, because usually when we talk about leadership, it's a kind of charged discussion around, you know, either politics or people's individual experiences in the workplace and things like that. And one thing that Gordon I have a good time with, and I think people who really love both Marvel movies and Marvel Comics, have fun with it is this discussion. Part of the reason that I think that the comic book movie has become so popularized at this moment is, that television has gone from just being like something we talked about at a water cooler to something we really think about in-depth. And Marvel movies have that same quality to them, where you can have an expectation of like, well, who's going to be in Dr. Strange to what's the next stage? What's the next chapter of the story of what's going to happen? And one thing that we want to be able to do here with the book is to get people to think more about what's actually happening in these stories. And what does that mean for us? Yes, in the real world, right? Yes, because I'm certain that none of the creators of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanted to kind of, you know, push Black Widow aside and give her this difficult leadership role, but something that happened, and it's something that came up and now let's think about Let's reflect on it. I don't think that any of the creators of the Marvel Cinematic Universe thought about, well, would anybody think that Thanos was an appealing leader in any way. But we see in all sorts of contexts in the real world, that people with really harsh, negative, horrible views are seen as viable leaders. And so I think that's a good thing to reflect on. And the Marvel Cinematic Universe really helps us do it in a fun way, in a safe way, where you can pick apart these ideas, and then really connect them to something that's happening in our real world. You know, I've seen it in my classes, but students really respond to that. I've seen from executive coaching work that leaders themselves can reflect more easily in that setting. And I think overall, you can have some wonderful discussions with people, even if you wanted to have like a book club, and have a nice little debate about who you think is the best leader. I think that that's a really great way of getting people to kind of dig in deeper into this. And it's not in a way where it feels like homework. It feels way more exciting. And I hope that you know, the readers of this book, that they'll reach out to us. And if they think we're wrong about something, feel free to reach out and give us their perspective, because that's what being a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe of comic books is all about.

Gordon Schmidt  36:21  
Sy, you shouldn't tell the Internet to reach out if they disagree with us, but we're gonna get in trouble at some point on the

Scott Allen  36:28  
Internet, please reach out. Send us a tweet, right? 

Gordon Schmidt  36:32  
YouTube comments, please. Everybody. 

Scott Allen  36:36  
You just invited it. So Gordon, what do you got, sir?

Gordon Schmidt  36:41  
Yeah, I think so I covered a lot of great elements there. To me, this is part of outreach, and how do we get good ideas out there for people to act on it. And I think creative frames around it is really important. Because I don't think it's necessarily as easy as, oh, just if people have access to our articles, they'll read them and understand it and do it. That's just not a reason. Some of those articles I don't understand, frankly, no one will ever write in a way no human understands. Exactly, exactly. Yeah. And so we really need to think about what is how can we help people to understand them through things that matter to them? Does that make sense? Yep. And yeah, as I said, you know, people love these movies, they're interested, people have watched him multiple times. And so I think it gives an element of fun, as well as learning. And honestly, I have more fun watching these movies and thinking about them, and analyzing them more critically than I did. The first time. Obviously, as a professor now watching stuff, I'm always now thinking about what's the leadership part, or what is this? And I think people thinking about that critically, both in the movies and in their own life is very helpful. And I find that useful in classes to Scott right, like, yeah, oh, my job. I never thought of this related to organizational justice, or I never thought maybe I could influence my boss. They're just the boss. Yep. And I think this can have a really positive impact. These are tools and ways to think about our work and our lives.

Scott Allen  38:14  
Oh, I mean, it's, it's right and literally, take a weapon in Cameron's chapter on influence tactics and look, watch Ozark. I mean, it's just, it's literally a masterclass in front of you, of use of those influence tactics sometimes for great, ill. Right. And I'm not saying they were doing good in what they were trying to influence, but they're in front of you. And so I think, I love that kind of notion of this as outreach. And this is a way to engage and spark interest in meeting folks where they are. And again, I don't even don't that I think that statement can even sound a little condescending. I don't mean it to sound that way. I just think it's meeting people where their energy is, and then saying, hey, there's really cool stuff happening here. Look at this stuff, and you can make sense of what's going on. And I think that's so much fun. I just really

Gordon Schmidt  39:07  
make it more meaningful for us, frankly, yeah, it's like, I'll read an article and be like, Oh, that was kind of an interesting result. Move on. Yeah, like connecting it to these things that were both signs are passionate about this area, were interested in these movies. To me, it makes the concepts feel more real to me in writing the book and, you know, translating this, it made me think more about even stuff like the glass cliff, and these topics really think about them. And so I think that's the goal. It's not people can understand the concepts. It's that we need ways that are engaging to do that for ourselves and for others

Scott Allen  39:41  
to mine. Exactly. Exactly. Gentlemen, I'm going to close out today with just a quick question. If someone was listening to this conversation, and they haven't, they don't understand the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you want to give them a nice entry point into are exploring? Do they start with the first film? Or do they start with a film you would suggest? So how would you answer that question? What do you think, Gordon? What do you got?

Gordon Schmidt  40:12  
So I think it's reasonable to start at some of the films that are more self-contained and go from there. So something like Black Panther, you know, you could learn a lot from it, it'd be very interesting and it can make you interested in the world around it. Okay. I do think something like the first Avengers movie, you could pick up who the characters are and see what threads do I want? Okay, so that's kind of that's what I would say, is probably to me, that's, that's kind of the best way to go. Because yeah, it's a little hard to start it I'm gonna watch Iron Man and Iron Man, too. I'm gonna watch the whole I'm gonna do this. But to kind of pick a point like Black Panther or something like Avengers that starts getting it together could help you see if this is something you like, or it's something that's interesting, because especially the end, the later movies like end game, you're not going to get what's going on. If you start there. Even though it's a very, it's a very engaging work. It's, you're going to be like, what's the blip? Who's this Thanos guy? You ain't gonna work so you can start at the end. Definitely.

Scott Allen  41:14  
Cool SCI.

Sayeed Islam  41:15  
So I was gonna suggest Captain America The First Avenger, and mostly because it's the one that feels the most like Superman The Movie. Okay. And that's always been like a very good entry point. It's very self-contained. It has like, very strong dad vibes because it takes place in World War Two. Yeah. So you know, if you've got like, your dad is kind of like my dad, he's not interested in Watchmen, superhero stuff. There's plenty of like World War Two action in it. It's got a very palpable love story as well. So I think I think that works. And it's funny that Gordon mentioned people watching endgame without having watched anything else. I went with a friend to see Lord of the Rings, two towers, and he had not seen the First Lord of the Rings, and he never read the books. And so he didn't tell me this until after we finished the movie. So he sat there and watched a three-hour fantasy film that he barely understood. Oh, so good.

Scott Allen  42:09  
That's great. That's great. Gentlemen, thank you for making it interesting for us. We appreciate the work that you're doing. I will look forward to hearing about the next. I don't know is it going to be Harry Potter? Is it going to be Star Trek? Who knows? Don't answer that. We're going to keep people in suspense. Have a wonderful summer. Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me today. I appreciate it.

Gordon Schmidt  42:31  
Great talking to Scott.

Unknown Speaker  42:33  
Oh, somebody here. Thank you.

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