How to be an R-Rated Leader

R-rated leadership?  I’m not suggesting that r-rated behaviors or language are appropriate for the office (though I don’t know that the occasional F-bomb ever hurt anyone).

There shouldn’t be samurai swords or splattering blood.  No flying body parts or burning folks with cigarette lighters.

Nope.  Deadpool’s antics are not appropriate for young viewers or office parties.

Deadpool is considered one of the more foul-mouthed and mercenary of Marvel’s superheroes.  While super, he’s definitely more anti than hero.

Yet he has a cult following, who were prepared to lift the recent movie to great heights, or watch it crash and burn.  Given opening weekend returns, it’s clear the movie – with all it’s r-rated violence and profanity – gave fans what they wanted.


Deadpool’s Unexpected Learnings

Superheroes inspire.  They represent the kind of people we want to be, even if we don’t wear a cape or have special powers.

Leaders are the superheroes among us.  The best leaders, the ones we admire and want to emulate have similar characteristics:

  • Helping people by putting the needs of their teams first
  • Accomplishing the impossible, though more often through rallying and aligning others than via superpowers
  • Possession of a strong moral fiber and work ethic; they do the right thing

Deadpool doesn’t fit the traditional role of leader.  It would be easy to dismiss him as a bad role-model and an anti-hero, made for laughs instead of learning.

For a long time, the world wasn’t ready for Deadpool’s brand of hero.  They are now. Only after years and score of humorous, attractive, clean cut or manageably off-center heroes. Now we have one that jumped off a cliff and flipped us the bird on the way down.

Deadpool may be an unusual role-model.  But if you think he represents all that could go wrong in a leader, you need to look past the red suit and swords, to the man underneath.

1.  Buck the script

Deadpool doesn’t fit the mold of other popular superheroes.  And isn’t meant to.  He has a different kind of appeal, for a different kind of audience.  Not every leader is the same. Not every challenge or opportunity needs the same kind of leader.  Be you.  Be real.  Even if that means dropping the occasional f-bomb.

2.  Don’t take yourself too seriously

Deadpool knows he’s fictional.  He laughs at himself and the situations he finds himself in.  While the rest of us are human, we can recognize our imperfections and the humor in life to be more relatable.  The best leaders step off the pedestal and walk among the masses.

3.  Do your research

In the comics, Deadpool reads comics of his adversaries to learn how to defeat them.  In the movie, he tracks down known associates to get his hands on Frances.  Leaders need to do their homework, and continue learning – whether it’s researching industries, emerging innovation, or new skills.  You don’t get the girl, defeat the bad guy, or generally win the day without it.

4.  Step in the poop

For better or for worse, Deadpool speaks his mind.  He does so with humor, often twisted, but he calls things like he sees them.   People are looking for leaders who are willing to say what they think.  They might step in poop occasionally, but we’ll know where they stand.  And where we do.

5.  Have good reasons

A mercenary that spends his time protecting girls from crazy stalkers?  Deadpool has a violent set of skills, but he tries to use them for good purpose.  If leaders are going to step in the poop, they should have a good reason.  Mistakes are okay, but they need to start from a place of good intentions.

6.  Focus on key moments

Most people assume being a superhero means being good all the time.  Collosus tells Deadpool that it comes down to key moments and leadership is the same.  If being a leader seems unattainable, don’t worry about every moment.  Do the right thing when it’s a hard choice. If not, own the decision, fix it if you can, and do the right thing next time.

7.  Be popular, by doing the unpopular

While Deadpool is high on violence and profanity, it is also original, funny, and irreverent.  It’s going to offend some.  It’s going to make loyal fans of others.  And that’s the final lesson.

To each their own. Not everyone is going to like your particular brand of leadership. Good leaders have their own style vs repeating whatever is popular. If that means alienating some, that’s okay. The ones that follow you will stay forever.


Have you seen Deadpool?  What other lessons would you share from the movie?  If you found this article interesting, please comment below or share it on social media.


Original image courtesy of Fox movies.