Bullet time. Red pill, blue pill. Simulation vs. reality. The Matrix series was a cultural phenomenon in the late ’90s and early ’00s. It’s the story of Neo, a hacker who discovers that the world around him is a simulation created by machines to enslave humanity. With the help of others, Neo frees his mind and leads a fight against the system. The movies are full of metaphors and lessons about society as well as lessons on leadership. 

It’s time to plug into the system and pull out some leadership lessons!

Seek alternate realities

One of the main themes of the film is the contrast between the false reality of the Matrix and the harsh truth of the real world. Morpheus challenges Neo to question his assumptions and beliefs and offers him a choice: to take the blue pill and remain ignorant or to take the red pill and see the truth. is the truth any less true for those still trapped in the matrix?

You may ask yourself, “How can these people believe what they believe when the truth is so obvious?” Perception is reality. A person that is all in on misinformed data, and solidifies the perception by isolating themselves to only include others who share the same view, doesn’t view themselves as wrong. 

As a leader, you need to be willing to seek and accept alternative views of reality or the situation at hand, even if they are painful or uncomfortable. Be curious, open-minded, and courageous to explore different perspectives and possibilities. A well-rounded leader challenges their own perception (reality) at times to check themselves, “Is this the right take, or am I missing something that would make me more informed?”

There is no spoon

When Neo visits the Oracle, he encounters a young boy who appears to have the telekinetic ability to bend spoons with his mind. The boy tells him: “Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth… There is no spoon… Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”

The kid is going deep on Neo!

This is a metaphor for how Neo can overcome the limitations of the Matrix by changing his perception and mindset. Too often, leaders hear the phrases, “That’s impossible,” or “This is not going to work.” Very few things are impossible to accomplish in leadership if we don’t look at challenges as strictly black or white or right and wrong. 

As a leader work to become flexible, adaptable, and creative in facing challenges and opportunities. Look for small wins instead of big wins if needed, “Well if we can’t do this, then what can we do to move forward?”

Overcome imposter syndrome

Throughout the film, Neo is presented with the idea that he is “The One”, a prophesied savior who can end the war between humans and machines. However, he struggles with self-doubt and skepticism; he doesn’t feel special. It’s not until he finally accepts his role that he is able to release his full potential.

Imposter syndrome can feel like you are stuck in your version of the matrix with no hope of getting out of it. It’s the deep-rooted feeling that you are not good enough, not qualified enough, or not worthy of leading or owning a particular thing.  Not only are there 5 types of imposter syndrome (PTB 224) but the environment that you are in and the connections that you make also heavily influence this area. 

Just like Neo, you can break free and reach your fullest potential as well. Here are some tips to begin working through imposter syndrome. 

  • Talk it out with someone. Imposter Syndrome loves to live in isolation inside yourself. Talk out your feelings and thoughts with a trusted friend, advisor, or mentor. 

  • Be kind to yourself. I have seen some of the kindest people beat themselves up for their perceived shortcomings. Give yourself the same forgiveness that you give others and be kind to yourself. Let someone besides yourself be your worst critic. 

  • Understand that your thoughts and situation are not unique. Remember when you run into a bout of doubt that others are likely going through the same. Know that it’s not just you and that it’s temporary then step up and do well.

  • Learn from failure. To our Baton Carriers that are perfectionists; It’s okay to fail. You need to fail to keep learning and growing. Use failure as a learning opportunity and move on. Don’t dwell on failure for failure’s sake. 

  • Go small. Focus on the smaller tasks and the accomplishments that come along with them instead of focusing on the larger issue. It can help you stay focused in a positive direction. 

Challenge yourself. Take another look at how you perceive a particular topic, a body of work, or even other people. Adapt and be nimble as you make things that make the impossible, actually quite possible. Never forget, you are not an imposter. You were put into your role for a reason, and you are worthy and capable of stepping up to the challenge. 

Make a better tomorrow.