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6 Leadership Lessons in Guardians of the Galaxy and The Body of Christ

Guardians of the Galaxy has to be my favorite movie of the year. It’s not just because I like superheroes.

I love the messy world with imperfect heroes who work together and save everyone. Why do they succeed, despite the odds against them? They aren’t the perfect story book heroes. Nevertheless, they are a textbook example of effective teamwork. The most effective teams I have worked with share these characteristics.

  1. Divergent Backgrounds. When leaders make the mistake of assembling a team of like-minded people from the same circumstances, it makes sense in the short term because there is minimal conflict. Over time, these teams become stale, boring, and lose their edge. However, stronger teams are built from people from different backgrounds. They bring unique strengths, perspectives, and friends to the table. With nonprofits, this is particularly essential as each person from a different background bring potential volunteers from an entirely different circle. The wider the range of experiences in our circle, the more opportunities we have for creative solutions to unexpected problems.
  2. Difficult Past Challenges. Heartbreak, loss, and personal tragedies could have defined different guardians. They lost families and cultures, were tortured, were abused, and were used. Some would have been broken by these losses. But the Guardians work to overcome their pasts. Parts of their past come back to haunt them at times.
  3. Unique Abilities. The Guardians discover when they work together, the whole is stronger than their individual parts. Everyone, from the small racoon to the wooden Groot, can use those unique talents to solve problems. Some would underestimate their individual potential to help the team.
  4. Humor. We get by with a little help from our friends, and that’s a whole lot easier when we can laugh at ourselves.
  5. A Focus Towards the Future. Despite those past losses, the Guardians help each other keep a focus towards the future. As they help each other do that, the destructive potential of their toxic pasts diminishers.
  6. Self Sacrifice. Initially, Groot is a simple tree who can’t even talk. At the end, he’s the one who can save everyone else. He cares about the Guardians and willingly gives of himself to save everyone else.

Each of these things don’t just describe an effective team or why Guardians of the Galaxy save the day at the end of the team. They also describe the body of Christ and the real world in which I live.

The real world isn’t a place of perfect families and people that perfectly fit into neat boxes that are easily categorized. Instead, our world is often a mess of flawed, broken people in circumstances we cannot fathom.

With Jesus Christ, they and we are reminded of that flicker of light in each of us such that when we learn to use our talents and respect the talents of others around us, great things happen.

Jesus ate with thieves and spoke with prostitutes. When Pharisees tried to force him into their convenient little boxes, he turned their world on end. He didn’t let them stop him from serving others and teaching those around him. He teaches us today.

And when we let Him, He helps us work together as the Body of Christ, still making incredible things happen that transform the world.

And if we happen to laugh along the way with a great romp of a film like Guardians of the Galaxy, so much the better.



Heroic Dads

As we cleaned and reorganized this spring, preparing for an empty nest, I found an essay Nick wrote a few years ago, where Nick explained why his dad is his hero.

My children are now grown. Richard’s integrity is the biggest force in the formation of their character. I grew up without a good father role model and see the difference in my own kids’ hearts. His confidence in and devotion to our kids gives them something I never had. Nick’s words are the most fitting tribute I can make this Father’s Day.

Nick’s essay:

My Heroic Dad

My Dad is my hero for many reasons. When I was little, he played Thomas the Train with me and helped me set up train tracks all over the floor. Then we ran toy trains and had a lot of fun. Now that I am older, I see the other things he does. His hard work, his character, and his ability to put his family first are a few of the things I can learn from him. Even though he is not perfect and admits when he makes mistakes, my dad fills the role of hero extremely well as a man’s man.

Dad works hard running his own business. When he has work for clients, he sometimes works late on deadlines and does without sleep. But he never complains that he is tired. He works just as hard with chores, working until the job is completely done. When I get tired while doing yard work, he always keeps going. Dad is always there to take over if I get tired hand-sawing a limb, even though I know that he is as tired as I am.

Another thing heroic about Dad is his overall character. In a word, nice describes Dad. He is friendly to everyone and listens to people. Although we can all lose our tempers, it seems like dad never gets angry. He controls it very well. I know I can trust my dad because he is honest and keeps his word.

Family is always his first priority. Even if he’s on a tight deadline with his job, caring for his family is Dad’s primary objective. If I’m ever having trouble learning a song on guitar, I can just ask him for help. On the outside, he is a white-haired old man who is almost eligible for the senior discount at stores. But on the inside, he is a little kid who wants to play guitar and make many jokes. This is Dad. Also, if Mom is ever talking on TV or the radio, Dad goes out of his way to get up early in the morning, and watch or listen to her. In addition, he usually doesn’t buy anything for himself because he spends his money on his family, church, business, and friends.

One of my favorite memories is when Dad took me to Louisville so we could go to a Jeff Beck concert, our favorite guitarist. Dad introduced me to Jeff Beck so I would discover other types of music besides heavy metal. He introduced me to jazz from the 1920’s to the 1960’s and the Mississippi Delta blues. Listening to it at the concert is the best music I have ever heard.

In conclusion, a hero or man’s man has many admirable qualities. Dad’s qualities that stand out are his strong work ethic, strong character, and family focus. With the way he lives his life, he shows me the type of person I want to be as I become an adult – a hero.