“This is a Tour De Force Lesson In Leadership”


In the annals of trilogies, what The Lord of the Rings was to teamwork, Planet of the Apes is to Leadership.

Below I’ve distilled 20 essential leadership lessons from this weekend’s third and final installment of the movie franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes. 

If you haven’t already seen it, stop what you’re doing, and madly rush to see it on the big screen. Not least of all, as it is simply a tour de force lesson in leadership. This summer’s blockbuster introduces tough themes that we can all learn from in terms of our careers, businesses, teamwork, collaboration, vision, and leadership.

In business or our work life, we are faced with issues of leadership every day. Beyond the messages about war and peace, War for the Planet of the Apes delivers a buffet of important workplace leadership qualities that run concurrently in the midst of an excellent, action-packed movie.

This final chapter focuses on the dramatic showdown between the apes and humans. The lead ape, Caesar, a Moses type figure set on leading his tribe of apes out of slave labor, to the promised land.

Caesar, who is a genetically modified ape exhibits a deep breadth of intellect as he begins to understand the plight he and the many other tortured bioengineered apes share on planet Earth. And as he eventually grapples with his internal demons, he must ultimately lead the apes to find a home safe away from the humans, who are set on wiping out the apes.

What is notable during this cinematic journey is how Caesar demonstrates leadership characteristics in ways that many human leaders in everyday situations have been unable to do so successfully.

In short, one cannot watch this movie without appreciating a profound display of leadership, we can all learn from.

Here Are 20 Impactful Leadership Lessons From Caesar:

1. Un-Natural Born Leader

Even though he was born into the world by being raised in a research laboratory, and though he had a difficult childhood upbringing, he was confident, straightforward and trustworthy. Most importantly, he had great communication and interpersonal skills, and a sense of humor. Essential qualities for any great leaders.

2. Vision

Caesar was a visionary Leader who focused on long-term goals.

KOBA:  “We should go to war with humans.”

CAESAR:  “We should not and this is our only chance to make peace for both parties.”

A great leader should always be foresighted and look at a long-term goal for the community he/she leads.

3. In The Trenches

Throughout the movie, you often saw Caesar working side-by-side with his team to accomplish a variety of tasks all geared toward the betterment of the all. Which in turn fostered strong relationships and trust between him and his followers.

4. Teamwork

Caesar is able to work effectively with others in order to accomplish the overall goals.
His seemingly innate ability to work with others, even those who initially challenged his authority. Because of his vastly influential reach, he was able to obtain and most notably, sustain amongst those in the ape community. Human beings also took notice of his leadership ability and could see very quickly who wielded the most power amongst the apes during their uprising.


5. Leaders Protect Their Team

Caesar thinks about the collective group as a whole. Not just himself. Caesar said, “Koba started this war. I fight only to protect apes”. Caesar’s eagerness to do the right thing and his impulse to look out for his team are the qualities to which all humans should all aspire.

6. Risk Paying The Price

[SPOILER ALERT!]  There Are Costs All Successful Leaders Must Be Willing To Pay. Because of Caesar’s influence and position, it resulted in his wife and son being killed by the Colonel.


7. Strength In Numbers

If You Want To Travel Fast Travel Alone. If You Want To Travel Far Travel Together. Caesar sets out alone to take revenge on the Colonel, as he has one objective, find and kill the Colonel. And he was willing to go alone if he had to. But his most loyal allies insisted on joining him for the journey, as they knew he’d have a higher chance of success as a team.

8. Great Communicator

Great Communicators Make Memorable Statements. Caesar gave his memorable quote several times throughout the movie, “Apes. Together. Strong!”. And he was able to communicate and execute his plan, which bolstered his credibility as a leader.


9. Protects The Weak

Great Leaders Protect Those Who Cannot Protect Themselves. After finding an orphaned girl, Caesar told Maurice, “We can’t take her Maurice.” To which Maurice replied, “I know but I can’t leave her alone.”

10. Showing Courage Despite Being Fearful

Nelson Mandela once said, I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

A true leader should always act courageously, in spite of storms ahead because a leader always has a vision beyond the storm.

A true leader must always be ready to be confronted with failures, offenses, and resistance, but never give up on temporary failures or setbacks to achieve the long-term goal.

11. Not Being Driven By Ego

Caesar embraced love and peace. This is definitely not due to cowardice but for the greater benefit of the communities of apes and humans. It requires more courage to give up one’s ego than to feed it. A Leader’s chief aim should always be to make more leaders. And not be selfish in conquest.

Which is in stark contrast to Shelley’s cautionary tale of Ozymandias:

Ozymandias was the name by which Ramses II, a pharaoh famous for the number of architectural structures he caused to be erected, was known to the Greeks. Shelley in her famous poem points out how the egotism and the powerful feeling of immortality possessed by this ruler eventually turned to dust, and how “nothing beside remains” of his majestic kingdom and royalty.

The monument to this leader sits in the middle of a desert, abandoned, forgotten, eroding away. However, during the king’s time period, he probably felt that he was immortal and all-powerful, and hence had his statue inscribed with the ominous “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” words that were meant to emphasize his power.

But now the traveler is looking on, at all that is left of the ruler’s works, and doesn’t feel despair; rather, he feels pity, or nothing, as all that is left of the king’s kingdom, is the desert. “Boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

12. A Leader Forgives and Moves On

As simple as this may seem, a leader should have a forgiving heart to make peace and move on for greater advancement.

A true leader must appreciate the saying by Martin Luther King that “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”.

The danger of unforgiveness is a never-ending war. Despite knowing this fact theoretically, leaders often indulge in prideful acts, to prove a point or to dictate power.


13. Responsive Vs Reactionary Leadership

Caesar as the head of the Apes had a stillness, and awareness to be able to discern and see more clearly what the humans wanted in spite of his past experiences with them. Whereas Koba, his counterpart, was very reactionary, as he had internal and external scars and stresses from his past dealings with humans, that didn’t enable him to really see through the behavior of the humans and to connect with them and support them, with what the humans wanted to achieve.

Being a responsive leader rather than reactionary leader allows you to cultivate patience and awareness, and generates trust when you are able to have that awareness and see what’s really going on outside of the superficial circumstances.

Koba portrayed fear, mistrust, unforgiving and tribalism. Caesar, on the other hand, while struggling with the same flaw of anger, eventually transcends and becomes a leader of peace, without compromising the safety of the tribe. Even though Caesar also has been offended and badly mistreated, he works towards forgiveness and understanding.

14. Adapting and Improvisation

While humans have their tanks, artillery, and compounds, Caesar, and the apes use adaptation and Improvisation to fight from the treetops to gain what little advantage they can get with their scavenged and created weapons.

15. Clear Driving Factor & Purpose

There is a common thread amongst great leaders, they all think, act and communicate in the exact same way, and it’s the exact opposite of everyone else. They start with their “why”. Caesar was not interested in conquest, or ruling, his singular purpose was solely to lead the tribe of apes to a safe location away from humans, and end the war.

All great leaders know what their purpose is, their driving factor, they “why”. If it’s to obtain riches and become famous, or of self-interest, they’ll most likely fail as a leader. However, if you’re driven by a selfless cause, you will attract followers, crowds, and advocators.

People don’t follow “WHAT” you do.
They follow “WHY” you do it.

16. Control of Emotions

Caesar rises above his emotions to lead effectively. You get to witness the progression of his leadership abilities, going from a new-born chimp to a hardened leader, and later someone struggling with the darker side of himself, grappling with intense feelings of revenge, struggling to look past his hate for humans, like Koba did in the second installment.

Koba, (an earlier adviser to Caesar), fell into the trap of anger and held on to grudges from being severely tortured by humans when he was a lab animal undergoing medical experiments. To the extent of betraying Caesar and wrestling power away to carry out his revenge against mankind.

Caesar also suffered similar, then witnessed the murder of his family at the hands of humans.
Yet finally becoming a noble and compassionate leader and ultimately a legend of Apes.

A true leader should not let his/her emotions take control from within. Emotion is often a vague feeling, influenced by environment, circumstances, experience, culture, and perceptions.

17. Sacrifice

Great leaders make great sacrifices for their teams. After many of the apes refused to work in the concentration camp, the Colonel began flogging a random older ape as punishment. Caesar then stepped in and took the flogging on behalf of the ape under his leadership.

Great Leaders also meet their team’s basic needs. Caesar requested of the Colonel, “Apes need food and water.” Thus saving many from dying of hunger and dehydration in the concentration camp.


18. Inspire Courage In Others

Great leaders give their people courage. While imprisoned in a concentration camp, Caesar gave the other apes the courage to quit being slaves, and stand against their oppressors.

19. Ethos and Identity

Great Leaders Give People An Ethos, Culture, and Identity. With Caesar facing death, the other apes all gave him the sign, “Apes. Together. Strong!”. Showing that his leadership, ethos and vision had been transferred and adopted throughout the group.

20. Legacy

Great Leaders Leave A Great Legacy. Caesar said, “This is my fight. I may not make it back. Make sure my son knows who his father was”. In addition, all great leaders know there is no success without succession, as Caesar’s final words were “Apes are strong with or without me.”.

And it’s worth repeating again. A Leader’s chief aim should always be, to make more leaders.

The Emergence of the Leader in You!

This movie is required viewing for anyone interested in achieving long-range goals and developing their leadership qualities. It is about doing what’s best for the team, family or business as a whole, that helps us all get along, and collectively reach our own, promised land.

It’s clear that all great leaders possess these following qualities. They are great visionaries and excel at seeing the big picture and putting together a grand plan or idea. They are most often quick to make decisions, and they don’t want a lot of information to muddle or confuse that decision.

They are bottom-line thinkers, focused, decisive, driven and most importantly, goal-oriented.

In short, be like Caesar. Next time you have to make a difficult leadership decision, ask yourself:

What would Caesar do?

I do hope you enjoyed this article, if you did, let me know your comments below.

And in the words of ‘Bad Ape’:  “New friends. Special day”

To Your Great Success!

Your friend,

Author | Speaker | Coach
Founder, Success Mentors Academy™
Creator, 7-Step Online Business Blueprint





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