The Dos and Don’ts of Being the Boss According to Movies

A lot of us professionals have encountered different types of bosses over the years. We’ve dealt with the best of them. Some of them took us under their wings and nurtured us. They taught us invaluable knowledge about our respective industries. They even became our friends and mentors.

We’ve also dealt with the worst of them. Some bosses took us under their wings but didn’t necessarily nurture us. Instead, they challenged our skills, intellect, and patience. They consumed our time and attention. They called us into the office on Sunday, right when we’re having brunch with our families.

We’ve also seen these types of bosses in movies. Some of them are funny. Some are downright scary. They’ve entertained us. But they’ve also inspired us to become bosses as well. Someday, we’ll start our own businesses or climb up the ranks in companies we call home. We will achieve greater professional feats. But when that happens, what kind of boss would you become? Here is a guide on movie bosses that will tell you what’s good and what’s bad in building good relationships with employees.

DO: Opening to New Perspectives with Jules Ostin in The Intern (2015)

In this movie by the great Nancy Meyers, Anne Hathaway plays Jules Ostin. She’s the young founder and CEO of About the Fit. It’s a fashion startup breaking ground in the e-commerce industry. She’s passionate and quirky. She rode a bike around the office. No task was beneath her because she’s also seen taking up calls from customers with concerns. But she’s challenged by the new intern, Robert de Niro’s Ben Whittaker. Ben was seventy years old and a widower. Bored with his retirement, he applied to be an intern in Jules’s company. Their odd dynamic led to some obstacles. In the end, Jules opened up and gained a deeper perspective in balancing work and life.

DO: Showing Value and Appreciation with Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008 – 2019)

At the beginning of his storyline in the Marvel movies, Tony Stark was seen as a playboy billionaire. He’s the head of Stark Industries and drove it up to further success. He certainly filled in his father’s big shoes. But he wasn’t an ideal boss. When Pepper Potts was his personal assistant, he was difficult to deal with. He hardly noticed her efforts, let alone showed appreciation. But that later changed when he realized Pepper’s work and value to the company. And so he gave her the position he believed that she’d thrive in. Yes, he did that because he wanted to focus on his lab work. And he wasn’t interested in running a business. But it stands to reason that he valued good work from people around him by giving them a chance to achieve success on their own.

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DON’T: Overusing Fear and Commitment with Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Meryl Streep’s performance as Miranda Priestly left quite an impression on us. She’s the editor-in-chief of Runway, the leading expert on fashion. She’s beautiful, fascinating, and terrifying. Her whole demeanor cast a high level of sophistication–so high that no one could meet her standards. It’s often said that “a million girls would kill for” the job as her personal assistant. But Anne Hathaway’s character, Andy Sachs, uncovered the horrors that hid behind the supposed glitz and glamour of working in fashion. Miranda inspired Andy and others to work hard in order to reach success. But she also thrived in instilling fear among her employees. And that fear led Andy to put up with her impossible standards and demands. It didn’t matter that Andy’s personal life was crumbling down because of neglect. What only mattered was that Miranda got everything she wanted at any given time.

DON’T: Ruthless and Corrupting Greed with Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987)

Wall Street is one of the most iconic movies about the lives of people working at a bank in New York City. Michael Douglas played Gordon Gekko. He inspired young stockbrokers like Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox to work hard and achieve success. This seemed like the perfect chance for Gordon to mentor and help shape the future generation of Wall Street. But no, what he did instead was corrupt and manipulate Bud. And he did all of this for his own gain. In pop culture, Gordon became a symbol of greed and excess. He’s the type of boss that only viewed his employees as dispensable pawns on a chessboard.

Becoming a boss ourselves symbolizes professional achievement. Seeing different bosses in movies taught us what to do and what not to do when building healthy relationships with employees. After all, one of the tenets of being a boss is paving the path for the next generation’s bosses.

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