Leadership Lessons From The Movie “42”

Life offers the strangest twists and turns for some of us. Some of these challenges agonizes you, tortures you and you are left wondering what did you do wrong? Why “me”?

I’ve always considered life’s challenges as a way to learn and when I get into a negative mode, I realize that negativity pulls me down further and I need to bounce back from that thinking.

My journey to date has been inspired by my parents, some of my friends, my family, people whom I’ve read about or met, books that I’ve read and some of the movies that I’ve watched.

I saw the movie “42” recently. 42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson and, under the guidance of team executive Branch Rickey, Robinson’s signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American player to break the baseball color barrier. The story focuses mostly on the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers season and somewhat on Robinson’s 1946 season with the Montreal Royals.

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. – Mark Twain

Jackie Robinson, despite support from Branch Rickey and later on from some of his team members, was not without troubles and hardships. His color was not his choice but he proved that the way he played the game and his attitude was his choice despite the continued abuse he got from society at large.

What appealed to me about the movie was the way he handled his troubles. He was treated unfair several times, but his attitude proved to be his greatest ally. 

Hardships and troubles are part of most people’s lives. Whether you like it or not you face challenges and a lot of leaders or people whom you have been inspired by the most, have faced many daunting moments. How well do you stand the test of Leadership When The Heat Is On?

Key Learnings From The Movie

1. Ignore – ignoring difficulties you face in life is not a solution. If you choose to run away from the situation you make it worse for yourself and the team you are leading or those whom you seek to inspire.

Jackie Robinson chose not to ignore what he was in but led himself with his passion for the game and proved to his worst abusers who he was. He consistently played his game with passion and for his team that made it hard for his abusers to continue with their sick attitude.

As a leader, make a choice to look at the reality of what has occurred and whether you feel you can accept it or not. Step back, assess the reality, and determine what can be done to move forward and not make the matter worse. By ignoring the situation, you as a leader can create animosity and hurt the morale of people around you.

Just because you choose to avoid to see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or goes away. You weaken your situation as a leader.
Love what you do and put your heart and soul in it 100%.

2. Create & Keep – we are humans and yes do get affected by the way people treat us or by others attitude. However by taking an antagonistic or negative attitude you could be creating more hardship. Recognize your emotions, prop yourself up with the support of your own positive mindset or with the help of friends, if necessary.

Your inaction or the way you communicate or not could be the cause of trouble for you and your team.

Jackie Robinson faced many situations where he could have let his emotions take over. If he had done so, he would have lost concentration in his game and in being able to deliver an excellent performance. He chose not to create trouble or add to the hardship he was already in. He was not responsible for the color he was born with or on how others treated him or their behavior. He had full control over his attitude and his response to such treatment and he made a choice to focus on his game and not get carried away by his emotions. He chose not to create or keep the troubles.

As a leader what you are responsible for is your presence of mind in each moment of choice.

3. Interest – are you interested in what you do and do you have enough passion to be able to continue that path which has been one of hardship so far?

Jackie Robinson loved baseball and his love for the game was so immense that he was able to let that passion take over and surmount the troubles he faced during his early baseball career. He kept his focus on the game and his goal of being the best in his game helped him achieve success for himself and his team.

As a leader are you passionate about your purpose in life? Have you been able to garner the support and inspire others to the same vision? Is this passion so strong to be able to lead you through the struggles you face in your journey? Do you care about the results of your actions. If you do, then will your behavior and actions yield the desired results? If not, what if any, do you need to change?

4. Support – none of us can work is isolation. You need the support of a mentor, coach, boss, friends, family and people who believe in you. The environment and people around you matter and plays a vital role in shaping who you become.

Jackie Robinson had unending support from his wife, his fans, guidance of team executive Branch Rickey, and members of his team. Branch Rickey believed in him, in his game and gave him support and guidance during his baseball career.

An encouraging hand and a caring heart is what a leader needs to get and give.

Through the struggles, a leader should not undermine the importance of setting up an environment that tolerates and supports a mistake, weaknesses of each member of their team and help them grow.

Reflective Questions

1. What are you ignoring or avoiding and Why?

2. What hindrances have you created and how can you correct them?

3. What baggage are you keeping that is hindering the path of self-development and the growth of the team?

4. Are you giving your 100% in all you are and what you do?


  1. says

    Great post, Lalita and I loved your point about embracing who you are and being proud of it. The movie demonstrated the importance of being authentic and sharing your total being with others. When we withhold our real purpose from others, we hold ourselves back. Thanks!

    • says

      Thank you Terri. You bring out a beautiful point in authenticity and giving your whole self in whatever you are and whatever you do.

      Thank you for your insight. I appreciate you.

  2. says

    I’ve never seen the movie, Lalita but now I really want to based on what you shared here! You’ve brought forth many important lessons. One that stands out to me is support. As leaders, we are never in isolation and are always in relationship with others. We can either pull other’s down or help them rise up. True leaders always see the best in what others are capable of and help them to be their best. Another great post from you.

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