One of the most popular posts I have ever written is The Top 20 Leadership Movies Of The Last 20 Years.  It is time to update the list.

Captain Phillips is an absolutely incredible, must-see movie.  This film chronicles the 2009 hijacking of the freighter ship Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates.  Directed by Paul Greengrass, the film focuses on two captains – the Alabama’s Captain Richard Phillips (played by the incomparable Tom Hanks) and the self-appointed Somali captain Muse (played by Barkhad Abdi) who takes him hostage.

As a 47-year-old man, I’ve seen a lot of movies.  Few movies, however, are as nerve-wracking, suspenseful, and will have you on the edge-of-your-seat as Captain Phillips.  I can’t recommend this film enough.

The following are 21 Leadership Quotes And Lessons From Captain Phillips. ***Note: Spoilers Included***

  1. “I know this is our life but the world is moving so fast.” – Often, our life’s work and/or calling takes us out of our comfort zone.
  2. “Walk me through the plan.” – Trust your planning.  Phillips reminds all leaders of the importance of effective planning.  As a leader, I am learning more and more to trust my own plans when faced with challenges.
  3. “I want everything locked.  Even in port.” – The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.  Phillips reminds his crew to prepare for the worst during the best of times.
  4. “We cannot attack a herd.  This one is alone.” – This was the strategy implemented by the Somali warlords.  As Christians, we must diligently protect unity.
  5. Advanced Training – Knowing they were entering hostile waters with a history of piracy, Phillips gave his team the gift of advanced training.
  6. Leaders Make Hard, Unpopular Decisions – After warding off an initial pirate attack, Phillips had to confront a group of disgruntled union workers and re-focus them on the job at hand.
  7. 4 Committed Men Can Make A Significant Impact – 4 misguided Somali pirates turned the world upside-down for a few days.  Imagine what millions of unified, passionate Christians could do with the power of God.
  8. “Stick together and we will be alright.” – Leaders point to a brighter tomorrow.  Think about it – why else would you follow them?  Upon being boarded by the pirates, Phillips gives his crew hope for the future.
  9. Tribal Language – Throughout the movie, Phillips gave his crew, and later the military, hints through terms only they would understand.  All great organizations have a tribal language.  What is your’s?
  10. Past Mistakes Can Neutralize Your Leadership – I advised churches to look out for broken glass on the floor – past mistakes, trust issues, etc…  One of pirates did not own a pair of shoes.  The crew neutralized his effectiveness walking him through broken glass on the floor.
  11. “The problem isn’t me talking.  It’s you not listening.” – Great leaders are great listeners.  Throughout his hostage situation, Phillips continually gave Muse sound advice which he ignored.
  12. “I’ve come too far.  I can’t give up.” – Because of how the Somali warlords treat their people, Muse could not abort the mission despite the obvious need to do so.  Sin will always take you farther than you ever wanted to go, keep you longer than you ever wished to stay, and cost you more than you were ever willing to pay.
  13. “You’re not just a fisherman.” – Most people are meant for so much more than what they have settled for.  Phillips gave Muse a picture of what his value could be.  As leaders, we must continually give those we influence a picture of what God can do with their life.
  14. “We all got bosses.” – One person’s character does not determine mine or yours.  Muse was at the mercy of the Somali warlords.
  15. America Is Still A Symbol Of Hope For The World – Phillips tells Muse, “There’s got to be something more than being a fisherman and kidnapping people.”  To which Muse replies, “Maybe in America.” America needs to stop apologizing.  Even those who seem to hate us know what a great country we are privileged to live in.
  16. “You could have had $30,000 and been in Somalia.” – Greed destroys leaders.  The Somali pirates could have had $30,000 and a life boat back to their native country.  Instead, they chose to take Captain Phillips as a hostage in hopes of getting $1 million.
  17. The Importance Of Family – As Phillips felt he was about to die, it was interesting what he said.  All his thoughts were on his family – not his job, hobbies, or other things we put in primary positions of our life.
  18. “Stop The Tow.  Execute.” – The difference between average leaders and great leaders is the ability to execute under pressure.
  19. The Relationship Between Expectation And Excellence – Excellence become average and expected when that is all you deliver.  After killing the pirates, the SEALS quietly packed up their gear and just walked away.
  20. “Captain Phillips is free.  All your friends are dead.” – These were the words spoken by our military to Muse.  It is a reminder that servant leaders have a sustainable future.  Self-serving leaders have an unsustainable future.
  21. “You’re safe now.” – Military doctor.  Captain Phillips replies, “Thank you.” – I sleep comfortably at night knowing the quality of the troops and warriors protecting our country.  I echo Phillips’s words to our military – THANK YOU!!!

In closing, Captain Phillips is an incredible movie and gets my vote for Best Picture.  Let me know your thoughts.


The Get More Volunteers online conference is hosted by Tony Morgan and features great leaders like Reggie Joiner, Perry Noble, Chris Hodges and Derwin Gray.  I’ll even be playing a role.  Click here or on the image provided to sign up.  I recommend you get your entire volunteer team to watch.  You’ll be glad you did.





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