Gordon B. Schmidt (University of Louisiana Monroe, USA)
Sy Islam (Farmingdale State College, USA)

Leaders Assemble! Leadership in the MCU

ISBN: 978-1-80117-673-6, eISBN: 978-1-80117-670-5

Publication date: 7 June 2022


Schmidt, G.B. and Islam, S. (2022), "Prelims", Leaders Assemble! Leadership in the MCU (Exploring Effective Leadership Practices through Popular Culture), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. i-xiii.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022 Gordon B. Schmidt and Sy Islam

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Leaders Assemble! Leadership in the MCU

Series Page


Series editor: Michael Urick

The aim of this series is to examine modern and innovative business theories and methods via relatable popular cultural themes. The books will provide academically rigorous and credible applications and solutions to practitioners and upper level business students, in a format designed to be highly engaging and effective.

Titles in Exploring Effective Leadership Practices through Popular Culture:

  • A Manager’s Guide to Using the Force: Leadership Lessons from a Galaxy Far Far Away

    Michael Urick

  • Leadership in Middle Earth: Theories and applications for organizations

    Michael Urick

  • You Win or You Die: Leadership Lessons from Kings and Queens

    Nathan Tong and Michael Urick

  • Cross-Cultural Leadership in the Four Nations: Lessons from Avatar The Last Airbender

    Sy Islam and Gordon Schmidt

  • Leadership Insights for Wizards and Witches

    Aditya Simha

Title Page

Leaders Assemble! Leadership in the MCU



University of Louisiana Monroe, USA



Farmingdale State College, USA

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2022

Copyright © 2022 Gordon B. Schmidt and Sy Islam.

Published under exclusive license by Emerald Publishing Limited.

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No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. Any opinions expressed in the chapters are those of the authors. Whilst Emerald makes every effort to ensure the quality and accuracy of its content, Emerald makes no representation implied or otherwise, as to the chapters’ suitability and application and disclaims any warranties, express or implied, to their use.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-80117-673-6 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-80117-670-5 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-80117-672-9 (Epub)


Gordon dedicates this book to his wife, his sister-in-law who had to watch superhero movies she never wanted to see, and his family of Schmidts, Wiegands, Smiths, and Hartmans. He also specifically dedicates this book to his father, who in buying a box of comic books at the Fireman’s Flea Market exposed him to his first Marvel hero comic favorites, Spiderman and the Avengers.

Sy dedicates this book to his family: his brother, Sohel, who gave Sy his first comics and a never-ending love of the medium; to his parents Amin and Naziba who kept buying him comics even though they didn’t want to; and to his wife, Rownak, who is his forever MCU movie date.

We both also dedicate this book to all the writers, artists, creators, and actors who brought us the amazing Marvel Universe in its comic and movie forms.


About the Authors xi
Acknowledgments xiii
Chapter 1 How We See Leadership in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and How We See Leadership in General 1
Welcome to This Book 1
The Marvelous World of Marvel Movies and Comics 2
How We See Leadership 3
Organization of This Book 4
How to Use This Book 5
Summary 6
Chapter 2 Who Has a Right to Be the Leader? Leadership Transitions in Black Panther 9
Who is a Potential Leader? 9
Making the Case for Leadership 11
When Leadership Pipelines Go Awry 13
Summary 14
Chapter 3 Who Leads This Motley Crew? Shared and Team Leadership in the Guardians of the Galaxy 17
We are a Team 17
We Share Leadership 20
Summary 23
Chapter 4 With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Mentorship and Spider-Man 25
With Great Mentors, Comes Great Leadership 25
Don’t Do it Like Me, Do it Like You 27
Mentoring Among Peers 29
Summary 31
Chapter 5 How Do Leaders (Superheroes or Not) Deal with Conflict? 33
When Titans Clash! (Or Work Colleagues Disagree) 33
Resolving Your Conflict Like a Hero (Or Even Just a Good Leader) 35
Summary 38
Chapter 6 Leadership During Crisis and Stress: Leadership During Stressful Times Like Thanos’ “One Snap” 39
Superheroes and Super Stress 39
Fighting Stress Like a Superhero 40
Leading in Stress and Crisis 43
Summary 44
Chapter 7 I Am Iron Man: Leader Authenticity, Self-awareness and Growth in Marvel Films 45
Knowing the Hero You Are 45
Being the Hero You Are 47
Being the Leader You Can be 48
Summary 50
Chapter 8 Should We Open Up Wakanda? Leader Roles in External Relations 51
Wakanda Isolated Forever? 51
Relationship Building as Nation Building 54
The Conquerors or the Conquered 55
Summary 57
Chapter 9 Am I a Hero, an X-men, a Mutant, or Just a Menace? Leadership and Identity 59
Making Sense of Mutants 59
“I’m an X-Men Now!” Identification with an Organization or Team 61
“I’m an X-Men for Life!” Commitment to an Organization or Team 62
Summary 64
Chapter 10 Everything Begins with a (Her)o 65
A Lack of (Her)oes 65
Why Don’t You Fix it: The Lack of Good Opportunities for Female Leaders 67
How to Help Create (Her)oes 68
Summary 69
Chapter 11 I Can Do This All Day: Steve Rogers, Servant Leader 71
What Makes a Servant Leader? 71
Will Followers Follow the Servant? 73
Can a Servant Change the World? 75
Summary 76
Chapter 12 Avengers Assemble: Forming Your Team Like a Leader 77
Getting Them to Accept the Call to be a Hero 77
Selecting the Right Heroes 78
I Quit! A Hero Has Left the Team 80
Summary 81
Chapter 13 How You, True Believer, Can Lead Like a Superhero: Some General Takeaways on Leadership 83
Leaders Need to Consider What Their Power is and How They Use it 83
In Many Situations Sharing Leadership is How We Do Best 84
Great Leadership is Fostered by Great Mentoring 84
Conflict Can Help Us Make Better Decisions, But Not When it is Personal 85
We Need to Find Ways to Reduce Stress and Not Just Deal with it in the Moment 85
Being Authentic Helps Us to be Our Best Leader 86
Leaders Help Groups to Work with Others 86
Leaders Help Followers Understand the World 87
Leaders Come from All Genders 87
To Lead Sometimes the Best Thing to Do is Serve 88
A Good Leader Needs the Right Team 88
Summary 89
Appendix: Chapter Major Topics and Connected Films 91
References 93
Index 99

About the Authors

Gordon B. Schmidt, PhD, is a Professor of Management at the University of Louisiana Monroe. He has a doctorate in Organizational Psychology from Michigan State University. He researches the Future of Work and how technology is changing the nature of company–employee relations today, which has been published in a number of academic journals. He co-edited a book with Richard Landers on how social media is used in selection and recruitment. He does research related to virtual leadership and how technology impacts the leadership process. He has done research related to the gig economy and the communities of gig workers who have sprung up around crowdsourcing sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk. He has written about the future of the field of I-O Psychology related to outreach of the field to those in practice. He also researches leadership and/or motivation in varied contexts including lean production, corporate social responsibility initiatives, job apathy, and popular culture.

He teaches courses in organizational behavior, training methods, employee relations, organizational development, organizational theory, leadership, and human resources. His work related to teaching has been presented at conferences and published in a number of journals. He won a teaching excellence award from his college in 2015. He acted as the program chair for the 2020 virtual Management and Organizational Behavior Teaching Society Conference. He is the incoming co-editor for the journal Management Teaching Review.

He consults with organizations, primarily related to leadership, motivation, and social media-related areas.

Sy Islam, PhD, has over 10 years of experience in a variety of corporate, academic, and applied settings. He is an Associate Professor of Industrial Organizational Psychology at Farmingdale State College where he teaches courses related to training and leadership development. He has conducted research on team adaptation, social media in hiring, and consumer feedback via social media. In addition to his role as a professor, he is a co-founder and vice president of Consulting with Talent Metrics. In his role at Talent Metrics, he develops solutions for organizations in training and development, selection, survey design, performance management, and team building. He has served as the president of the Long Island Chapter of the Association for Talent Development and co-chair of the People Analytics Special Interest Group at ATD NYC. He is the winner of the SIOP Presidential Recognition Award and a Faculty Mentorship award from Farmingdale State College’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology.


Many people helped with the creation of this book and its inspiration. We would first of all like to thank our families for their love and support during this book writing process.

We would like to thank Michael Urick for developing the great idea of the “Exploring Effective Leadership Practices through Popular Culture” series. When we heard of this series, it felt like something we wanted to read and contribute to. Mike has given us great support as the series editor and been generous in sharing examples and feedback. He has been a great person to work with and we are lucky to have his help.

We want to thank Fiona Allison at Emerald for all her support of our proposal and this book. Her support has been invaluable.

We also want to thank Aiswarya Mahathma Suritha for her work as our book project editor in making sure we got everything we needed in order and ready.

We want to thank all the researchers we cite within this book. Their important leadership research helps leaders to get better, and we hope this book will help spread their knowledge to new readers and leaders. We also want to thank Travis Langley for all his good work at connecting psychology to superheroes across his many books.

We also want to thank all the people who build that Marvel comic universe. We both grew up reading these comics and enjoy them to this day.

We also want to thank everyone who has worked on Marvel movies (even the less good ones) and the creators of the MCU who made a connected universe well in the spirit of the comics.

And thank you to you, the reader, for joining us on this leadership and MCU journey!