Leadership Lessons from the Hunger Games

You have to be asleep these days to have missed all of the hype surrounding the release of the first Hunger Games movie. If you haven’t read the books, they aren’t just for kids. They are well written, fast paced and jammed with excitement.

Katniss, the young woman forced to compete in a reality TV game which requires that the teenage contestants kill each other, who eventually becomes the face of a revolution, is representative of the reluctant leader.  Katniss is a leader because she cares about others, refusing to let injustice harm those she loves. She has a deep empathy for those around her. She does not want to lead, but her sense of duty to others, not any need to be the centre of attention is what makes people want to follow her.

It is Katniss’ empathy for others, it is her integrity, her grit, her focus and her ability to think quickly in extreme conditions, her sense of justice that make her a leader.  But most of all, it is her selflessness, her lack of ego that makes her a compelling character. Katniss sacrifices and takes risks for others, not for herself.

As leaders, we need to have empathy for others, a sense of justice, a belief in the importance of others to successfully lead others. We know that people respond to visions that are about social and emotional welfare of the organization and society, not about the greatness of the leader or importance of the self. Katniss’ expressed her concern about society every time she defied the authorities. As a leader, are you more concerned about yourself, or the welfare of your followers and society?


Categories: Leadership

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3 replies »

  1. I took my kids to see this over the weekend. They had read the books and couldn’t wait to see it (after the movie I heard all about how the book differed from the movie). It was an interesting story and Katniss is a strong character and a good role model. She accepted her fate and made the best of a bad situation. She did not ask to lead or want to lead but when put in a corner she showed great character. Definitely a leader.

  2. Hi Colleen – I have just finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy and although a great read, I am not sure about Katniss and leadership in this context. Whereas I agree with her strength to defy authority and make a difference, I believe she was driven by great unceratinty and to a degree circumstance. Without overthinking what is a fictional story, the resultant outcomes from her choices were often extreme, something that she questions deeply right throughout the stories. Katniss was often led by what was happening around her however was excellent at responding more by instinct in the moment. The success and benefits of the ultimate outcome is a question that the author asks us to ponder – and rightly so.

    • I can’t say that I disagree with you.

      I just wonder whether leadership is often about uncertainty and circumstance. Much of what we do is the result of ingrained instinct and habit, especially when experiencing risk. For instance, when faced with a sure loss or a likely hood of a possible much larger loss or a much larger win (which is the riskier or extreme choice), we tend to make the riskier choice.

      The reality of leadership is that we often feel compelled in extreme situations to make extreme choices, often responding by instinct because there is no time for rational thought. I suspect that is why they call it the “fog of war”.

      Great to have another thought provoking conversation with you. Hope to hear from you again.


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