Most of you reading this will have seen the 2013 Martin Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street.

If you’re like me, you will have watched it at least three times. Leonardo DiCaprio’s incredible portrayal of former stock-broker Jordan Belfort painted a picture of a charismatic, intelligent, and ambitious businessman with some very questionable morals.

This modern classic, based on the true memoirs of Belfort himself, is chock-full of chaotic examples of how not to run a sustainable business – but on his way to disaster, Belfort clearly got a few things right.

The Wolf’s leadership style was eccentric and charismatic, sure, yet his personal ambitions and indifference to the law of the land made his organisation destined to fail.

In 1996, the firm Stratton Oakmont was shut down. In 1999, Jordan Belfort and Danny Porush were indicted for securities fraud and money laundering.

Despite this, there were obvious reasons why so many people flocked to join Belfort’s empire. And in between all the money laundering, sex, sunken yachts and hard drugs, there are some real management training lessons to be learned.


[caption id="attachment_169692" align="alignnone" width="788"] Jordan Belfort and Leo DiCaprio - Image from BBC[/caption]


1. A vision to aim towards

Belfort himself said that “goals have no power.” They’re specific targets that move you towards your vision. The vision itself, however, is a much broader concept - a clear image of how you see your future.

A vision, then, is something people can fully commit to. Your company vision should be something that engages your staff members, something that they gravitate towards, something that sells your company to them.

Belfort went on to say, “a part of being an entrepreneur is having that vision and knowing how to sell it to other people.”

As a business leader, you’ll need to effectively communicate your vision to all stakeholders and employees.

Whether that is relying on other people having shared visions and values, or persuading them to go all-in on your own visions, is up to you and your recruitment process.

At Impellus, we use the V2MOM alignment process, created by Salesforce CEO and Chairman Marc Benioff, to focus our collective energy on what we want to achieve as a company. You can read more about the V2MOM process here.


2. Don’t listen to the nay-sayers

So, you have a vision. You have something to work towards, and you’re motivated enough to work hard to achieve it.

Is your vision realistic? Is it too ambitious?

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times. Old mentors, family, friends or even your own inner demons, telling you that you’re reaching too far. That you’re not capable of achieving certain goals.

Whether you’re new to a leadership role or you’re a hotshot CEO with decades of experience, it would be in your best interest to ignore those nay-sayers.

Confidence is crucial for anyone who leads a team. If you have a real strategy in place that you believe in, do not let negative thoughts prevent you from taking the next step to success.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort started his empire by selling penny stocks through intensive telemarketing campaigns – something he was told could not be done.

This drove up the prices of the stocks. By standing out in a dense market, displaying confidence in his team, and retaining his vision, Belfort would reap the rewards by instructing his investors to dump them for a major profit.


3. Building a loyal and productive team

Well, in the film, DiCaprio’s Belfort finds himself a ragtag group of sleazy salespeople and turns them into a hugely successful team.

His ‘lead by example’ approach showed his group exactly how to do their job, and he got to know them all personally, building long-lasting connections and trust.

His hands-on encouragement transformed his group into people who were fully committed to his vision, working exactly how he needed them to work.

Our Leadership Skills Development and Developing Winning Teams courses go into much more detail about team-building and shared values – here is a snippet from one of our Impellus trainers:

“We have to set clear expectations for our teams so that they understand exactly what is required from them.


If, for example, you value flexibility in the workplace then explain in explicit terms what that means to you and demonstrate it through your actions.


Without setting out your own core values, beliefs and behaviours how can you expect your team to follow them?”

Despite his flaws, it is clear that Jordan Belfort knew exactly how to build a team he could trust.


I should probably be clear – running a business the way Belfort did in The Wolf of Wall Street is, of course, unsustainable. He might have made some very questionable decisions, but he was undoubtedly a strong leader.

Pick out the bits that worked well, and integrate them into your own long-term (and much more legal) strategy.

You’ll meet your company vision in no time.


Written by John Davis – Marketing Executive


Impellus is a UK-wide provider of management, leadership and core commercial skills training. See our relevant courses:

Management & Leadership Skills

ILM Courses in Leadership & Management

Commercial & Professional Skills Training