10 Leadership Lessons And Quotes From The Intern

A Reel Leadership Article

I loved the idea for the new Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro movie The Intern. In it, Hathaway’s company wanted to infuse old-school wisdom into their budding internet business.

They do this by bringing in new interns. These interns aren’t what we normally think of when we think of an intern. Rather, these interns are older individuals looking to contribute to the success of a new company, About The Fit.

Learn leadership lessons in The Intern

The only problem with this is that the founder of About The Fit forgot they had discussed this program. When it came time for her to have an intern, she wanted to push him off on another department.

This is where the movie excelled and where the leadership lessons started.

Leadership Lessons From The Intern

  1. Ben Whittaker –

    The key is to keep moving.

    The movie opens with Robert De Niro’s Ben Whittaker trying to navigate life after the passing of his wife and his retirement. He felt good but there were times when he’d feel lonely and confused.

    To rectify this situation, Ben told himself that he must keep moving. He must keep doing. He must keep living.

    I see this as a perfect quote for leaders.

    We can feel stuck and lost. We don’t know how to overcome the next obstacle in front of us.

    What can we do at that point? Do what Ben told us to do: “The key is to keep moving.”

    Keep moving on leaders! It’s the key to success.

  2. Leaders set the tone – Anne Hathaway’s character Jules Osten didn’t want an intern. She thought she could do everything by herself.Yet, she was forced to have an intern.Why? Because she was the founder of About The Fit and she set the tone for the rest of the organization.If she were to shun the senior interns, it would set a precedent for the rest of the company to follow.

    As you’re leading, remember that you’re setting the tone for those you’re leading.

    Your choices are saying “This is appropriate” or “This isn’t appropriate.”

    Realize this and you can guide your organization in the direction you want it to go.

  3. Ben Whittaker –

    I know there is a hole in my life and I need to fill it soon.

    Ben felt a void in his life. He’d always had a purpose. He always knew what needed to be done.

    But with the lack of a career and his wife, he felt empty. He didn’t feel like himself.

    And he knew this was a problem. One that must be fixed.

    What’s missing in your life? What needs to be filled?

    This could be in relation to a business decision that needs to be made. Fill that hole.

    It could also be a spiritual void in your life. If so, I recommend you fill that hole as well.

  4. Celebrate good things – It was heartwarming to see a character in The Intern go up to a bell and ring it. After the bell stops ringing, we discover why.Employees ring the bell when something good happens. In The Intern, getting 2,500 Instagram likes got the bell ringing.This action got the team excited. They rallied around the bell and cheered each other on.Are you celebrating the good things in your business?

    Celebrate your wins. These wins may be a new client or new followers on Twitter.

    Celebrate and get your team on board. It’s why you’re doing the work you’re doing anyway!

  5. Jules Osten

    Wow… I didn’t see this coming

    Jules was blindsided by the fact the investors in her company wanted to appoint a CEO to oversee the business. This was devastating to Jules.

    While this is a fictional scenario, leaders are blindsided all the time. Leaders take a deep interest in the company and work to make it successful.

    This, sometimes, blinds the leader as to what is really going on in the business.

    Take your nose away from the minutia of the business. Step back. Breath. See what’s happening.

    If you’re able to do this, you can avoid being blindsided by negative news.

  6. Passing the leadership baton can be difficult – After being blindsided by the news that the company wants a CEO, Jules struggled with the thought of passing control to a new person.This decision was difficult on many different levels.Jules felt that About The Fit was her baby. She built it and she could sustain it.Jules felt no one else could run the company better. She knew it intimately.

    Jules felt like she was losing control…

    If you’ve ever been in a leadership position that required change, it’s a difficult proposition. YOU have poured so much of yourself into it, after all.

    But leadership requires change. It’s temporary. And you have to move on at some point.

    Grieve your loss but also be willing to step away.

  7. Ben Whittaker

    Really? You want to give her more to do?

    Ben was upfront and frank about Jules wanting to give Becky even more responsibility. He knew how much Becky had on her plate and decided to speak up for her, even though Becky would gladly have taken on the extra role.I’ve seen this more than my fair share of times from leaders.

    You see this in churches. They need volunteers, but no one else is stepping up. They know Donna has poured her heart into 3 other areas of the church and feel she would be willing to take on a 4th.

    You see this in business. Times are tough and they can’t bring on anyone else. Who do they go to? The person who’s already taken on the responsibility of 4 people.

    We’re crushing people with responsibilities above and beyond what they can sanely handle.

    Stop piling more responsibilities on those you have. Find new people and get them to pitch in.

  8. Our ways may not be as productive as we think – After Ben spoke up in defense of Becky, he volunteered to chauffeur her to the next destination.Jules gave him directions that she believed were the quickest. He disagreed.He spoke up and told her the way he thought was best. And he was right.We get caught up in our ways. We believe we have the answers. We believe we know the way.

    That may be true. There’s also the truth that there are others out there with more knowledge than us.

    They may know of a way that works better or increases productivity.

    Be willing to listen to others. Heed their advice.

  9. Ben Whittaker

    You’re never wrong to do the right thing.

    Ben was quoting Mark Twain in this quote. He believed doing the right thing was never the wrong thing and it symbolized his life.

    You may be tempted to take the shortcut. The path that has the least resistance. The wrong path…

    Know that the right path may be a long, hard road but it’s never the wrong path to take.

  10. We think we’re less screwed up than we really are – Jules was one messed up lady. While she was successfully running her business, she was neglecting the most important parts of her life.Her family was falling apart.She rarely saw her daughter. She didn’t get the sleep she needed. She never left the office.While all this was happening in her life, she was complaining about her mother and how screwed up she was.

    She couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

    Have you been there? I have.

    I’ve thought things were better than they really were. I didn’t think anything was wrong.

    But they were. And so was I.

    Realize, even though you’re the leader, you’re not perfect. There are imperfections in you.

Question: Have you seen The Intern? If so, what leadership lesson were you able to take away from the movie? If not, what was your favorite leadership lesson I shared? Let’s talk about them in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Daniel Buhr

    I finally saw The Intern this weekend. It’s a beautiful story told in a well-done movie with powerful lessons in leadership woven throughout. To me the real leader was Ben Whittaker, demonstrating that you don’t have to be the manager to be a leader. And Ben was an excellent example of a servant leader. He lived out the best of who he was in service to those around him. His service built trust and in that trust he built leadership.

    • I think you’re right Daniel. Ben showed extraordinary leadership skills even though he wasn’t the official leader.

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  • Ali

    One thing at one time. You can’t do many jobs in one time that district your attention. You can see when she send the Email to her mother by mistake!

  • Carl

    We just saw the movie last night and loved it. A line that stood out to me was, before Ben won Jules over, was one reason she did not like him: “He’s too observant.” Ultimately, it was his observational skills that won her over and provided him with specific reasons why she should not turn her company over to another.

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the movie Carl! And thanks for adding to the conversation with a leadership lesson you picked up from the Intern.

      Isn’t it funny how sometimes a trait that bugs us is the trait that is most needed? That’s how it worked out for the characters in this movie.

  • M IQbal AFtab Bhatti

    Yup, Intern is very very fantastic movie that i ever watched ‘bcz that movie is based on an unique person that have unique experience to make business and personality perspectives unique.A good observer is good learner that what he did.i will give this movie 7 stars. 🙂

  • T. Counts

    I loved the movie as it has great leadership lessons. I think a lot of good managers think they are good leaders, when in fact they are not. There is a distinct difference between managers and leaders, I think, for the most part, that people would rather be led than managed. Could’ve done without the husbands affair, but otherwise this was a perfectly written movie.

  • Judith Anderson

    The quote I linked was when he talked about his previous wife and said “she made it look easy even when it wasn’t” — was that the quote?

    • It’s been awhile since I saw the movie. I’m not sure if that’s what it was relating to.