7 Leadership Lessons From JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit

A Reel Leadership Article

The movie version of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey releases in theaters today. Are you going to watch it? I’m hoping I’m able to watch the movie soon. It looks amazing.

But did you know before The Hobbit was a movie it was a book?

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote it as the prelude to the enchanting Lord Of The Rings series. The Hobbit tells the story of Bilbo Baggins as he leaves Bag Ends and enters into a world of adventure.

As I was reading his story, I picked up on 7 leadership principles we could all learn from The Hobbit.

  • Sometimes leadership finds us unaware: Bilbo wasn’t ready for an adventure when Gandalf stopped by his house one unassuming morning. But adventure is what Bilbo received. Your entry into leadership can happen like this. Someone sees your potential. He picks you. Before you know it, you’re on a grand adventure of leadership.
  • You need someone to encourage you: As Biblo talks to Gandalf, he realizes Gandalf is the man responsible for so many of the adventures on the Took side of his family. Bilbo recalls the stories of Gandalf giving Old Took magic earrings, influencing young lads to go off into the Blue for mad adventures, and other crazy stories. Like Old Took or the young lads, we need to be prodded and encourage to take steps forward. Having someone to encourage you can make all the difference.
  • Trouble will surprise you: Bilbo, the dwarfs, and Gandalf had to find a place to rest at one point in the story. They came upon a cave and Fili and Kili (two of the dwarf) examined the cave. Their determination? It was clear of goblins or any other kind of trouble. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. While they were sleeping, goblins opened up a secret door and began snatching the dwarfs. As leaders, we’ll have troubles surprise us. It may be a team member who disobeys a directive or the failure of a project. Yet we must carry on. Use the trouble as a stepping stone to your next level.
  • Go a bit further: Many times the dwarfs and Bilbo were tired and wanted to stop and rest. Gandalf rebuked them and told them they must go a bit further. Days will come when you feel like you can’t go further. You’ll have the feeling that you must quit, give in, be done. These are the days you’ll need to tell yourself Just a bit further. You’ll be amazed where just a bit further will get you.
  • You gain confidence by experiencing life: Throughout the journey, Bilbo felt under-qualified. He often thought he hindered his companions. That was until he killed his first spider. He began to be filled with confidence that he could make the journey. Look for ways to gain experience as you lead. The more experiences and successes you have, the more confident you’ll become.
  • Use what you’ve got: There came a point where the dwarfs were captured by Wood Elves. They were put into a prison and held for quite some time. Bilbo was able to avoid capture by using his magic ring. The ring gave Bilbo invisibility and allowed him to walk around unseen. While he used the ring, he was able to rescue the dwarfs from the prison. His solution to get the dwarfs out? He’d put them into old wine barrels and they’d float down the river. He used the resources at hand. You’ll often feel you don’t have the resources to lead properly. In reality, you have more than you think at hand. Look into your skill sets, items in your environment, and those around you. There will be resources you can use if you’re able to see creative solutions.
  • You may have to stand against your team: As the story nears it’s end, Bilbo and his team reach the mountain with the treasures from past generations of dwarfs. They attempt to kill the dragon Smaug who guarded the treasure. Instead, they infuriated him. Smaug left the mountain to attack the village he believed sent the dwarfs. While attacking the village, Bard the Bowman struck him with an arrow and felled the dragon. Because of the destruction wrought by Smaug, the village thought they should have part of the treasure. The dwarfs felt otherwise. Bilbo decided to go against his team and side with the villagers. This is always tough. Sometimes leaders must stand on their own and decide their team is going in the wrong direction. You must be willing to stand by your principles even when it seems like everyone else is against you.

While many other leadership lessons were in The Hobbit, these 7 struck me. Pick up a copy of The Hobbit and see what leadership lessons you can discover in this grand adventure.

Question: What other leadership lessons have you found in The Hobbit? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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

  • Great post, Joe!  I’m actually taking my son to see the movie tonight.  We’ve been reading the book together for the past few weeks.  These are great lessons.  I’ll be watching the movie tonight with some of these ideas in mind.

    • Awesome Jon. I bet your son will remember the movie for years to come. It’s always a special treat to go to the movies with your parents, even if they’re unwilling to admit it.

      Be sure to come back here and let us know what you thought of the movie.

      •  I liked the movie.  My son loved it!  I’m assuming there will be a sequel of some type coming up.  I can’t wait to see that.  There were some great quotes in the movie.  I’d love to see it again with my journal open to capture some of these.

        •  Great to hear it was enjoyable. There’s going to be two more movies in the Hobbit series so you’ll get to see more of the dwarfs, Bilbo, and Gandolf.

    •  That’s really cool. I still remember my mom reading me the book and can’t wait to see the new movie.

      • Yes, my dad read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books to me as a kid.  Great memories!

        •  That’s great Jon. I look forward to doing the same with my children.My son is 13 months so I have a few years until I do. How old is your son? 

          • My son is 12.  It’s not too soon to read to your kids.  At 13 months, our kids enjoyed Good Night Moon.

  • DS

    It’s amazing where we can pick up useful/helpful information.  The other aspect of experience unexpected trouble is learning from that experience.  What could we do differently to prevent that type of problem, or once it takes place, how do we react.

    • Great point DS. The dwarfs, Bilbo, and Gandalf I’m sure learned to better search their sleeping quarters from then on. We can learn to move forward from unexpectedness with a new found attention to what is going on around us.

  • Good analogies between The Hobbit and leadership, Joe.  I haven’t seen the movie yet.  I did read the book in junior high school.  That’s been over 30 years ago.  I hope to read it again with my daughter soon.

    • Thanks Dan. Did you know there’s going to be three movies in the Hobbit series? Quite the adventure they’re planning!

      Is fantasy and adventure a genre your daughter enjoys? If it is, she’ll be sure to enjoy the book.

      •  This Dan did not know that. That’s really cool!

        • I know! It’s going to be an epic trilogy.

  • Great tie in but I haven’t seen the movie. Good lessons!

    • I’ve yet to see the movie as well. These takeaways were from the book. Can’t wait to see the movie though. Looks like a great start to the trilogy.

    •  Have you read the books? Or have you read your children the books? Maybe buying your son the book for his new kindle would be a good idea. I’s worth the read.

  • I really like #4 – it is easy to quit or call it “good enough” but you miss out on what you would experience if you went a little bit further.  It is vague (a little bit) and specific (go further) at the same time – love it.   I read the book years ago and remember loving it – probably won’t get very far suggesting it as a date night movie with my wife, but am going to give it a try.  Thanks…

    • Good luck on suggesting it to the wife. Hope you’re successful on landing the date! If you do make it, let me know how you enjoyed the movie.

      • I’m guessing I’ll see it about the time it is available via redbox…

  • I remember my mom reading myself and siblings the Hobbit. You mean you where not at the midnight showing?:) I was tempted to go but was afraid I’d fall asleep at work the next day.

    Great leadership points! It shows we must get out of our comfort zone and brave the future to do something great.

    • That’s so cool. It’s amazing what we can remember from our childhood, huh? Oh no, there’s no way I could’ve made it through the midnight showing. Doubt I’d have made it through the first half hour.

  • Nice work Joe. 

    •  Thanks Tim. Have you had a chance to see the new movie?

      • No, not yet. I loved the books as a kid, haven’t seen the movie yet.

  • Great post, I can’t wait to see the movie. This is a poignant lesson: “You must be willing to stand by your principles even when it seems like everyone else is against you.” It’s difficult to stand against those who oppose us, but it becomes increasingly difficult when the opposition is your own team.

    • Me too Grayson. Trying to find the 3 hours of time to watch it has been difficult! When you see it, please let us know what you thought of it.

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