17 Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Pixar’s Inside Out

A Reel Leadership Article

Pixar Animation Studios is a powerhouse in the animated movie business. With movie hits such as the Toy Story series, The Incredibles, Cars, Finding Nemo, and Brave, Pixar has earned the right to be called a leader in the movie business.

And with Pixar’s latest film, Inside Out, they reinforce why they’re considered a great movie company.

Pixar's Inside Out Teaches Us Leadership Lessons

Inside Out is a story about young Riley. She’s uprooted from her Midwest life and transplanted into San Francisco when her father wants to run his startup in the valley.

As you can expect, Riley’s life is turned upside down with the move.

That’s where the brilliance of Inside Out shines. We are able to put an image to the feelings we’ve all felt as we enter our first day of school, move across the country, or lose a best friend.

Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Inside Out

Caution: Contains Inside Out spoilers

1. Give a little extra: Pixar is out to dazzle and entertain moviegoers. They do this with brilliant storylines. They wow us with amazing graphics. And, one of my favorites, they bust out Pixar short movies before most of their films.

Before Inside Out, Pixar gives us the sad and then inspiring short Lava.

The Pixar short is short but the imagery and connotations were moving.

Pixar knows how to give a little extra to engage the audience.

Can you give a little extra in what you’re doing? Think about ways you could wow a customer by giving them something they weren’t expecting.

2. Fear:

Alright, we did not die today! I’d call that an unqualified success

Inside Out shows us the “inner workings” of our minds. They assign characters to represent our major emotions. We see Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger vying for control inside Riley’s head.

Fear had a great one-liner when he chimed in stating no one died today.

We can take a cue from Fear. We can recognize the little successes of our day.

Be excited that you didn’t die today. Get happy when you see one more person enter your church. Remember the sale you made and how it made you feel.

We can be excited about the small things in life. We just have to notice them.

3. Expectations can disappoint: Riley had great expectations for her new city and home. Her parents had hyped it up.

Then reality set in when they pulled up to the new house. It was tiny and dingy.

Riley probably wondered who would want to live there. Her expectations were not met and she felt major disappointment.

As leaders, we can set high expectations. We can hype up a business move or a new program we’re unveiling. We can get people excited.

And then we let them down when reality doesn’t meet the expectations we set.

Be careful how much you hype up what’s coming. People are trusting you and when you disappoint, the trust erodes.

4. Joy:

We’ve been through worse

Joy is the happy center of Riley’s brain. Joy is constantly trying to see the bright side and remind the other emotions there’s plenty to be joyful over.

So, when she quips that they’ve been through worse, it reminded that we can overexaggerate our current situations.

We’ve been through better and we’ve probably been through worse. Don’t let your current view of the situation drag you down!

5. Make the best of bad situations: As Riley and her parents enter into their new house, we see it’s pretty rundown. There’s a dead mouse lying in the kitchen. There’s dust and cobwebs. It’s not pretty.

But then Riley makes a conscious effort to make good out of the bad situation they’re in.

She takes her hockey stick and hits an item towards her parents. They join in with brooms and a book to play as well.

They were able to make a bad situation into a good memory.

What situations are you viewing as hopeless or disappointing? Is there anything you can do to make the situation better?

Look for ways you can bring good where you see bad. You might surprise yourself with how you can turn a situation around.

6. Riley’s Mom:


Their move had been rough. Things didn’t go as planned and the family felt discouraged.

Yet Riley stayed mostly upbeat during the moving process.

Her mom recognized this and took steps to reinforce the behavior she desired. So, she went up to Riley and told her “Thanks.”

One word can mean so much to someone. If someone does a good job and does something right, be willing to go up to them and thank them for a job well done.

You may make someone’s day.

7. Your environment can bring you down: Inside Riley’s brain, Joy is joined by the other emotions mentioned earlier. As Joy is trying to keep Riley’s mood up, the other emotions begin to bicker and try to change the mood.

We see Joy experience a brief moment of discontent. Why? Because those around her were unhappy.

The same can hold true for you. The attitudes of the people you hang out with can impact your mood.

Be careful that you’re not associating with only negative people. Find a wide range of people to include in your circle of friends.

8. Joy:

There’s got to be a better way

Are you looking for ways to improve processes or programs? There’s probably a better way if you look hard enough.

Take a look around today and see where a better way is possible.

9. Different people see different things: As Riley is becoming withdrawn, her mom tries to prod her for information on why. When that fails, she tries to employ the services of her husband.

He blows it, but each of them saw it in a different light.

Riley’s dad’s Anger thought they had done a great job. He even said, “That could have been a disaster!”

Riley’s mom’s Anger then said, “Well, that was a disaster!”

We all see situations through our current lens. That means if someone is having a bad day, they could see a simple question in a much more aggressive light than you had meant for it to be.

Be aware of how you’re saying things and how people are receiving you. You might be shocked it’s completely different than you thought.

10. Sadness:

Come on! Fall on your face.

As Joy, Sadness, and Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong are walking through Abstract Land, it becomes dangerous quickly.

They’re changing into abstract shapes and going from 3D to 2D. Through these changes, it looked like they may not make it through this portion of Riley’s brain.

When it looked like all hope was lost, Sadness told Joy and Bing Bong to fall on their face. They were 2D and could make it through the small door by doing so.

The lesson from this? Sometimes it’s critical we fall flat on our faces. We can see life from a different perspective when we’re prone on the ground.

Don’t be scared to fall or fail. It could be the vantage point you need.

11. Shortcuts aren’t always short (or easy): You know that Joy and the gang had trouble getting through Abstract Land. But why were they in this land to begin with?

Bing Bong told Joy and Sadness it was a shortcut. He’d taken it many times before. It was safe. It was easy. It would help them.

We know this didn’t turn out how Bing Bong presented it to them.

The shortcuts we try to take are, often times, longer and more complicated than the straightforward path. Evaluate whether or not you need to take a shortcut.

12. Disgust:

It’s like we don’t learn anything

We are stubborn people. We find it difficult to grasp new concepts and learn from the past.

When we fail to learn, we fail to grow. Take the lessons you learn to heart and don’t forget them. If you do, you’ll repeat the failures of your past.

13. A listening ear can make things better: Bing Bong was sad. He’d messed up the shortcut and Riley had all but forgotten him. He was at a point of depression.

Joy tried to cheer him up by telling him happy stories. This only brought sadness into his thoughts.

Then it happened. Riley’s Sadness approached him and listened to him.

Bing Bong poured out his sadness to her and he began to feel better. He needed a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to him.

Your team needs you to have a listening ear. There’s so much they want to share but they feel they can’t .

Allow your team to open up to you. Present no judgment. Let them be themselves.

14. Joy:

Hey! That was a good idea!

Sadness had presented many ideas to Joy along their journey. Joy rejected all of them until Sadness stepped up and took action on her idea.

We then see Sadness’ idea actually work.

You’ve got a lot of smart people on your team, or at least you should.

Stop pushing their ideas to the side if they don’t align with yours. Take the time to listen to the ideas your team presents.

You will find golden pieces of advice in their wisdom.

15. Try again: Joy and Bing Bong had fallen into the recesses of Riley’s brain. They were in the land of erasure!

They had to get out. If they didn’t, they were likely to be wiped from existence.

That’s when Joy gets the idea to find Bing Bong’s rocket and fly out of the chasm. Only their first attempt didn’t work. Neither did their second.

But they kept trying. And eventually Joy made it out.

We will face failures in our leadership. We may not do the right thing all the time. You can, however, try again and again.

Don’t give up on your first attempt. Keep at it if it’s worth doing!

16. Leaders may have to sacrifice for the betterment of others: In the same scene where Joy and Bing Bong tried again and again to escape the chasm, we see Bing Bong make a heroic, and leadership, decision.

He knew his time was limited. He knew he’d soon be forgotten. So he did the only thing he could do.

He hopped off of the rocket wagon so Joy could escape. He took one for the team.

That’s what leaders do. Leaders sacrifice for their team.

Don’t be a leader who’s self-centered. Be other-centered.

17. You may not be the best one for the job: By the end of the movie, we see Riley making the choice to run away. She’s sad and lonely and doesn’t want to live in her new city.

She hits the road and hops on a bus.

Then Joy and Sadness return to the center of her brain.

Joy believes she has the answers until she realizes someone else is better suited at getting Riley home and reunited with her parents.

She lets Sadness take control and we see Sadness can get the job done.

You may be unwilling to let someone else step up and take on more responsibilities. This is hindering your ability to lead well and get the right results.

When you see someone else is a better fit for a position, give them the chance to shine. Hand over control and get out of the way.

Was Inside Out A Good Movie?

While Inside Out wasn’t as good as the Toy Story movies or The Incredibles, it was still a great movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon. Both my wife and I enjoyed the movie.

Inside Out brought back memories of childhood and how my emotions would bounce all over the place. They got that part of growing up right.

And even though most of the characters were one-dimensional, they were meant to be anyways, they proved to be funny and appropriate for the movie.

Pixar also did a fantastic job in creating a movie adults and children can enjoy. That’s a hard thing to do!

Question: Have you seen Pixar’s Inside Out? If so, what leadership lessons did you pick up on in the movie? Let’s talk about them in the comment section below.

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