Children’s stories always have more than just entertainment value. They’re usually there to send an important message or convey a valuable lesson. With so many children’s stories, one could argue that every conceivable topic is already covered. To put this to the test, here’s what you can learn about leadership by analyzing some of the most beloved children’s story characters.
Simba, The Lion King
Simba just couldn’t wait to be king in The Lion King, and this is probably one of the best examples of how young employees see the role of leadership. All they see is the glamour and respect, but what they don’t see is the price behind it.
In truth, leading was about much more than just prestige. It’s about taking responsibility for others. We also get to see Scar as the other side of the coin. His poor reign reflects on the local environment, which appears much more barren under his rule. Similar effects can be seen in any organization under poor leadership.
Moreover, Mufasa was killed for his throne, and this scenario is not endemic to the great leaders of history. Even in the office, many aspire to get your place, and they won’t stop at nothing to get it.
To learn how to be a king, Simba first had to learn how to become a part of a smaller pack (with Timon and Pumba). This allowed him to lead with the consent of his people, like his father did before him.
Lessons: Leadership is a burden, not just a privilege. Leaders affect everything they touch. You can’t lead a community without being its part.
Frodo Baggins, Lord of the Rings
While the books themselves are almost classics, some might consider this character to be a bit “too modern” for the list. However, in an era of live learning platforms and digital study spaces, a relatable character must be more deeply embedded in popular culture.
Frodo is not the wisest member of the fellowship; that title belongs to Gandalf. He’s not the most capable fighter, either. Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimly all come from the noblest of bloodlines in their respective races, and even Boromir is the son of the Stuart of Gondor. So, how did he become the leader of the fellowship? At the critical moment, he was the only one who dared to speak up.
Also, the Fellowship of the Ring is a perfect example of a diverse team playing into each other’s strengths and weaknesses to reach a common goal. It wasn’t Legolas’ aim or Aragorn’s skill with the sword, or even Gandalf’s magic that saved the day. It was Frodo’s decision-making and courage that took victory that day (and Sam).
Frodo is easily agitated after the ring takes a stronger hold of him, but this has a real-world equivalent. If we take a huge burden of responsibility that an average leader feels daily, it’s really easy to lose sight of who are your friends and foes. People under a lot of stress are often combative and argumentative. These are just some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation and incredible responsibility that leaders are more than familiar with.
Lesson: Courage to make tough choices qualifies one for leadership. A good leader delegates tasks to specialists. Responsibility and power often make one feel under pressure.
Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
Dorothy is a perfect example of a charismatic leader, one who other people gravitate toward. While some may assume that this charisma is something innate, in reality, her determination earns her the friendship and loyalty of her group.
As a wise leader, Dorothy gains companions through individual motivation. She knows exactly what each of her companions wants (brain, heart, courage), and she promises them that they’ll get it as long as they follow their lead. Dorothy leads through the power of empathy.
As a leader of an organization, it’s important that you see the bigger picture, but you must also care about what people under you want for themselves. By allowing them to develop and accomplish their individual goals personally, you’ll gain loyalty like no other.
Another thing that we can learn from Dorothy is that the greatest leaders don’t need to have anything outwardly about them. Dorothy is just an ordinary girl from Kansas, but this doesn’t mean that she can’t achieve many great things with problem-solving and wholehearted (except for the Tin Man, we guess) support of her team.
Lessons: Individual motivations of people under you can make or break any effort.
While growing up as a street urchin, Aladdin gets an opportunity of a lifetime. He becomes a master of a genie in a lamp and gets granted three wishes. He wishes for a way out of the cave, to become a prince, and for his genie to be free.
The first lesson here is one of resourcefulness. While three wishes may seem too little, these are the odds that leaders always face. You always have fewer resources than problems, and you need to learn how to prioritize. The first wish to get out of the cave may have seemed trivial, but if he failed, no other wish would do him any good. So, your priority is always for your team/organization to stay afloat.
Second, you have the importance of appearances. When he became a prince, nothing changed about his character or nature. All that changed was his appearance. Still, because he “looked the part,” he got many more opportunities (even a chance to save the entire sultanate). Always aim to impress.
Lastly, his final wish signifies the personal sacrifice that many leaders have to make. If you think your life suffers due to work, just remember that your bosses’ friends and significant others see them even less.
Lessons: Be careful with the resources you have available. Appearance matters. Accept that, as a leader, you’ll have to make some personal sacrifices.
Leadership is a skill that you can improve, but to do this, you must be willing to expand your knowledge. You can’t learn everything from textbooks. Sometimes, you must dip into folk wisdom, fiction, and fairytales. You would be surprised how much you can learn this way.