Leadership Lessons From Miss Bala

A Reel Leadership Article

What would you do if your best friend was kidnapped? Would you fight for her or would you flee? This is the question beauty make-up artist Gloria Fuentes (Gina Rodriguez) has to answer when her best friend Suzu (Cristina Rodlo) is kidnapped.

Miss Bala is loosely inspired by the true story of Mexican beauty queen Laura Zúñiga. The story has changed quite drastically but the theme remains the same: A young woman is forced into working for a drug cartel after witnessing a murder at a nightclub.

Miss Bala standing stoically in a red dress

Gina Rodriguez in Miss Bala

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to watch Miss Bala. I think I was expecting a movie along the lines of Taken 3 or Breaking In. What I got was something similar yet something new.

Whether or not you enjoy Miss Bala will depend on what you expect from the movie. Some viewers will really enjoy the movie. Others will pan it. One thing is for sure: If you go to watch Miss Bala, you need to watch it with a Reel Leadership eye. There are plenty of leadership lessons you can take away from Miss Bala. Today, we’re going to look at those lessons.

Many of the Reel Leadership lessons from Miss Bala are from a different perspective than other movies. In other movies, the leadership lessons typically come from the aspect of what a good leader does and how their actions impact a team. The leadership lessons from Miss Bala are mainly going to be how a bad leader’s actions impact their teams.

Leadership Lessons From Miss Bala

1. Great leaders are loyal:

There was an inciting incident in Miss Bala. Gloria saw people murdered in a nightclub and her friend, Suzu, go missing. Because her friend was missing, she went looking for Suzu.

When she finally found someone that could find Suzu, Gloria began to work with them to get Suzu back, even if what she was doing was wrong.

Gloria was loyal. She wouldn’t give up on her friend. How many leaders can you say are loyal to their team?

Many of the greatest leaders in history were loyal. They saw their team as a family unit. They knew there was a bond that would be hard to be broken.

So, they led their team with intense loyalty. They wouldn’t jump from one organization to another. They stuck with their team, their family.

Look to become a loyal leader. Someone who will look after their team and stick with them when the going gets tough.

2. Leaders can do the wrong thing for the right reason:

Gloria sought after her friend. She desired to see Suzu returned home safely. However, Gloria went after bringing her friend home in the wrong way.

She partnered with a Mexican drug cartel to look for Suzu. This means Gloria broke the law by transporting drugs and money across the border. She also witnessed many crimes go down.

In the end, she got Suzu home. Yet she also lost part of herself because of her trying to do the right thing.

Leaders have to be cautious about the actions they take. A leader can believe they’re doing the right thing because they’re doing it for the right reason.

The actions of Gloria shows how sideways a leader can get when they do the wrong thing for the right reason. As a leader, you have to make sure you’re doing the right thing for the right reason. You cannot do the wrong thing for the right reason or the right thing for the wrong reason.

3. Bad leaders turn on their teams:

The head of the Mexican drug cartel in Miss Bala was Lino Esparza (Ismael Cruz Córdova). He had Gloria drive a car to a building, park the car, and meet back with his crew. Once there, she saw why Lino had her park the car in front of the building. He wanted to use the car to blow up a DEA safe house.

By parking the car in front of the building, Gloria gains the attention of the DEA. The lead DEA agent was Brian Reich (Matt Lauria). He brings Gloria in for questioning and soon wins her over. She believes he will help her. But when Gloria needs Brian’s help the most, he tells her she is on her own.

Be careful of how you treat your team members. They’re your team, your responsibility. You cannot turn on your team when they need you the most.

Learn to work with your team. Find ways to help them when they come to you with a situation you can solve. You are the leader, it is your responsibility.

4. Bad leadership creates bad followers:

In leadership lesson 3, you learned DEA agent Brian Reich turned on Gloria. He left her for dead when everything went to pot.

This left Gloria in a bad spot. She was exposed to the gunfire and chaos happening around her. It also left her with a choice.

Lino was shot. She could have left him. She probably would have had Brian not left her. Instead, Gloria made a choice. She would help Lino to safety and joins them as she hunts for Suzu.

This is what happens when bad leaders run organizations. Good people will leave or turn bad. They see what others are doing and the “success” they’re having and figure they’ll do the same thing to get ahead.

People are watching you. They are also following your example. Make sure you’re setting an example worthy of being followed.

5. A leader’s lies will eventually be found out:

It almost appears as if Gloria begins to fall for Lino. She begins working closely with him and she begins to trust him.

This all changes when she wins the Miss Baja beauty pageant and attends the after-party thrown by the Mexican police chief Saucedo (Damián Alcázar). There, she finds her friend Suzu. She also discovers the truth.

Lino knew were Suzu was all along. In fact, Lino had kidnapped Suzu and began sex trafficking her. Uh oh!

Bad leaders believe they can lie, lie, and lie some more and get away with it. The truth is, the lies of a leader will be discovered at some point.

When the lies are discovered, the leader is disgraced. We’ve seen this happen more often than is comfortable for most. Whether the lies are an extramarital affair, mismanagement of financials, or misuse of company property or time, they’re being discovered more and more.

Be an upstanding leader. Choose to be honest and upright. If you aren’t, your lies will be uncovered.

6. People will be hurt by your choices:

The DEA agent had given Gloria a tracking device to place in Lino’s phone. Gloria follows Brian’s instructions and places the tracking device. Then something happens.

Lino has all of the cell phones gathered up. He’s learned there’s an informant in his ranks. He’s going to discover who has turned on him.

This causes Gloria to panic. She has to do something to get the tracking device out of Lino’s phone. She sets a fire and goes about her business.

When Lino announces they’ve discovered the informant, Gloria panics worse. She had unknowingly moved the tracking device from Lino’s phone to a new-found friend’s, Isabel (Aislinn Derbez).

And what does the head of a cartel do when he finds a spy? He takes care of them. Lino shoots Isabel in the head.

Gloria had a choice to make. She could have left the tracking chip where it was or she could move the chip to another phone. She chose to move the tracker to another phone and it had grave consequences for her friend.

Know every decision you make will have a consequence for those around you. Sometimes the consequences will be great. Success will be had by all and it’s sunshine and roses. Other times, people will be hurt by your choice. They may lose their job or get demoted. There might be another pain felt because of your choice.

Yet leaders cannot afford to not make a choice when they need to. Be a leader who makes a choice and stands by it.

Question: Have you seen Miss Bala? If you have, what leadership lessons did you see in the movie? If you haven’t, what Reel Leadership lessons from Miss Bala that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comments below.

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