10 Leadership Lessons From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

A Reel Leadership Article

Michael Bay is on a roll, releasing quite a few movies this summer. First movie I saw was the new Transformers movie. Now, Bay has released a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Leadership lessons from Michael Bay's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

With Bay, I always feel you’ve got to go in with an open mind. He does things a bit differently. Bay likes explosions, shooting, and women, it seems. While I haven’t truly been disappointed with a Bay movie lately, there had been some horrible ones (Can we all forget Transformers 2 ever happened?).

And then came the new live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

I went in with serious reservations. Could Bay do the Ninja Turtles justice? Would the new Ninja Turtles movie be rubbish? Will the new Ninja Turtles be likable?

After all, I grew up on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were a childhood favorite.

I loved watching Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello, along with their Master Splinter, kick Foot butt. They were awesome.

Before I answer those questions, I wanted to give you a rundown of the leadership lessons from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

1. Leaders may not look like what you’re expecting: The look of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles departed drastically from the traditional look we’ve all come to love and expect. These new turtles could be considered ugly. They’re not what you expect.

And when April O’Neil, played by Megan Fox, first meets the turtles, they’re not what she expected. She was freaked out, grossed out, and even passes out!

April was expecting normal when it came to the vigilantes who were fighting back against the Foot Clan. She got anything but.

How many times do we expect one thing from our leaders and get a completely different reality? I remember the first time I saw Malcolm Gladwell. It was during one of his TED Talks.

His appearance was not what I was expecting from a leader. He was dressed down, almost messy looking. However, he’s an amazing leader.

Don’t let your expectations derail you from finding awesome leaders. Great leaders come in all different appearances.

2. Leaders must have patience: Splinter told the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that they must stay underground. They cannot breach the surface and be seen by humans until absolutely necessary. The turtles had to have patience.

Leaders are often called to make decisions on the spot. They’ll be pressured to make quick decisions with little information.

We don’t have to fall into this trap. While we might be pressured to give an answer or decision quickly, it’s rarely absolutely mission critical.

Learn to live a patient life. Take the time to make important decisions.

3. Leaders may have to run towards dangerous situations: In a great scene, April O’Neil realizes there’s an opportunity to get a news scoop as the Foot Clan attacks a subway full of people. The normal person would run far, far away. Like the multitudes of people fleeing the subway.

Rather than flee, April runs towards the subway. Putting herself into danger.

Leaders will face situations that will require us to either flee or fight. The choice is yours.

However, I think, more often than not, there’s a wise decision to be made in running towards the danger.

The unknown is scary and it seems dangerous. When we actually approach the situation, things are less dangerous than what they appear.

Don’t flee just because there’s a sense of danger. You may be missing out on the biggest opportunity you’ve ever faced.

4. Leonardo

We don’t break things. We fix things.

I don’t know about you, but I think this should be a mantra every leader strives for.

5. Truth can sound absurd: April O’Neil knows who the vigilantes are. She’s seen the turtles up close. She’s even talked to them.

But telling the truth about giant turtles who fight like ninjas sounds absurd. Who would believe that? No one in the movie believed her. It was too unbelievable.

Still, she was right and she was telling the truth. No matter how it sounded.

We’ll run into situations where the truth is stranger than fiction. People won’t believe you. They’ll laugh and mock you.

You’ll have to make a decision on whether or not the truth matters more than being believed.


6. Your actions affect your future: We begin to find out the origins of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the movie progresses. No, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are not aliens from outer space, though that was rumored to be their origin in this movie. Rather, they were part of an experiment being run by a major corporation.

The lab that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created in caught fire and burned. April O’Neil had snuck into the lab shortly after the fire broke out. She also grabbed the turtles and Splinter and freed them.


There are choices we’ve made way back in our lives. Whether those choices were good or bad, I don’t know though I do know we’ve all made our fair share of both. However, those choices can come back latter in our life to either help us or haunt us.

Make the wisest decisions you can. You never know when your decisions will come back around.

7. Teach yourself before you teach others: Master Splinter taught the turtles their ninja skills even though he started off without any skills. In the sewers, Master Splinter found a book of Ninjitsu with illustrations. Using this book, he taught himself the sacred art.

After he prepared himself, he began teaching the young Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ninjitsu as well.

You may not know everything there is to know about leadership. That’s okay. You probably never will.

The key is to start. Teach yourself a few leadership skills. Then teach yourself a few more. Now begin to teach others.

8. Leaders protect their followers:This is another leadership lesson from Master Splinter. Shredder shows up in the sewer home of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a major fight breaks out. Master Splinter, realizing how powerful Shredder was, decides to fight Shredder himself. He locks out the turtles and takes on Shredder.

Master Splinter knew he had to do whatever it took to protect his team.

This scene reminded me of Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last. Leaders are to put their needs behind the needs of those they’re leading.

Don’t think your leadership entitles you to perks. Rather, it entitles you to put your needs aside as you’re helping others.

9. Raphael

No! We do what he says. Lead the way.

There are times when we can’t argue with those who are leading us. We must be willing to lay aside our pride and follow the leader.

10. Leaders have to count on their team: In another battle with Shredder, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are fighting him. At one point, Leonardo is in trouble and about to be sliced and diced by Shredder.

Heroically, Raphael thrusts his sais below Shredders blades and protects Leonardo.

Leo had to count on his team to help him out in a dangerous situation. This is a great reminder that teams are together to help each other out in times of need.

While you may not be battling an evil maniac, you will face issues that you may need help from others.

Don’t push away help. Gladly accept the help your team offers. That’s why you’re together!

11. Leonardo

You think I asked to be the leader of this outfit, Raph? You think I wanted this? Splinter chose me. I’m just doing my duty.

You may be thrust into the role of a leader. Even if it’s not what you wanted, take the position seriously.

My Thoughts On The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I mentioned how I was really hesitant going into the theater to see the new turtles movie. I was scared my childhood memories may be ruined by Michael Bay.

I can safely say that I wasn’t disappointed with the movie.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles provided a fun Sunday escape. There was plenty of humor (which should have been expected with the turtles), lots of action (again, to be expected from Michael Bay), and a decent storyline.

My biggest gripe was probably the way the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looked. They looked freakish and not really like mutated turtles. Then again, I don’t know what a real-life Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would look like. I’ve never seen one.

Yet I can get over that. There’s been lots of changes to the turtles over time anyways. We’ve got to expect that.

If you were a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles growing up, I think you could really enjoy this movie. Don’t let the negativity get you down. Go into the movie expecting a fun, action-filled movie and you’ll get it.

Question: What leadership lesson have you been able to take away from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? This could be from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book, cartoon, live-action movies, or the newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live-action movie. Share your leadership insight in the comment section below.

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