Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Ben-Hur 2016

A Reel Leadership Article

Based on the book Ben-Hur: A Tale Of Christ, Ben-Hur returns to the big screen cinemas.

Over time, the tale of Ben-Hur has been recounted in multiple movies, TV shows, and cartoons. This weekend saw the release of the latest Ben-Hur telling.


The 2016 Ben-Hur is brought to us by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. They’ve previously produced The Bible and A.D. The Bible Continues TV mini-series.

Now, they’re tackling the big screen.

The story of Ben-Hur is a sad tale of a thirst for revenge. Judah Ben-Hur is a prince who is accused of treason by his adopted brother. After being sent away as a slave on the sea, he returns to seek revenge against his brother Messala Severus.

All of this happens in the time of Christ. So, we get to see Jesus Christ weave in and out of the story.

Caution: Ben-Hur spoilers ahead

Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Ben-Hur 2016

1. Start with the end in mind:

We this a lot in movies. The opening scenes are not the actual beginning of the movie. Instead, they’re a flash-forward to a later point.

Ben-Hur did just that. We see Judah Ben-Hur and Messala Severus in their chariots racing each other.

In business, we need to have our end goals in mind. Knowing what we want to accomplish will help get us to that point.

2. Help others:

This message was played out multiple times in Ben-Hur. We first see this when Judah is injured as Messala and he were racing their chariots in the desert.

Judah hit a rock and took a nasty tumble. He couldn’t walk and Messala carried him.

Later in Ben-Hur, we see Esther tending to the needs of the less fortunate after Judah Ben-Hur returns from his exile.

The goal of a leader should be to see their organization succeed. Their other goal should be to help those they are leading and the people in their community.

What could you do to help improve the lives of those you lead?

3. Naomi Ben-Hur:

You’ve done enough

Naomi Ben-Hur is Judah’s biological mother and the woman who adopted and cared for Messala Severus. Upon seeing Messala carrying Judah into their palace, she bitingly tells Messala that he has done enough.

This wasn’t in reference to him doing a good deed. This was her telling him he screwed up. He could stop now.

Have you ever done something so bad you thought you wouldn’t recover? You tried to help and make the situation better, but it only angered others?

Yeah, that happens.

We’ll feel worthless because a course of action we decided on doesn’t pan out. And others will attack us.

Know that our choices will impact those we lead. They’ll get angry. But we’ve got to move forward and own our mistakes.

4. Judah Ben-Hur:

Did we have fun?

As Judah was recovering, we see him quip to Messala about fun. He was injured, but he wanted to know whether or not they had a good time.

I see this as a great leadership lesson when we face failures.

Failures are a part of leadership. We WILL fail. How we react to those failures will impact how we lead.

5. People feel like they have to prove their worth:

Messala was adopted. He knew he wasn’t a part of the family by birth. He was chosen to be a part of the Ben-Hur family.

Yet he still felt he wasn’t worthy to carry the name. He had something to prove.

So he left to join the Roman army and fight.

It’s tempting to feel like we need to prove our leadership capabilities. To a certain extent, that’s true. Leadership requires us to take action.

However, you may still feel like you’re not adding value or contributing.

That’s where we can get into trouble. When we feel like we’re not worthy, we begin to push boundaries and go for recognition.

Be wary when you feel like you have something to prove. Check yourself and see where your true motives lie.

6. Messala:

It’s not easy but that is life

Like life, leadership isn’t easy. But, then again, that’s leadership.

Lead anyways.

7. There are lies that make us slaves:

In Ben-Hur, we see a representation of Jesus. He shares in one scene that we believe lies. Those lies, they trap us and make us slaves.

You can see this in business.

Leaders may believe the lie that they have to be THE best. Or maybe there can only be one player in their market. There’s also the lie that they’re not good enough.

We get trapped into believing these lies. Recognize the lies and break free.

8. Jacob:

You confuse peace with freedom

Who doesn’t long for peace? Whether in life or in our business, we want there to be peace and harmony.

There’s a problem if we’re also looking for freedom. Peace and freedom don’t coexist together at all times.

As a leader, you have the freedom to make decisions. Your decisions, they may not bring peace.

Will you be okay with the resulting conflicts? As a leader, you must be.

9. Believe in others:

During a battle, Pontius Pilot told Messala he believes in him. He then passes command of the troops to him.

From there, Messala goes on to great victories and, unfortunately, great evil.

Having belief in your team members empowers them to do great things. Your belief in them inspires them to believe in themselves.

Be a leader who believes in the team you’ve built.

10. Judah Ben-Hur:

Don’t spit your hate for all when you don’t even know one

With everything going on in the world today from the politics of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the religious unrest, there’s a lot of hate being spewed.

Judah tells us a great truth. We shouldn’t hate others when we don’t even know who they are.

11. Bad leaders bully:

Upon his return to the Ben-Hur palace, Messala is a changed man.

He’s confident. He’s successful. But he’d become a bully.

Talking to his step-brother Judah, he tries to manipulate and use his influence to get Judah to do something he doesn’t believe in doing.

That’s the trait of a bad leader. Bad leaders bully.

They push for their own way no matter the means.

12. Our lives cross with important people we don’t know:

The life of Judah Ben-Hur crosses multiple times with the life of Jesus Christ in Ben-Hur. While not historical, this gives us an important insight into life.

We will meet and intersect with important people. Many times, we will never know how truly important they are.

What can this mean for a leader? Treat others with respect. Make them feel welcome.

13. Pick your fights wisely:

While Judah was a captive on the slave ship, other captives wanted to fight back against their captors. Judah spoke to them and told them to stand down. They wouldn’t be able to win the fight they were about to pick.

Sometimes, we pick fights with other organizations that we shouldn’t. We try to poke them and entice them into a fight.

Without knowing what you’re up against, picking a fight can be a bad decision. Rather, work with them and look for opportunities to help each other.

14. How we look doesn’t tell how we are:

The slave ship Judah was on was destroyed. Soon, his body washed upon the shore.

There, he was found by Ilderim, played by Morgan Freeman. Ilderim had a stable of horses. One of which was sick.

Judah made a bargain to nurse the horse back to health. He did that.

However, before the horse was fully healed, she looked good. She wasn’t.

Judah recognized this and kept her from being used before she was fully ready to run.

Leaders can put on a good face. We can make ourselves look good. Maybe even polished.

Yet there can be issues we’re facing that no one else knows. We look well, we’re not.

Take care of those issues. Don’t sweep them under the rug.

Handle what’s wrong, even if that means resting.

15. Esther:

Spend it on hatred and it is all you have

Judah came back to Jerusalem for one thing: Revenge.

He wanted to take out all his anger and rage and frustration on Messala. He wanted to kill him.

His wife recognized the hatred burning within his heart. So she called him out.

Being full of hatred is a wicked thing. Hatred will consume you to the point where you have nothing left but contempt.

Stop letting hatred feed your hustle. If you don’t, it’s all you’ll have.

16. You don’t have to be in the front all the time:

As Judah was getting ready to race Messala, he had the desire to win. His focus was on being first and taking the prize.

That’s when Ilderim stepped in and offered a word of wisdom. Don’t race to the front of the pack. Hang back. Then strike.

Those were wise words. Because Judah didn’t rush to the front of the racers, he was able to pace himself and have the other competitors take each other out.

Being first is nice, being first when it counts… Even better.

You’ve seen this played out in business.

Think back to MySpace and Facebook. MySpace was first. Now they’re gone. Facebook is still around.

What are you trying to be first in that you need to slow your roll and hang back?

17. Winning comes with a cost:

This isn’t something we like to hear. However, it’s the truth.

Judah won the race. He beat his brother Messala in the Circus Maximus.

Yet, in winning, he lost the chariot he was riding. He lost one of the horses. And, we thought, he lost his brother.

For all we like winning, we forget winning comes with a cost.

Winning may take our health, our friends or family, or even our souls. Decide what you’re willing to pay to be a winner.

Closing Thoughts On The 2016 Ben-Hur Remake

I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to like the new Ben-Hur. I’d never seen the original, so I had nothing to compare the new movie to.

Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. Roma Downey and Mark Burnett did a great job creating an engaging movie that kept me on the edge of my seat.

My biggest issue with the movie was with the usage of Jesus. They had him saying things he never said and doing things he never did.

Yes, this was a fictional movie. But for some reason it bothered me.

Other than that, I don’t have many complaints.

Ben-Hur was full of action, a redeeming story, and leadership lessons.

Question: Have you seen the new Ben-Hur? If so, what’s one or two leadership lesson you pulled from the movie? If not, what leadership lesson from Ben-Hur that I shared most resonated with you? Share that in the comment section below.

Do you enjoy leadership lessons from the movies? Would you like more leadership lessons from the movies? Check out the Reel Leadership archives here for more leadership lessons from the movies.

If you enjoyed this Reel Leadership article, you may enjoy our collection of Reel Leadership articles eBook. You can get this eBook for free by signing up for updates by clicking here.
Follow Me

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