Coco is the latest Disney/Pixar animated movie. Coco tells the story of a young boy, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), who longs to be a musician. Except his family has a ban on music.
This leads Miguel to the land of the dead. There, he discovers there’s more to his family history than he could ever have imagined.
The visuals in Coco are stunning. The story is engaging. And the leadership lessons in Coco are plentiful.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the leadership lessons found in Coco and what they mean to you and your leadership.
Caution: Coco spoilers below
Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Coco
1. Be careful what you chase after:
Miguel’s great-great-grandfather was a musician. He left the family to become famous.
His chasing of fame left his family shattered. No longer would they enjoy music or entertainment. No, they banned music in their home and settled into a life of shoe-making.
Because of the chase and allure of fame, a family was no longer whole.
There are leaders out there who will chase after their claim to leadership with no regards for their family and friends. They will leave everyone behind and look out for themselves.
Don’t become that leader. Don’t chase after the immaterial. Instead, focus on what is truly important.
I’m not like the rest of my family.
Miguel had a longing to play music. However, music was banned in his household after his great-great-grandfather left the family to chase after musical fame.
The rest of Miguel’s family was content to live a life of shoemaking. Miguel couldn’t settle for the life of a shoemaker. He believed he was born to play music even if the rest of his family didn’t like it.
Leaders are different. They’re not like the rest of an organization. There’s a strong desire to push forward and make a difference.
Don’t be like everyone else. Do what makes you stand out.
3. Inspire others:
Miguel didn’t have anyone at home to inspire him in his creative musical pursuits. Everyone at home discouraged him to play the guitar.
This didn’t stop Miguel. Instead, he found someone to look up to. To be inspired by.
This man was Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). He was a world-famous musician who found fame traveling the world playing music and making movies.
Miguel would sit and watch Ernesto’s movies. He’d pick up his guitar and mimic Ernesto’s movements.
This is how Miguel learned to play the guitar. Through the inspiration of Ernesto.
Who are you inspiring? How can you inspire others?
Look for ways to inspire others as you lead.
4. Study the greats:
Everyone considered Ernesto to be one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived. There were very few people who didn’t want to be like Ernesto.
This is one of the reasons Miguel studied those videos of Ernesto. He had a strong desire to become a great guitar player.
So, he studied. Studied some more. And then some.
To become a great leader, you’ve got to study great leaders. Find past and current leaders who have led well and honorably. Begin to study them.
5. Find your own tribe:
After Miguel entered the land of the dead, he ran into the spirit of Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). Hector was a man who had been forgotten and was quickly fading away.
Yet Hector wasn’t alone in the land of the dead. He had found a new family. He had found other spirits who had been forgotten.
These forgotten souls formed a new family. They cared for one another and remembered each other.
You may not know who your tribe is. You may feel like you have no tribe.
But you can’t let the difficulty of not having a tribe stop you. This is because you can find a tribe. You can build a tribe of people who are like you and desire to become better leaders.
Seek out your tribe. Then serve your tribe.
You want it, you have to earn it.
Chicharron (Edward James Olmos) was an old man who was being forgotten. He was also a man with a guitar. A guitar Miguel needed to play so he might win the affections and blessings of his great-great-grandfather Ernesto.
Chicharron told Hector and Miguel that if they wanted the guitar, they must earn the guitar.
Leadership isn’t easily given to someone. To become a leader worth following, you have to work at becoming a better leader.
You can’t skirt by and become a great leader. You have to earn the title of a great leader.
7. There are more important things than your passion:
Miguel’s great-great-grandmother, Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach), loved music. Mama Imelda and her husband would play music and sing. Music brought so much joy to their family.
Then she had their daughter Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía). Mama Imelda had a choice: To continue to pursue music or to raise their child. She chose her child.
You will have a choice as a leader. To continue to pour time into your position or into your family.
Choose wisely. One will be with you forever. The other is a temporary position.
8. Leaders help other leaders:
To reach Ernesto, Miguel had to compete in a contest to become the winning musician to play at Ernesto’s big party. Miguel had to leave the contest early because his dead family was looking for him. And they were close to finding him.
Another band won the competition. They were awarded the opportunity to play at Ernesto’s party.
After trying to board the train to the party, Miguel was kicked off. That’s when he saw the winning band. They were ready to get in line and wait for their turn to board.
Miguel seized the opportunity. He asked the band if he could sneak aboard with them. The band agreed and helped smuggle Miguel onto the train.
They helped another musician.
Great leaders are like the band that helped Miguel board the train. Great leaders help lift other leaders up.
Be an uplifting leader. Lift another leader up and don’t be scared of their ability.
9. Leaders can disappoint:
Miguel was able to attend Ernesto’s party. He was also able to meet Ernesto.
During the party, Miguel discovered a horrible truth. The man he thought to be his great-great-grandfather had poisoned Hector.
This devastated young Miguel. How could the man he looked up to be such a dastardly fellow?
When you look up to another leader, be ready for disappointment. Leaders are human. They fail just like you.
Leaders can disappoint you. But that’s okay as long as they get back up, admit their fault, and move forward.
10. Leaders will have regrets:
Hector made a choice. He chose to leave his family behind to pursue a career in music.
Sadly, he realized his mistake and began the journey home only to be murdered. His time in the afterlife was filled with regret. Of the family he left and lost.
You’re going to make choices. Some of these choices will be bad choices and leave you with regret.
Know you’re going to make bad decisions. These decisions are going to impact lives other than your own.
Your mistakes will leave you with regrets. But you can try to make those regrets right.
Work towards fixing your mistakes.
He’s right… Nothing is more important than family.
Miguel learned an important lesson while in the land of the dead. There’s nothing more important than family.
Fame. Fortune. Leadership success. None of this matters more than the ones at home.
12. Great leaders accept responsibility:
Hector realized he’d made a mistake. He chose a life on the road and away from his family. The regret he felt was his own fault.
He began to accept the responsibility for his choices. Because of this, he apologized to the ones he had hurt.
Great leaders don’t pass the buck. Instead, great leaders accept responsibility.
They know their choices have consequences and they are willing to live with the outcome of their choices.
13. Deceit will be found out:
At the end of Coco, you discover Ernesto de la Cruz was a really, really bad man. He stole the music from Hector and then killed him.
He covered up this fact for as long as he could. However, his deceit was found out.
You may be tempted to deceive those you lead. You may want to cover up improprieties and misdeeds.
Know that when you cover up and hide things, the truth will be found out. Be above board in all you do.
14. Give more than needed:
One of the really fun things about Pixar movies is they typically include a Pixar short film before the feature film. For Coco, the Pixar short was a return to the kingdom of Arendelle. The Pixar short was Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.
This short film returned us to Arendelle and the lives of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf.
While Pixar doesn’t have to include these short films, they choose to give more than needed to the movie audience. They know by giving more, the audience will be appreciative.
Great leaders give more than needed as well. They go above and beyond what’s required of them. They make sure they’ve done all they could.
In light of that, I’m going above and beyond with another Reel Leadership article tomorrow. There’s also a Reel Leadership article with leadership lessons and quotes from Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. I hope you enjoy this extra little treat.