The Lion King may be the greatest Disney animated film of all time. After re-watching The Lion King for the umpteenth time, I felt The Lion King deserved the Reel Leadership treatment.
The story of young Sima (Jonathan Tyler Thomas) and his struggle to return to his rightful place as king of his homeland contains plenty of leadership lessons if you were to look for them. In today’s Reel Leadership article, we’ll look at the leadership lessons from The Lion King and what they mean to you.
Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Disney’s The Lion King
1. People honor great leaders:
In the opening scenes of The Lion King, animals from far and wide gather together to honor Mufasa (James Earl Jones) and the birth of his son Simba. The animals knew something great had happened and they wanted to be there to honor the King of the Jungle. Their presence showed their respect to Mufasa.
Elephants, giraffes, antelopes, monkeys, and more came to Mufasa’s homeland and honored the leader of the jungle. Mufasa had a presence that drew animals together. His leadership abilities helped those he led to come together. And they WANTED to honor him and his family.
What are you doing to create loyalty like Mufasa? Great leaders inspire people to action and to honor their leadership. The honor is given willingly. The honor is not forced.
Lead with a heart of gold. Help those you lead. Find ways to serve rather than be served.
This type of leadership will garner the respect and honor of those you lead.
Life’s not fair, is it?
Scar (Jeremy Irons) is Mufasa’s brother and Simba’s uncle. He’s a cruel lion who desires to have the title of king of the lions. In one scene, he tells a little mouse that life isn’t fair. And Scar would be right. Life isn’t fair.
You’re not guaranteed success or fame or fortune. Life won’t grant you any of these things, even if you’re the nicest and best person in the world.
Life will throw you curveballs. You will be hurt. You may even want to give up.
But you shouldn’t give up. Now that you know life isn’t fair, you can move past the desire for fairness and move onto getting work done.
A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun.
As Mufasa is talking to Simba, he drops this leadership lesson in The Lion King. Leadership isn’t forever. Your time of leadership will rise and then fall away.
I’ve always believed leadership isn’t a forever position. Leaders come and go. Positions and titles change. You will not always be considered the leader of your organization.
Be ready to transition out of your leadership position when the time comes.
4. We are all connected:
Simba and Mufasa have a heart to heart. Mufasa explains to young Simba that while lions are the top of the food chain, they are also part of the circle of life. This connects lions to the lesser beasts of the jungle. Lions may eat the antelope but the antelopes eat the grass which grows when lions die.
This is connectedness. Each creature plays a role in the life of other creatures.
Every person is connected within your organization. The receptionist keeps employees informed of who’s trying to get in touch with whom. Salesmen are connected to the workers on the shop floor because without sales, there are no parts to make. And the workers on the shop floor are connected to the salesmen because without quality work people will not buy their products.
Everything and everyone is connected.
5. Bad leaders manipulate others:
Scar asks Simba if his dad showed him what laid beyond the Badlands. When Simba tells him he did not, Scar begins his manipulation of Simba. He tells Simba there is an elephant graveyard beyond the plains.
This peaks young Simba’s curiosity. He wants to see the graveyard. Scar knew this is what would happen and lays a trap. He had manipulated Simba into doing what he wanted.
Bad leaders are like Scar. They manipulate others into doing things which are unhealthy or dangerous. They encourage bad behavior and risky activity.
Be careful of what you’re encouraging others to do and your reasoning behind your actions. Don’t be a manipulating leader.
6. Leadership comes with responsibilities:
Simba believed being king gave him the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do. He couldn’t wait to be king. He wanted the authority and power that comes with the title of king.
Little did Simba know what being king entailed. The responsibility and weight of leadership wasn’t even in Simba’s mind.
Young leaders often overlook the fact leadership isn’t about them. Leadership isn’t the power you get when you begin to lead.
You don’t get to boss people around and be treated special just because you are a leader. No, you now have a responsibility to take care of those you lead.
Realize your responsibilities as a leader and serve your people well.
7. Great leaders are willing to step into a problem when their presence is required:
After Simba was manipulated to go to the elephant graveyard, he enlisted his best friend Nala to join him. They make a fairly uneventful journey to the graveyard. Only to be greeted by a pack of hyenas ready to devour them.
Young Simba tries to roar but his roar was weak. He tries again. Something amazing happens. There’s a loud roar and the hyenas scatter.
You discover the loud roar came from his father, Mufasa. Mufasa stepped in when his presence was needed.
Your role as a leader isn’t to be bossy. Your role as a leader is to step in when a problem arises.
Be ready to step in when needed.
I’m only brave when I have to be.
Simba wanted to be brave like his father. He believed bravery was an all-the-time deal. You have to be brave every single moment of the day.
Mufasa tells Simba a different story. Bravery isn’t needed every moment. You only need to be brave when bravery is called upon.
Be willing to be brave when you need to be.
9. Explain mistakes with kindness:
Mufasa was upset with Simba. He’d disobeyed orders and did something dangerous. Mufasa could have exploded at Simba. He could have told him how stupid he was or how he was a stone throw from death.
Instead, Mufasa chose to explain Simba’s mistake with kindness. He gently let Simba know what he did was wrong. Why Simba was wrong. And what the consequences could have been.
Leaders have the opportunity to confront people when they make mistakes. They have a choice though. Leaders can be rude, abrasive, crass, and belittling when dealing with a mistake or leaders can approach the mistake with kindness. They can gently let the offender know what was wrong, why their actions were wrong, and what they can do to prevent the mistake from happening in the future.
Choose to approach mistakes with kindness.
10. Bad leaders place blame:
The group of three hyenas blamed their problems on the lions. They believed they were on the bottom of the food chain because of the lions and their power.
They couldn’t see where their bad actions and lack of critical thinking led to their issues. Instead, they placed blame.
Bad leaders are like the hyenas in The Lion King. They find people or situations to blame rather than accepting responsibility for their actions.
Don’t be like the hyenas. Accept the responsibility for your actions.
Anyone who grew up with The Lion King knows the meaning of Hakuna Matata. Hakuna Matata means no worries.
Too many leaders worry about every little situation. Great leaders know they don’t have to worry about every situation in their organization.
They’ve hired great people to help run the business. They have trust in the employees they’ve hired and the work they can do.
Don’t be a leader filled with worry. Instead, be filled with confidence and hope.
12. People change:
Nala and Simba were best friends growing up in their pride. Nala eventually discovers Simba (Matthew Broderick as older Simba) is alive. Yet she didn’t recognize him at first.
Simba had changed so much from his youthful days. Anyone seeing him years later wouldn’t recognize him.
How true is this of people? In our youth, someone might have gotten into trouble and broken all the rules. Years later, they’re on the straight and narrow living a good life.
Don’t let a person’s past prevent them from moving forward. Give people with a rough start the benefit of the doubt. Help them grow into better people so others won’t recognize them.
13. People fear change:
Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) have become close friends with Simba. When Nala finds Simba, they fear the change that is in store for their band of merry animals.
They feared their friendship was done. Cooked. Toast.
Change was coming and they didn’t want change to come.
Change is scary. It creates new dynamics in relationships. People move on or die. Careers change.
Tell me that’s not scary. But change isn’t something you should fear.
So much good comes from change. Look for the positive in the change coming your way.
14. Other people can see your potential when you can’t:
Nala sees Simba’s potential to be a great king. Someone who could rightfully replace Mufasa.
Simba couldn’t see his potential. He felt like a failure. And he wasn’t willing to take on the mantle of king.
You have potential. Other people can see your potential. You may not be able to but there is potential.
Look deep within yourself. Look to others. See what’s deep inside and unleash your potential.
Because it’s your responsibility.
Simba didn’t want to become king of the pride. He thought he wasn’t worthy of the kingship.
Nala had to speak truth to Simba. He needed to go back to his people. It was his responsibility to lead.
If you’re the leader of an organization, you had a responsibility. Your responsibility is to lead your people.
16. Past leaders are a part of you:
Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) is the blue bottomed baboon (Mandrill) in The Lion King. He’s also a wise yet quirky sage.
Simba believes his dad had left him completely when he passed away. Rafiki showed him the truth.
Mufasa was still with Simba. His knowledge and wisdom was there for Simba to use.
You may think you’ve lost a former leader and can no longer tap his or her wisdom. You still can.
The leaders you’ve had in the past have poured into your life. They’ve bestowed upon you their wisdom and the wisdom of their leaders.
Every leader you’ve had, every leader they have had, and so on are now a part of you.
Remember who you are.
In a vision, Simba saw his father. His father encouraged Simba to remember who he is.
As a leader, you need to remember who you are. You’re a father, a son, a respected member of the community, a leader, a servant.
Remember who you are.
18. Sometimes you need sense knocked into you:
Simba didn’t want to go back to the pride. He feared their reaction. But Rafiki was wise. He knew Simba had to go back.
So he showed Simba tough love. He knocked Simba in the head and knocked sense into him.
Leaders are a stubborn lot. With the vision they hold and the direction they want to go, they can struggle with listening to the advice they need to hear.
Sometimes you will need to have the sense knocked into you before you will listen. Hopefully you don’t let it get to that point often.
19. Truth gives you strength:
For years, Simba lived with the belief he had killed his father. Scar finally revealed the truth. He had killed Mufasa, not Simba.
This truth was revealed to Simba as he was holding on for dear life on the edge of a cliff. Once he heard the truth, Simba gained the strength to pull himself up and over the cliff and confront the one who had killed his father.
Truth gives you strength. The strength to stand for what is right and true. The strength to keep going when times look bleak.
Be willing to hear and accept the truth. Then use the strength you gained from the truth.
20. Good leaders stand up to bad leaders:
Scar had taken over the kingship of the lion pride. He was a bad, bad king. Simba, on the other hand, knew how to be a good king.
When he realized he needed to take action, he stood up to his uncle. The good leader stood up to the bad leader.
As a leader, you have a responsibility. You have the responsibility to stand up to bad leaders.
You need to be willing to say when something is wrong. If you don’t, you’re standing WITH the bad leaders.
Want to get a copy of The Lion King? Pickup your Blu-Ray copy on Amazon.