Murder On The Orient Express tells the tale of the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh with an epic mustache). After solving a case, Hercule decided he needed to take time off from crime solving. He thought he would be able to when his old friend M. Bouc (Tom Bateman) is able to book him a room on the Orient Express.
But he was wrong. DEAD wrong. Soon after boarding the train, a murderer strikes and Hercule has to solve the case.
With an all-star cast, Murder On The Orient tells the Agatha Christie mystery novel on the big screen. There were plenty of laughs. Some mystery. And quite a few leadership lessons in Murder On The Orient Express.
Let’s dive into those leadership lessons and quotes!
Caution: Spoilers for Murder On The Orient Express below.
Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Murder On The Orient Express
1. Great leaders deal with bad situations:
Hercule Poirot was called to the scene of a theft. There, a priest, a rabbi, and an imam have all been accused of stealing a precious artifact in Jerusalem. Only the great Hercule could deduce the real culprit.
While there, Hercule stepped in a pile of dung on the street. He didn’t see the bad thing coming yet he wasn’t flustered when he stepped in the dung.
Hercule chose another action. He placed his other foot in the dung.
He dealt with the situation the best he knew how. By stepping in the dung, he evened out the mess. Both of his shoes were now messy and that created balance.
Leaders face difficult situations every day. Poor employee behavior, disastrous financial situations, low morale, etc…
The thing that separates bad leaders from great leaders is the way they handle bad situations. Bad leaders pass the buck and find others to blame. Great leaders take responsibility and look for ways to resolve the problem.
Be a great leader and deal with those bad situations.
2. Bad leaders miss obvious issues:
So, who was the artifact thief? Was it the imam, the priest, or the rabbi? As Hercule is deciding who the culprit was, he places his cane in the Wailing Wall and asks a policeman to guard the south gate.
Hercule reveals the truth. The imam, priest, and rabbi were all innocent. Instead, the real thief was the Chief Of Police.
As Hercule calls him out, the Chief of Police runs for the south gate. His escape is blocked by the police officer Hercule had asked to man the gate. He then turns tail and runs back towards Hercule only to clothesline himself on the cane in the wall.
Not only did the audience knew these things were in place, the Chief of Police knew this as well. He had been there when Hercule had placed the cane in the wall and asked the officer to cover the gate. And yet the Chief of Police missed these details.
When bad leaders take over, they begin to miss obvious issues in the organization. They overlook poor performance, bad attitudes, lagging sales. They don’t see the issues right in front of them.
Watch yourself as you lead. Make sure you’re paying attention to the issues in front of you. Don’t make a fool out of yourself like the Chief of Police did.
3. Hercule Poirot:
And whatever people say, there is right and there is wrong. There is no inbetween.
Sometimes it seems the world has gone a little crazy. People are saying the right behaviors and actions are wrong and that bad behavior and improper actions are right.
Hercule brings out the truth. There is RIGHT. There is WRONG. Regardless of what people say.
Know the difference between right and wrong.
4. Notice the small details:
Hercule Poirot solved his cases not by the glaring, obvious clues. He often overlooked those. What he used to solve his cases were the small, almost insignificant clues left behind.
He saw a crack in the wall where the priceless artifact was stolen, The Governess: Mary Debenham’s (Daisy Ridley) ticket, and other small details to deduce who stoled what, where people were from, etc…
The small details will get leaders if they’re not careful. They’ll overlook tiny but vital clues on what to do next and why.
Be on the lookout for the small details of leadership. Paying attention to the details will give you a leg up on other leaders.
5. Timeliness matters:
One of the reasons Hercule was able to board the Orient Express was because a fellow passenger did not show up on time. The passenger had not checked in at least 30 minutes prior to the train departure. Thus, he forfeited his seat and room.
There are people out there who say it’s okay to be late. Timeliness no longer matters.
That’s a lie. Timeliness matters and shows you respect other people.
Make sure you’re on time. If not, let those you’re meeting with know.
6. Mary Debenham
I like a good rosé.
After The Professor: Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe) made a fuss over being seated with an African American, he went up to Mary and told her different people and kinds shouldn’t mix. Just like red and white wine. Doing so ruins the wines and mixing people ruins people.
That’s when Mary stepped up, took her red and white wines, mixed them together, and took a nice, long drink.
There are bad leaders who believe different types of people shouldn’t mix. Whether that’s the shop floor workers mingling with the office workers, Information Technology employees interacting with the sales team, or other co-mingling, they believe it is bad for the team.
Have your team mix with one another is not a bad idea. It is a great idea.
They’re able to talk with one another, see each other’s problems, and come up with creative ways to solve their problems.
7. Hercule Poirot:
I detect criminals. I don’t protect them.
Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), a thief and con artist, approached Hercule and asked for his protection. Hercule, knowing where he stood, turned down the offer.
Hercule couldn’t in good conscious protect this criminal. These are the people he tracked down and sent to prison.
Great leaders are willing to turn down opportunities when the opportunities don’t align with their beliefs or moral values.
Be willing to stand tall in what you believe and don’t waver.
8. Not all journies are smooth:
Hercule and the rest of the occupants of the Orient Express expected a nice, easy journey to their destination. Their journey was anything but.
The Orient Express was derailed by an avalanche. Tons of snow knocked the train off of its tracks and slowed their journey.
Sometimes the journey of leadership feels like you were hit by an avalanche and you’re derailed. You can’t see how you’re going to accomplish everything you needed to accomplish or you feel like you’re not making enough headway.
Know your journey will run into issues. You may not gain the momentum you were expecting or you may have to slow your roll down so you can make sure everything is in order.
Be okay with a rough journey. As long as you make it to the end.
9. Your time of rest may be interrupted:
Hercule had boarded the Orient Express with the desire to rest and recharge, something every leader must do.
However, his time of rest was interrupted. There was a murder and a murderer who could strike again at any time.
Hercule knew rest was important. He also knew the safety of the people on the Orient Express was important as well.
Thus, he gave up his rest and began working on the case.
You may take some time away from the office or organization to recharge only to be pulled back into the fray. Your time of rest may be interrupted by time-sensitive issues.
When this happens, evaluate how important the issue is. Then decide whether or not it can wait for your return.
If it’s critical in nature, take action.
10. Hercule Poirot:
My name is Hercule Poirot. And I am probably the greatest detective in the world.
Hercule knew something. He knew his skill level and where he ranked with other detectives. He wasn’t shy to make his level of expertise known.
Do you struggle with knowing who you are and your level of proficiency? You need to come to terms with your skill level and identity.
When you do, you will be able to better place yourself and use your skills.
11. False evidence can appear real:
Upon the death of Edward Ratchett, Hercule inspected Ratchett’s room. He discovered pieces of evidence that were planted, though they could have easily been real.
Hercule noticed these things. He knew what looked right and what looked wrong.
As a leader, you have to have a discerning eye. You have to be able to see what is real and what is false.
If you have trouble with this, you need to surround yourself with wise and discerning people so they can be your eyes and ears.
12. The Butler: Edward Henry Masterman (Derek Jacobi):
Suddently, I wasn’t afraid.
Masterman had been the butler for Ratchett. Once Materman discovered he had cancer, he began to voice his opinion.
He became outspoken because he felt he had nothing left to lose. He was on his way out.
I hope you don’t wait until you’re dying to stop living in fear. You can stop living in fear today.
You have a choice to make. And you can make it either way you desire.
13. Great leaders don’t have all the answers:
Hercule struggled with deducing who killed Ratchett. He had the clues but he didn’t have the answers. At least not at this point in the movie.
He agonized over the fact that he should know. He believed he NEEDED to know the answers. Yet he didn’t need to know. They would come soon enough.
Great leaders aren’t the ones with all of the answers. Great leaders are the ones who know how to seek out the answers.
Don’t fret if you don’t have all of the answers. Instead, seek to find the answers.
You do this by constantly learning. Seeking out wise counsel. Doing due diligence.
14. Mary Debenham:
Perhaps there’s an 11th question you haven’t asked.
Hercule was talking to Mary and told her he had asked 10 questions. Mary’s response was brilliant. There may be an 11th question still to be asked.
Sometimes you’ll ask all the questions you know. Still, there will be something missing. There’s another question to ask.
Figure out the question and then ask it.
15. Everyone is connected:
Edward Ratchett, Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench), Doctor Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.), Mary Debenham, Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz), Hildegarde Schimdt (Olivia Colman), Masterman, Gerhard Hardman, Count Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin), Countess Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton), Biniamino Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Pierre Michel (Marwan Kenzari) were all passengers on the Orient Express along with the murdered Edward Ratchett. Not only were they passengers, they were all connected.
Edward Ratchett’s real name was Casseti. Casseti was a criminal who had kidnapped a young girl named Daisy Armstrong.
Each of the other passengers had a secret too. They were friends or family members of the kidnapped girl. And they were there to take care of Casseti.
You may not understand how or why, but the world is a mighty small place. More often than not, you’re connected to everyone you meet in one way or another.
This connection could be familial. Or it could be via friendships or past business dealings.
Be aware you’re connected to people in many different ways.
16. Learn to live with imbalance:
Hercule lived a very balanced life. His eggs needed to be the exact same size, when his shoe became dirty the other had to as well, and ties needed to be straight.
However, Hercule learned a valuable leadership lesson from the Orient Express. Great leaders learn to live with imbalance.
The scales of justice may not be as perfectly balanced as he thought. When it was revealed each passenger on the train had a part in Ratchett’s death, he struggled with balancing the murder with the fact Ratchett received his due.
Leaders have to learn to live with imbalance. Deals will not go smoothly, people will have issues, and timelines will be thrown off.
Accept the imbalance and learn to live with it.
17. Great leaders set up future success:
As Hercule disembarked from the Orient Express, he was approached by another police officer. This officer told Hercule that another murder had been committed “right on the bloody Nile.”
What this little scene did was setup a sequel for Murder On The Orient Express.
Great leaders know their current success won’t last forever. So, what do they do?
They begin setting up for their next adventure, their next success. They continue to take the steps that helped them become successful in the first place and then additional steps for success in the future.
What are you doing to setup success for the future?