Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Bad Boys For Life

A Reel Leadership Article

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return to their roles as Detective Mike Lowrey and Detective Marcus Burnett (respectively). Their dangerous, brash style of police work is back again after an almost 17-year absence.

Lowrey and Burnett are Miami police officers who have to deal with new problems than they’re used to. Burnett wants to retire and take care of his family. Lowrey is still caught up in the flash and style of Miami. An old flame of Lowrey’s reappears and may be the death of him. And then there’s something Lowrey did 24 years ago that changed his life forever.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys For Life

Whether you’re a fan of the original Bad Boys or haven’t seen the previous two movies (you can purchase them on Amazon), there’s something in Bad Boys For Life for every viewer. You might enjoy the flashy cars, the fashion statements, or the way Burnett loves his family.

Not only will you find those things in Bad Boys For Life, but you will also find plenty of Reel Leadership lessons in Bad Boys For Life.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Bad Boys For Life

1. Be careful not to send mixed messages:

Lowrey and Burnett are racing down the roads of Maimi. There are police cars behind them. You think it is an epic police chase.

Burnett tells Lowrey to slow down. He’s going too fast… Then Burnett tells Lowrey to speed up. He’s going too slow…

Which is it? Lowrey wants to know.

Burnett was telling Lowrey two different things. He was sending mixed messages.

We can send messages to our team. We don’t realize this but we are.

First, we tell them the customer is the most important thing. Then we tell our team members they are the most important thing. And then we do something completely different that shows them neither are the most important thing.

Our messages are mixed. We don’t think about the message when we deliver it.

Be aware of what message you’re sending to your team. Is it matching with what you said before? Could something be misconstrued?

A mixed message will hurt your team.

2. Marcus Burnett:

Mike and I are going on 25 years serving these streets. I’d like to think we’ve made a difference.

Burnett gave a touching message about the time they’ve spent working the streets of Miami. Burnett and Lowrey have poured their lives into protecting the city.

What did Burnett want? He wanted to have made a difference.

Leaders want to make a difference, too. They want to know their life work has been for something more than themselves. They want to know things changed because of them.

I know you feel the same way. You want to make a difference. You want there to have been change from all the work you have done.

You can assure this by doing what is right. By not sitting idly by. And by staying on mission.

3. Gang member:

Stay calm.

Armando Armas (Jacob Scipio) had killed the leader of a gang in Miami. Another gang member sees this and begins to tell people to stay calm.

While the gang member is a bad guy, he does help us understand a valuable leadership lesson. He helps us to understand we must stay calm in the face of chaos.

What do you do when things go awry? Do you freak out? Do you hide? Or do you stay calm?

Leaders need to stay calm when bad things begin to happen. The ability to stay calm will help you help your team.

If a team sees their leader freaking out, they will begin to freak out. If they see their leader remain calm, there’s a good chance they will stay calm.

Help your team by keeping a level head and staying calm.

4. Know what kind of legacy you want to leave:

Burnett was going through a mid-life crisis. His daughter, Meagan Burnett (Bianca Bethune), recently had a baby. He was tired of chasing bad guys.

All he wanted to do was settle down and enjoy the rest of his life.

Lowrey, on the other hand, wanted to keep up the playboy antics and rough up the bad guys. He wasn’t slowing down. He also wasn’t building a legacy.

Burnett knew what he wanted. He knew he wanted to leave a positive legacy for his grandson. Lowrey didn’t know what he wanted.

Your role as a leader will only last for so long. At some point, you will no longer be the leader of your organization or organizational unit. You will retire or move on.

What you have to determine before that time is what you want your legacy to be. What you want to be remembered for.

Do you know what you want your legacy will be? Are you proud of it? You get to decide by the way you lead.

5. Shame keeps us away:

Lowrey had been shot by Armando. He was laid up in the hospital and they didn’t know if he would survive (of course, we the viewers, knew he would).

Burnett went to the chapel. There, he prayed for the first time in some time. He told God he hadn’t been in the church because he felt ashamed of the things he had done.

The shame Burnett felt kept him away from a holy place.

Leaders feel shame too. We feel shame over making the wrong hire. We feel shame for making a bad business decision. And we feel shame for failing to recognize the struggles a team member is going through.

These feelings of shame will stop us from being the leaders we were called to be. Realize we all make mistakes. We can all move past these mistakes or hurtful decisions.

Put the feelings of shame to the side. Step into confidence and step into the lives of those you lead.

6. Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano):

Have you talked to your partner?

Captain Howard was the captain of Lowrey and Burnett. Lowrey had gone to the captain to get information about his shooting.

The captain knew he needed more than information. He needed to reconcile with his partner.

Talking is the last thing most leaders want to do. Most leaders would prefer to take action.

What we need most, sometimes, is to talk to those around us.

We need to talk to other leaders. We need to talk to our team members. And we need to talk to our families.

If you find yourself not talking enough or to the right people, correct that. You can make things right.

7. People care about you:

Rita (Paola Nuñez) was an old flame of Lowrey’s. They had broken up but they both continued to work for the Miami police department.

After Lowrey was shot, Rita pressed Lowrey on whether or not he was fully healed. She went as far as to press on his stomach. As she did this, Lowrey winced in pain.

She discovered he wasn’t healed. He wasn’t ready to go back.

Why did she do this? Rita pressed and pushed Lowrey because she cared about him.

There are people in your life who are your Rita’s. These are the people who care about you.

You may not think they care. You may think they’re insensitive or rude because of the questions they ask.

Do you know why they’re asking you these questions? It is because they care.

People care about you. Don’t keep pushing them out of your life.

8. Ego is your enemy:

Lowrey had been known as bulletproof. In all his years in law enforcement, he had never been shot.

When Armando shot him, his legend changed. He was no longer bulletproof. He was just another police officer.

This hurt Lowrey’s ego. He had loved the legend. He played it up. Now, he couldn’t.

What’s your ego look like? Does your ego puff you up? Does it bring you down?

Having a puffed-up ego will cause you nothing but trouble as you lead. You won’t be able to listen to the advice of others. Hearing you did something wrong will wreck you. Or maybe it’s the fact you lost a star team member.

Our egos will tell us we’re better than we are. It will tell us we’re better than those we lead.

Kill your ego. Your ego is your enemy.

9. Know your why:

Burnett had told Lowrey he wasn’t going to be a “Bad Boy” again. Those days were behind him. Then something changed.

Captain Howard was gunned down by Armando. He passed away. This gave Burnett a why to return to the force.

Having and knowing your why will help you lead better. You will have a clear direction on the reason behind what you’re doing.

Dig into your why. Discover why you want to lead or are leading.

Your why will guide you and gird you in the difficult times of leadership.

10. Marcus Burnett:

All our lives we’ve been bad boys. Not it’s time to be good men.

While this quote from Bad Boys For Life elicited a chuckle from the audience in our theater, I couldn’t help but be struck by the profoundness of the quote.

Burnett finally realized it was time for them to grow up. The boys had to become men. It’s the natural way of life.

Those stepping into a leadership role must realize this as well. There is a time for childish things. There’s a time to be a boy. Then there’s a time to be a man, a leader.

Put those childish things behind you. You’ve taken on a new role, a new responsibility. It’s time to be the leader you were created to be.

11. A bad leader can become a good leader:

Lowrey discovers Armando wasn’t a random street thug gunning for him. Armando is Lowrey’s child from his relationship with Isabel Aretas (Kate del Castillo).

He never knew this because he had helped put Isabel behind bars. He had worked an operation where he was deep undercover and had an affair with her.

When it came time to arrest her, she went to jail and had Armando behind bars. She never revealed this because of the betrayal she felt from Lowrey.

Armando had been the one killing people in Bad Boys For Life. He also made a dramatic turn when he helped Lowrey save the life of Burnett.

You may think there’s no hope for a bad team member or a bad leader. They’ve made their choice and they have to suffer the consequences.

Be careful about thinking this way. There are many times a bad leader or team member can redeem themselves. They can turn from being the worst leader you’ve known to an amazing leader.

Question: If you’ve watched Bad Boys For Life, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what Reel Leadership lessons from Bad Boys For Life that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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