This weekend is a huge one at the box office. Many moviegoers and critics are calling it the Barbenheimer weekend. What does Barbenheimer mean?
Two big movies are releasing. The first is Margot Robbie’s Barbie. The second is Christopher Nolan’s biography, Oppenheimer.
Never fear Reel Leaders, you won’t have to choose whether to see one, the other, or both. We’re bringing you Reel Leadership lessons on both of these movies.
The first, Barbie.
Barbie surprised me. It’s a much deeper movie than one would suspect. It tackles subjects such as how we treat one another, our relationships with parents, and how we view ourselves.
It’s deep. And it’s good. It may be one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year long as well.
So, let’s dive into the leadership lessons in Barbie!
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Barbie
1. We can all be something else:
The movie opened with Helen Mirren’s voice as the Narrator. She shares with us how dolls have always existed. They showed young girls they could be mothers because the dolls were little babies. And that was about it.
Then the Barbie doll was created.
Girls had more options now. They could play with a Barbie doll who was a doctor, astronaut, scientist, and more. Their options were limitless.
I want to encourage you. You can be so much more.
Whether you’re a regular employee trying to figure out what’s next or the CEO of an organization. You don’t have to stay there. You can change, you can do more, and you can be something else.
Don’t let your current state hold you back.
Barbie has a great day every day but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him.
The Narrator continues on about the life of Barbie. She mentions how Barbie has a great day every day. There’s nothing that stops her. She’s always happy and smiling.
Meanwhile, there’s Ken (Ryan Gossling). His happiness comes from one thing: Barbie’s attention.
This creates the drama and tension in the Barbie movie. Ken’s desire to be noticed and cared for drives him to do something drastic…
We have to be cautious of looking at others for our validation. It’s an easy trap to fall into as we want to be noticed, recognized, and honored. It feels like it is a desire engrained in our hearts.
Yet it is a dangerous desire.
Break free of the wrongful desire of looking for affirmation in others. This desire will cause you to act against your, and others, best interests.
3. There’s more to the world than your world:
Barbieland was a picturesque world for the Barbies (Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, Ritu Arya, Dua Lipa, Nicola Coughlan). Everything was perfect. They didn’t realize the real world had real problems.
Their focus was so inward-focused they couldn’t see there were others out there. The people in the real world had struggles, challenges, and desires that weren’t being fulfilled. The Barbies were okay because their needs were met.
I found this to be profound. They did this subtly and with tact. Director and writers Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach explodes this thought upon us as Barbie begins to have an existential crisis of identity.
Leaders can become so focused on their world. Not their organization but their world. Their family life, friendship circle, and more become the central focus.
They think everything is excellent. Their paycheck is fat, the people around them are happy, and more.
What isn’t great? Their employees are miserable because they can’t pay rent. There’s trouble brewing because customers are unhappy with how they’re treated. Or there might be something more sinister brewing.
Open your eyes and heart to the people around you. You’ll discover life is about more than you. The people and organizations in your life matter. Make sure you’re treating them with respect, dignity, and care.
4. Know who to go to for help:
With Barbie experiencing strange thoughts and feelings (she cried!), she knew she had to get help. She talked with other Barbies who helped her know who to go to.
Barbie had to go to Weird Barbie. Weird Barbie was the rejected Barbie who had been overplayed with by her owner. She was permanently in the split position, had markers on her face, and more.
Yet, Weird Barbie understood what was happening. Barbie’s owner was going through a major issue and she had to find and help her.
I think about Weird Barbie and I think about some of the mentors I’ve had in my life. Some of those men and women would be considered weird. Still, these people poured into my life and helped me overcome difficult situations.
More importantly, they were people who were willing to help me out.
You need to have mentors and a sounding board for your life and leadership. You need people who will help you understand the challenges you’re going through and how you can get through them.
Discover who you can go to for help. You may discover these people by volunteering in organizations with high-caliber people, talking to coworkers or other leaders, or reading books. Look for ways to get to know the people you need to know!
5. Leaders need to listen to their ground-level employees:
The higher up in an organization you go, the easier it is to reject the voice of your employees. We see this when Aaron Dinkins (Connor Swindells) gets a call from Dan at the FBI (Ray Fearon). Dan is calling to inform Mattel (the maker of Barbie) that two dolls have left Barbieland and entered the real world.
Aaron rushes into an executive meeting to tell the Mattel CEO (Will Ferrell) of the problem. The Mattel CEO tells Aaron to send him an email with the message. Aaron fights back and insists that he deliver the message now.
Eventually, the Mattel CEO relents. He tells Aaron he can deliver the message through a whisper. A whisper is like the communication game telephone. Thankfully, the message was delivered and the Mattel executive team was about to jump into inept action.
The ground-level employees often get pushed to the side. Their input and voice are “not needed” by the leadership of organizations.
This is wrong thinking.
Who has the best understanding of your organization? Those who are in the thick of it day in and day out. Stop ignoring those on the ground level. Let them speak up, listen to them, and act on their input.
You’ll discover they offer invaluable insight!
6. Our actions can produce the opposite of our desires:
Barbie and Ken made it to the real world. Barbie went looking for her owner. She found the girl, Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), who she thought was her owner at school (It was really Sasha’s mother, Gloria, played by America Ferrera).
Barbie begins to talk with her and her friends. Sasha let Barbie have it.
Sasha tells Barbie that she hasn’t been empowering women all these years. Instead, Barbie has made girls feel self-conscious and horrible.
The existence of Barbie was the complete opposite of what she had thought.
We have to be aware of the results of our actions. We may desire to do good; we may even think we’re doing good.
But, if the results aren’t good, we’re not doing good.
Do regular check-ins to see how your actions are impacting others and the organization. You might be surprised that you’re causing harm!
7. Disenfranchised people will revolt:
Ken felt belittled. He felt Barbie ignored him, abused him, and more (Barbie was an interesting movie as it took how women have regularly been treated and had the victims be men. It’s a stunning satire of how poorly women have been treated).
After visiting the real world, Ken returned to Barbieland even more bitter and hurt. He decided he would overthrow Barbie and make Barbieland into Kendom.
His disenfranchisement with how things were done caused him and the other Kens (Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, Scott Evans, John Cena) to take over the Barbie Dreamhouses and make them into the ultimate bachelor pads.
I want to caution you. The way you treat people will have a direct result on the way they treat you and others. If they feel disenfranchised or voiceless, they will make it known in a manner that is not constructive.
Work on making sure you’re hearing and understanding what those you lead are trying to tell you. They’re speaking. You have to listen.
8. Comparison is a leadership killer:
Being in the real world, Barbie began to compare herself with others. Despite her beauty, Barbie felt she wasn’t worth much.
She saw herself as not pretty, smart, or on the Supreme Court. In her mind, she held no value because she was comparing herself to others.
Beware of the comparison trap. Comparison will tell you that you don’t matter, your skills are not up to snuff, or you’re not contributing as much as someone else.
Catch yourself before this trap destroys your ability to lead.
9. Ideas never die:
Barbie discovers Ruth (Rhea Perlman) in a room at the Mattel headquarters. She has a sip of tea with her and then escapes. Eventually, she meets Ruth again.
Ruth wasn’t just some woman in a room. Barbie later discovers Ruth is the creator of Barbie. She’s her creator.
They discuss the meaning of Barbie. Barbie discovers the point of Barbie was to have no end to what she could do. She would evolve and continue to be.
There was no end to Barbie because she was an idea.
Think of all the ideas that you’ve had. These ideas have no end. They’ll continue on long past the time that you’re gone.
Make your ideas matter.
10. Ruth Handler:
We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come.
Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, shared this quote during the movie. It’s powerful. It’s true.
So many mothers have stood still so future generations can see how far they’ve come. And they have.
The same goes for leaders. While constantly moving forward, there’s a sense of standing still so the new generation of leaders can see how far they’ve come.
Leadership is about more than you. Leadership is about the progress you’re making for others.
Want more Reel Leadership related to Barbenheimer? Read the leadership lessons from Oppenheimer.