Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Bohemian Rhapsody

A Reel Leadership Article

There are classic stadium rock anthems everybody knows. Songs such as We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, or Another One Bites The Dust. These songs are played in sports arenas across the country.

The members of Queen were masters at crafting songs that have lasted through generations. Members Farrokh Bulsara, stage named Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) have given millions of fans something to sing along to.

Rami Malek as Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury

They also left a great story. There’s fame and fortune. Tragedy and death. Love and hate. Queen and the Freddie Mercury movie Bohemian Rhapsody, share a story unlike any other.

Whether or not you know the music of Queen (and you’ll know at least a few of their tunes), you will enjoy the two-plus hour movie detailing the rise and fall of a rock legend. You’ll also walk away from Bohemian Rhapsody with a wealth of leadership lessons.

Let’s look at the leadership lessons in Bohemian Rhapsody in the latest Reel Leadership article.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Bohemian Rhapsody

1. Be grateful for those you lead:

Bohemian Rhapsody opened with a special message to viewers. They broadcasted a thank you to everyone watching the movie.

This was really cool. The cast and crew behind Bohemian Rhapsody knew the movie wouldn’t be a success without movie-goers.

They went out of their way to send a message to those watching the movie. We got it loud and clear. They were grateful for our butts being in the seats.

Great leaders are grateful for their team members. They know they wouldn’t be successful without a great team behind them.

This weekend, I was reminded of this while our church was at Michigan Youth Convention. The youth pastor of our church, Bruce Harrier, purchased a goodie basket for each youth leader overseeing students for the weekend.

He was grateful for those serving under him. His message was received loud and clear. He was thankful for us.

Send a special message to your team. Let them know you appreciate all of the hard work they do.

2. Freddie Mercury:

Well then, you’ll need someone to replace him.

The band Smile was playing at a local club and Freddie had gone to see them. He searched for them and found two of the band members in the alley. There, he learned the lead singer, Tim Staffell (Jack Roth), had left the band for bigger and better opportunities.

The remaining members told Freddie thanks for liking them and thinking of songs for them. However, the band was no more.

Freddie wouldn’t have any of that and saw the opportunity to join the band. He offered up himself as the new lead singer of Queen.

What do you see when troubles come your way? Is there an opportunity or defeat?

The way you look at your situation is often the way the situation will go. You can look for the positive. Or you can look for the negative. Whatever you see, you will get.

3. Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton):

I love your style. I think we should take more risks.

Freddie had run into Mary at the Smile concert. He learned she worked at a West London boutique and went there shortly after the concert.

He pulled a pair of pants off of the rack and asked if they had them in his size. When she replied they were women’s clothes, he tried to save face.

This is when Mary does something amazing. She responds she likes Freddie’s style and believes people should take more risks.

What risks are you taking in your organization? Leaders become paralyzed with fear of screwing up. They believe the risks are no longer worth taking.

However, risks bring large rewards. They allow you to discover new avenues of revenue or to bring new customers into your business.

Don’t be risk-averse. Risks can be your greatest asset.

4. Be a freak:

The band originally criticized Freddie’s teeth. After he offered to become the new lead singer of Smile, Roger Taylor and Brian May told him “Not with those teeth.”

Freddie had a comeback. His response was: “I was born with four additional incisors. More space in my mouth means more range.”

He knew his freak factor, as David Rendall would saw, was his advantage. Because of the extra teeth, he had more vocal range than the average person. His freak factor allowed him to be able to sing in a variety of keys.

Everyone has a freak factor. Something that people see as a weakness but can be used as a strength.

You’ve probably been hiding your freak factor. I used to.

For me, my freak factor was my love of TV, movies, and comics while trying to find my way in the leadership world. So many thought and business leaders say you have to forsake entertainment. Get rid of the TV. Or stop reading fiction.

When I finally got tired of living a lie, my freak factor elevated the work I was doing. I began using movies and television to share insights into leadership. Entertainment wasn’t the enemy people were saying it was. Instead, it became a tool to teach.

Find your freak factor. Then let your freak flag fly.

5. Think bigger:

The members of Queen were talking about the state of the band. They were selling out the small pubs around London. They felt stuck.

This is when Freddie Mercury offered up a suggestion. Queen had to think bigger. They needed to record an album.

Recording an album brought new attention to Queen. They soon began touring around the world and selling out stadiums.

Thinking bigger means you have to look outside of your current situation. You have to look past what you’re already doing. And you have to look at what you could be doing.

Look for new ways to promote your organization. Find people who might not be your target customer but could benefit from the work you do.

By thinking bigger, you get to play bigger.

6. John Reid (Aidan Gillen):

So, tell me, what makes Queen different from all the other want to be rockstars I meet?

One of the record executives wanted to know what made Queen so different from all of the other aspiring rockstars he’d met in the past. His question wasn’t wrong. It was a great question to ask.

John ran into a lot of wannabes. People who thought they were good or brought something new to the table. He’s seen it all.

By asking this question, he allowed the members of Queen to tell him what made them special. They answered the question and the next thing you know, they’re out making albums and touring.

Do you know what makes you or your organization special? By asking yourself and answering this question, you can clearly define what makes you unique.

This gives you an advantage over others. So many people and organizations are confused as to who they are or what they offer. Get clear on who you are and what you do.

7. Your best opportunity may be right in front of you:

Tim Staffell left Smile because he didn’t see the band making it big. He’d left them to go tour with a band called Humpy Bong.

I’d never heard of Humpy Bong before Bohemian Rhapsody. My guess is you haven’t heard of Humpy Bong either.

But you’ve all heard of Queen. Their songs are still played at sports stadiums around the world.

Are you considering making a move to another organization because an opportunity is presenting itself and you feel like the organization you’re at has no potential? You may want to reconsider taking the plunge (I’m not advocating you always stay at a stagnant organization).

You may be on the cusp of something great. The breakthrough may not have happened yet but it is about to.

8. Jim “Miami” Beach (Tom Hollander)

Fortune favors the bold.

Ray Foster (Mike Myers), a record executive, couldn’t see the possibility of creating a 6-minute song. He believed the song to be too long and no radio station would ever play it.

Queen had created such a song: Bohemian Rhapsody. They put so much effort into creating something special. Yet the record executive wouldn’t have any of it.

They knew they had something that would change the music world. So did their lawyer Jim Beach. Queen stood their ground and walked away.

What bold steps are you taking in your business? Are you willing to step out of the confines you’ve placed your business in and do something no one else has done?

Like Jim Beach said, fortune favors the bold.

9. Know when to walk out:

There was a lot of back and forth between Ray and Queen. Ray wanted You’re My Best Friend as the single for the new Queen album. Queen wouldn’t budge on Bohemian Rhapsody.

When they couldn’t come to an agreement, Queen chose to walk out. They left Ray and his record label over this dispute.

You’ll be challenged as a leader. There will be times when you feel like you’re unappreciated, underpaid, or taken advantage of. You’ll feel like walking out and never going back.

Most of the time, you’ll stick around. You won’t quit.

Yet there are times when you need to walk out. When you need to quit.

Know the right time to walk away. To say “I’m done.”

10. Don’t be a prick:

Freddie Mercury liked to through big parties. During one such party, Freddie was being a prick to his bandmates.

The other members of Queen decided to leave the party. They didn’t want to be around Freddie when he was a jerk.

Being a prick hurts people. Your attitude can either attract or repel your friends and business associates.

Be aware of your attitude. Be aware of how you’re treating others. And know your attitude will impact how others see you.

11. Get people involved:

Why has Queen become such an iconic band? They knew how to get people involved in their music.

Brian May was interested in creating a song the audience members could be a part of. He wanted a song people could sing along to and be an “instrument” in the song. This song became We Will Rock You.

The audience members sing. They clap their hands. And they stomp their feet. They are part of the song.

What are you doing to get your team members and customers to feel like they’re a part of your organization? What can you do to make them feel that way?

Figure out how to get your team and customers to feel they are a part of what you’re doing. They’ll stick around.

12. John Reid:

You’re firing the wrong snake, Freddie. You’ll regret it.

Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) told John he should be the one to tell Freddie a record label wanted him to leave Queen and do a solo album. When John Reid gave Freddie the information, Freddie fired John Reid.

John was shocked. He tried to talk sense into Freddie, telling him Paul knew about this. Paul played dumb and allowed John to be fired.

This all came back to bite Freddie. Everything began to spiral downward after this.

He lost his band. He lost his friends. And he lost his health.

Leaders have to be careful who they enter into business relationships with. These relationships will help or hinder you. I’ve seen trouble arise many times from bad business relationships.

Be careful who you partner with. Their influence over you may be more harmful than good.

13. Get your act together:

Queen has many iconic songs. One of those is Another One Bites The Dust. The bass riff will get you bobbing your head and singing along.

Brian May was shown strumming the iconic bass riff for the song. Freddie walks in and says the riff is good. Brian retorts with “It would be good if the band got their stuff together.”

Organizations will struggle when people don’t have their stuff together. Personal problems, relationship problems, financial problems… They all add a layer of complexity to an organization.

Each person brings their own baggage to work. Working through the garbage is the only way to have an effective organization.

Help your team to work through their problems. Offer up solutions. You might even be willing to offer counseling services or a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course to your team members.

Find ways to help people to get their act together. Especially if it’s you that needs to do so.

14. Brian May:

You need us, Freddie… More than you know.

How sad it was to hear Brian say this to Freddie. Freddie had broken the news to the Queen band members of the solo deal. This upset them and Freddie was ready to leave the band.

However, Brian knew Freddie had to hear the Bohemian Rhapsody quote above. Freddie needed the band. They were a family and they were helping him stay afloat mentally.

You need the people you work with. They’re an important aspect of the success you’ve achieved. And sometimes they’re an emotional support system you can count on.

Be aware of who you’re pushing out of your life. They may be the very people you need.

15. Be careful of the company you keep:

Paul became Freddie’s lover and an important part of his life. Unfortunately, Paul wasn’t good for Freddie.

Paul was looking out for himself. He wanted to use Freddie to gain influence and wealth. And he would do things to hurt Freddie in the long term.

There were secrets kept. Opportunities that could have benefited Freddie were hidden.

Mary had called to touch base with Freddie. Freddie was invited back to Queen for the Live AID benefit concert to end the famine in Africa.

Paul wanted Freddie for himself and wouldn’t let Freddie accept the opportunities. He turned them down or outright lied about them.

You have to be careful about the company you keep. I already touched on this earlier but it’s something that bears repeating.

The company you keep can harm you.

16. Everyone has a void in their life:

Freddie Mercury was looking for something in his life. He filled it with rock and roll. He filled it with sex and drugs. He filled with success.

None of these things ever filled the void he had in his life. He was still empty.

You have a void in your life. You may be trying to fill the void with similar things.

Fame, fortune, success. These all seem like good things. They’re often touted as the best things. Yet they’re not.

Material and temporal things will not fill the void in your life. But there is One thing that will fill the void.

If you’d like to know more about the One, feel free to send me a message.

17. Leaders own their mistakes:

Freddie called the members of Queen together for a meeting. He wanted to admit his mistakes to the band members. He wanted to ask for forgiveness.

There were plenty of mistakes made by Freddie Mercury. He’d burned bridges with his friends and bandmates. But he knew he needed to own his mistakes and make them as right as he could.

When you make mistakes, are you willing to own up to them? Are you willing to go to those you’ve hurt and say you’re sorry?

Great leaders do this. They are willing to say they were wrong and then ask for forgiveness.

18. Great teams push back against the leader:

After Freddie Mercury had left Queen, he hired other musicians to play songs he’d written. They were good musicians. But they weren’t the team of Queen.

These musicians would do exactly what Freddie had told them to do. They’d give him what he’d ask.

The result? Nothing close to the great music Queen had produced.

The pushback Brian, Roger, and John gave Freddie made the music better. Their feedback improved the music.

Great leaders allow their teams to push back against what they’re saying. They’re open to listening to what could make their business decisions better. They know they don’t know everything.

Allow your team members to push back against your ideas. Allow them to share what could make them better.

19. Bomi Bulsara (Ace Bhatti):

Good words. Good thoughts. Good deeds.

Bomi Bulsara was Freddie Mercury’s father. He shared those words with him before Freddie formed Queen. Those words stuck with Freddie until his death.

I believe these are words all leaders could live by. Leaders need to use good words. Leaders need to have good thoughts. And leaders need to do good deeds.

Be a leader who embodies these words.

Question: Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? If you have, share the leadership lessons you took away from this Freddie Mercury biopic. If you haven’t seen the movie, what leadership lessons from Bohemian Rhapsody that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comment section below.

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