Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Brightburn

The best way to describe the movie Brightburn is this: Imagine a world where Clark Kent didn’t choose a path of good and becomes Superman. Instead, he chooses a path of selfishness. He chooses to use his powers to get what he wants.

The story is similar to Superman. A young couple, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman), are struggling with infertility. They long to have a child. Their house is filled with infertility books.

Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer in Brightburn

One night, Tori hears a loud crash outside of their home. The couple discovers a crashed spacecraft with a young baby inside (sounds a lot like Superman, right?). They raise the baby like he was their own child.

This child, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), feels a pull to the spacecraft hidden in the Breyer’s barn. Soon, Brandon realizes he’s not like other people. He has superhuman strength, eyes that can shoot lasers, and he can fly.

Now, he knows he has these powers. What will he do with them? He will have his way.

This is Brightburn.

There were no real heroes in Brightburn. The superhuman turned out to be evil. No one could stop him.

You may think there are no Reel Leadership lessons in Brightburn because of this. I’d say you’re wrong. When I see examples of negative leadership played out over and over again, I think of the story of two boys who had a father who was a criminal.

One son follows in his father’s footsteps and lands himself behind bars. When asked why he became a criminal, he said “My dad is a criminal. What choice did I have?” The other son was a successful businessman. He ran multiple companies and was considered a success. When this man was asked about his success, he said “How couldn’t I? I saw what crime did to my father. What choice did I have?”

When we see negative leadership played out, we can choose to see the examples laid out before us as a warning. This is also Brightbburn.

We’re going to examine leadership from multiple angles in this movie. Some will be positive examples of leadership. Others will be negative. Both will be Reel Leadership.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Brightburn

1. Things that look alike can be quite different:

Brandon’s teacher asked her class what the differences between a bee and a wasp were. Brandon spoke up and began spouting off all of the differences.

While a bee and a wasp can look similar, there are many differences. You have to look to see those differences but they are there.

Good leaders and bad leaders can look alike. That’s scary. It’s also confusing.

When you look at a good leader and a bad leader, you may see someone who:

  • Is taking the organization forward
  • Gets things done
  • Motivates people
  • Receives recognition

Take a deeper look. You’ll see things are different. The way they obtain these things is not the same.

  • The good leader moves the organization forward through honesty and goodwill. The bad leader moves the organization forward through lies and deceit
  • How does a good leader get things done? He inspires them to do their best work. He shows them why they should do great work. A bad leader does the opposite. He strikes fear into those he leads. He uses fear to push people to work harder.
  • When a good leader motivates people, he does it through uplifting words. He knows being kind and speaking to people’s strengths will help them become motivated. The bad leader? He yells and screams. He chooses to belittle those he leads and motivates through the fear of losing their job.
  • A good leader receives recognition because of the hard work he puts in. The results he receives from the team shows of his commitment and desire to see the organization thrive. There are multiple ways a bad leader can receive recognition. He may lie and cheat to be seen as a great leader. He may use fear to have people say good things about him. Whatever recognition the bad leader receives, it is through force or coercion.

2. Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter):

Don’t worry, smart guys wind up owning the planet.

Caitlyn is one of Brandon’s classmates. She tries to be positive towards Brandon when he is ridiculed by his classmates for being a know-it-all.

The truth she spoke to Brandon is powerful. Smart guys are often mocked when they are young. They are made to feel awkward.

But, if they continue the path they’re on, there’s a good chance they’ll wind up owning their own business or running another company. This is what happens to many smart people.

So, don’t worry if people make fun of you because you love to read or learn. You’re a smart one. You’ll go far in life.

3. You won’t always know what to do as a leader:

Kyle confided in his son something many parents are hesitant to do. He told Brandon that he had no clue what to do when he and Tori adopted Brandon. He was at a loss.

This didn’t stop Tori and Kyle from doing their best to raise Brandon. They put their all into raising him. They put aside their fear. And they did their best.

You will run into challenges you’ve never encountered before as you lead. You’ll feel lost and, maybe, like a failure.

Don’t let this fear of not knowing what to do next stop you from leading. You can get through these challenging times.

There are multiple things you can do to get through these unknown times. You can:

  • Seek out a mentor
  • Fake it until you make it
  • Read a book
  • Attend a seminar

Look for ways to gain the knowledge to get through what you don’t know. You can do it.

4. Kyle Breyer:

I worry about him.

Kyle noticed his son was changing. When his brother-in-all, Noah McNichol (Matt Jones), purchased a gun for Brandon, Kyle freaked out.

He wasn’t letting his son have a gun. Not because he thought guns should be outlawed. He believed his son’s behavior.

Kyle recognized something wasn’t right. He worried about his son. He had a right to do so.

Hopefully, you’ll never have to encounter an angry employee with a gun. However, you will, more than likely, encounter an employee with mental issues.

You will have team members that need you to worry about them. They will have issues you won’t be able to help with. But you can help just by being there or referring them to someone who can help.

Don’t let the things you recognize and worry about go unacted upon. You’re worried for a reason.

5. Leaders can live in denial:

Tori wasn’t the best leader. She had an undying trust in Brandon. She wouldn’t believe the truth right in front of her.

Brandon killed their chickens. He did it quickly and quietly but he did it.

Kyle was willing to live in the truth. Tori lived in denial.

As a leader, you can easily hide from the truth. Denial is a much easier route.

There are multiple reasons for this. You may not want to admit you made a bad hire. Or you think just one more coaching session will make things better.

There’s a time to believe the best. There’s also a time to stop living in denial and face the truth.

6. Brandon Breyer:

Who am I?

Brandon wasn’t like other kids. He began to realize this.

As he did, he began to have questions. He wanted to know who he was.

Isn’t that like all of us? We realize we’re not like others. We’re all unique.

But who are we?

We all need to ask ourselves this question. More importantly, we need to figure out who we are.

7. The truth can be painful:

When Brandon was told he had been found in an alien spaceship, he lost it. He freaked out on his parents. He was hurting.

The truth sent Brandon reeling. He wasn’t who he thought he was. He was something different.

What did this mean for him? How can he deal with it? All of this added up to enormous pain.

When faced with the truth, you may be hurt. The truth can be multiple things:

  • A trusted employee has stolen from you
  • You made a mistake that damage the reputation of the organization you lead
  • Someone found your dark, hidden secret and exposed it

Truth isn’t easy to deal with. Truth brings pain. It can also bring healing.

Don’t let truth destroy you. Use the light of truth to expose the dark things in your life and begin to fix them.

8. Bad leaders use their power inappropriately:

The way Brandon used his powers was grossly inappropriate. He tried to take advantage of one of his classmates. He killed her mother. He killed multiple other people.

The destruction Brandon brought upon the town of Brightburn, Kansas was massive. It was also an inappropriate use of his powers


This is often what happens when the wrong person is chosen to lead. They get power hungry and choose to use their powers for their own benefit.

Watch out for people and leaders like this.

9. What we believe is a gift isn’t always a good gift:

The Breyers thought Brandon was an answer to their prayers. They had their baby. He was a gift.

In the end, Brandon was their death. The gift wasn’t a good gift.

What you desire may not be what you need. The gift that’s placed in front of you may not be the good gift it appears to be.

Question: Have you seen Brightburn? If you have, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what leadership lessons from Brightburn that I shared resonated with you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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