Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Bumblebee

A Reel Leadership Article

Today’s Reel Leadership article takes you back to 1980s… Well, not really but the movie featured in this article will. Bumblebee, the latest movie in the Transformers movie series, transports you back to the ’80s with an interesting story and fantastic visuals.

After 5 Michael Bay explosion fests, director Travis Knight, the director from Kubo And The Two Strings, gets things right. Bumblebee is the movie you and I, as Transformers fans, have longed for since the 1986 Transformers: The Movie premiered. The new Transformers Bumblebee is a prequel to the Michael Bay films. But better.

Leadership lessons from Transformers Bumblebee

There is a war raging on Cybertron. The Autobots are losing. And Bumblebee (Dylan O’Brien) is sent to Earth to prepare the way for the rest of the Autobots. Unfortunately, Bumblebee is damaged, loses his memory, and his ability to speak. This doesn’t stop the action, or leadership lessons, from coming your way.

Today, we’re going to look at the leadership lessons in Bumblebee the Movie and what you can take away from one of the better films of the year.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Bumblebee The Movie

1. People are waiting for you to step up:

Arcee (Grey Griffin), Wheeljack (Steve Blum), Brawn (Andrew Morgado), Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and other Autobots are battling the forces of the evil Decepticons on Cybertron. They’re struggling to win the battle.

Optimus Prime asks “Where is Bumblebee?” The leader of the Autobots was waiting for one of his team members to show up. That member is Bumblebee.

While Optimus Prime was waiting for a team member to show up, your team is waiting for you to show up. They want you to be there with them, standing shoulder to shoulder.

What are you waiting for? What’s stopping you for stepping up and leading? You need to settle into your role as a leader and begin leading like you should.

2. Optimus Prime:

We will fight on but we must find refuge first.

The Autobots were losing the fight. They were being overpowered by the Decepticons. And Optimus Prime recognized this.

Instead of fighting a losing battle, Optimus Prime began to formulate a plan. A plan of escape.

This plan wasn’t a plan of cowardice. Rather, the plan was to save the remaining Autobots so they could fight another day.

You may have been taught to never run from a fight. Or to never give up. However, leaders give up or run on a regular basis.

They know they have to take calculated risks and protect their team when needed. If the threat or challenge is too much, it is okay to retreat.

Retreating isn’t a sign of weakness. Retreating allows you to come back another day.

3. Rushing into things will get you hurt:

Danny (Edwin Hodge) was leading his team on a military training exercise. His team was charging into the wooded arena when Jack Burns’ (John Cena) team ambushed them.

Burns’ team slaughtered Danny’s team with a barrage of paintballs. Danny’s team never saw it coming.

His eagerness to accomplish the mission cost him and his team their “lives.”

You will be tempted to rush into business agreements with other organizations. Partnering with them will seem like a no-brainer. Still, you have to be willing to express caution and vet those you will work with.

If you don’t, you will find yourself in a world of hurt. You may realize the terms of the business agreement don’t align with your mission. Or business statistics were exaggerated.

Take your time when entering into partnerships in business. Your caution will be rewarded.

4. Charlie Watson (Hailee Steinfeld):

I prefer cash.

Ron (Stephen Schneider), Charlie’s step-father, offered to get her auto parts. Charlie didn’t want auto parts. She wanted cash to buy a car.

Charlie knew what she wanted. She wanted cold, hard cash. She didn’t want parts. And she wasn’t afraid to let her step-father know what she wanted.

As a leader, you have to be able to voice what you expect from your team. What you want from them.

Your team can’t read your mind. They can only read the information you’ve given them.

Are you letting your team know what you expect and desire from them? You need to. Start today.

5. Know what tools you and your team need:

Bill the Mechanic (Antonio D. Charity) was working at Charlie’s Uncle Hank’s (Len Cariou) junkyard. He was working on a vehicle and asked Charlie to pass him a 3/8th wrench.

Charlie asked if Bill was working on the carburetor. When he replied with an affirmative, she handed him a 1/2 inch wrench.

She knew what the proper tool was for the job at hand. She wasn’t afraid to let Bill know either.

Leading takes a lot of work to get right. One of the things leaders need to know is the tools their team members will need.

Your team members are all working on different projects. Each project will require specific tools you will need to help provide.

Don’t be stingy when your team members ask to be provided with the right tools. Giving them the proper tools will help them get the job done properly.

6. Your actions will have unintentional consequences:

One day, Charlie was out in the junkyard and discovered a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. She turned the car over and the radio turned on.

This sent a signal to Cliffjumper (Andrew Morgado) who was being beaten by two Decepticons: Shatter (Angela Bassett), a Plymouth Satellite, and Dropkick (Justin Theroux), a blue AMC Javelin. The two Decepticons were alerted to Bumblebee’s location and were done with Cliffjumper.

Charlie hadn’t meant to alert the enemy to Bumblebee’s location. It happened by accident. Yet her actions led to the Decepticons coming to earth. There were unintentional consequences for her actions.

You may have the best of intentions when you act as a leader. You believe you’re doing the best for the organization or your team. Then you realize your actions set off a chain of unintended consequences.


Life throws us curveballs. Our actions, however noble, will have consequences.

Be willing to live with the results and consequences of your actions. You won’t last long in leadership if you don’t.

7. Give gifts that matter:

Charlie’s mom, Sally (Pamela Adlon), and Ron were excited to give Charlie gifts for her 18th birthday. Sally gave Charlie a flower-covered helmet to use when she rode her powered bicycle. Ron gave Charlie a book called Smile to help her become more likable.

Both of these gifts were nice. But they weren’t right for Charlie. They also didn’t matter to her.

Instead, the gifts upset her. She felt like her parents didn’t understand her.

The gifts you give to your employees, customers, and vendors matter. You can’t give unthoughtful or cheap gifts to people. They will notice and it’ll impact their thoughts about you and your organization.

Rather, think about the customer, vendor, or employee.

What do they like? What matters to them?

Discovering these things will help you give a better gift. One that will leave a positive, rather than a negative, impression in their minds.

8. Seek to understand those on your team:

After receiving the VW Bug as a gift from her Uncle, Charlie drove the car home. She parked it and then began to look at the undercarriage. This is when she discovered the Beetle was more than meets the eye. The car had a face!

Bumblebee transformed. Then Charlie began to ask questions.

Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from?

All questions Charlie asked as she sought to understand what she brought into her house.

Do you seek to understand the people on your team? Or do you just hire them for their skills?

Leaders who seek to understand their team have a much more solid team than those who only expect their team to perform. This is because people want to be understood, not used.

Seek to understand the people you’ve hired. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll appreciate the hard work they reciprocate with.

9. Charlie:

Music can help you say what you’re feeling…

Bumblebee had his vocal ability ripped out by a Decepticon. He couldn’t speak. But he tried to communicate via songs on the radio.

Charlie realized Bumblebee was trying to do something as he changed the stations. She thought he was trying to say what he was feeling. She was right. Bumblebee was trying to communicate.

There are thought leaders out there who will tell you to get rid of all forms of entertainment (movies, music, television) as you grow. However, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you get rid of these forms of entertainment altogether. Especially music.

Music is something special. Music touches the soul and moves a person.

Go listen to a few songs today. Let the music seep into your soul. Use it to help communicate with those you lead. You’d be surprised at how they respond when they realize you like and listen to some of the same music they do.

10. Look for red flags:

The Decepticons tried to form an alliance with the military. They offered up their technology for the military’s help in tracking down Bumblebee.

Doctor Powell (John Ortiz) wanted the military to work with the Decepticons. He saw the upside. The technological advances they could make from working with them.

Agent Burns saw red flags. He believed the Decepticons weren’t being honest. They were going to use and abuse the military.

General Whalen (Glynn Turman) wavered back and forth as the three of them debated the merits of allowing the Decepticons access to the military’s technology. He finally relented but not before Agent Burns questioned the validity of it. After all, isn’t the name “Decepticon” a red flag?

You may want to hop into bed with another organization because of how good the organization looks. You’re so anxious for the benefits you miss the glaring red flags.

You miss the fact the company has been downsizing for years. Or you dismiss the missed payments and falling sales. Or you forget how they’ve treated you in the past.

All of these things can be red flags. Red flags you have to be aware of.

11. Leaders have to be willing to carry secrets:

Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) was Charlie’s neighbor. He also harbored a crush for her.

One day he works up the courage and knocks on the garage door. He then walks in and sees Bumblebee in his robot form. He freaks for a minute. Then calms down.

Because Memo had seen Bumblebee, Charlie knew she had to get him to agree to keep the secret. If he didn’t, she threatened to kill him.

Charlie took the holding of secrets to an extreme, and for good measure, you don’t have to threaten someone to keep the secrets a leader must keep. But you will be required to carry secrets along with people on your team.

You will be tasked with important information. This information may be the hiring or firing of team members or the financial state of the organization.

These are all secrets leaders have to carry. You can’t share everything with your team (and you know I’m a big proponent of being open and honest with business information).

12. Respect past leadership:

In a nod to the Transformers animated movie from the 1980s, Bumblebee bumped Charlie to jump him. She refused. This is when things got good… Bumblebee then played the song The Touch by Stan Bush.

Why is this paying respect to a past Transformers movie? Because The Touch was a crucial song in the original Transformers movie (and a darn good song, if you ask me).

This new Transformers movie knew the original animated movie deserved respect. So, Bumblebee paid respect to it’s predecessor.

You are not the first leader to lead. There have been plenty of leaders before you. Don’t forget to pay respect to those leaders.

Honor them by recalling their memory and sharing how their leadership impacted you. Give time for others on your team to tell how past leadership has positively impacted them.

Great leaders honor those who came before. Take a step towards being a great leader.

13. You can take things too far:

Memo, Charlie, and Bumblebee went to the home of a girl that had insulted Charlie. The plan was to TP the girl’s home and egg her car.

When Bumblebee failed to throw the toilet paper, Memo showed him how to egg the car. Bumblebee took things a step further.

He went to the car and smashed the eggs on the top of the vehicle. Then, he began to rub the eggs into the roof. Finally, he started to jump on and crush the car.

Uh oh! That’s no good. That’s too far!

It’s easy to get caught up in moments and take things too far. Be careful of what you’re doing and what lines you’re crossing.

14. Memo:

The darkest nights produces the brightest light.

Things may seem hopeless for you, your relationships, or your business. The skies are dark and you don’t know what to do. It’s the end, you think.

But these dark nights will often produce the brightest lights. They force you and your organization to become the best it can be.

Look for the light in the dark. It’ll be brighter than it ever has before.

15. Give people a mission and affirmation:

Otis (Jason Drucker) was Charlie’s younger brother. As she was getting ready to sneak out, Otis caught her. This could have gone one of two ways. Otis could have turned Charlie in or he could let her go. Because of Charlie’s quick thinking, she made the latter happen.

She talked with her younger brother and told him she needed help in making sure her mom and Ron didn’t know she was gone. She then preyed on his need for affirmation.

Otis was given a mission. He was told the mission. Then he was told how reliable he was. How he could get the job done and help Charlie.

Do you know what happened? Otis happily agreed to help his sister.

Want to get your team members to get things done? Give them two things.

You first give them a mission. You let them know what you need and what mission accomplished looks like.

Then you also give them affirmation. You let them know you see their potential and the skills they bring to the table.

Combining these two things will help you help your team.

16. Charlie:

This is the plan? I hate this plan!

The Decepticons had discovered a tower that would transmit the location of Bumblebee to the rest of the Decepticons. Bumblebee and Charlie went to stop them.

When they arrived, Bumblebee had a plan. The plan involved keeping Charlie safe by sticking her in a dumpster. Some plan, huh?

Not all plans are going to be pleasant for all team members. Some will appreciate the plans. Others will hate the plan.

Your job as a leader isn’t to get everybody to like the plan. Your job is to get people to follow the plan.

Question: Have you seen Bumblebee? If you have, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what leadership lessons from Bumblebee that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comment section below.

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