Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Elemental

My latest book, Reel Leadership, is now available on Amazon. If you love movies and leadership, you will love this book.

While the movie Elemental has struggled to find its footing, I found this Disney/Pixar outing a joy to watch. It was touching to show an immigrant’s struggle to find their place in a new land only to see their child struggle. They captured the essence of the push and pull between parents and their children.

So, what is Elemental? Elemental is set in the fictional Elemental City. There, fire, water, land, and air residents come together and live. It’s a strange city as not all the residents, namely fire residents, can safely interact with one another.

Ember and Wade sitting next to each other at a table. Wade looks excited.

Ember (Leah Lewis) is the daughter of fire residents Bernie (Ronnie Del Carmen) and Cinder (Shila Ommi). She has a fierce temper, often exploding (literally) when she becomes upset. 

As a fire element, she causes destruction when she explodes. This causes even more issues when she is trusted to run the store on the day of a big sale. She loses her temper and causes the piping in her father’s shop to leak.

All of this leads to her meeting Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie). He’s a water element. As you can guess, water and fire don’t mix. 

Well… At least not at first.

This story lends itself to pulling in leadership lessons and growing from them. The director, Peter Sohn, definitely had an agenda behind the movie. You’ll enjoy yourself and develop your leadership abilities when you watch Elemental. 

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Elemental

1. Organizations are made up of different types of people:

Elemental starts with the arrival of Bernie and Cinder. These fire elements had never been to a place where different kinds of people mixed.

It was startling for them to see water, wind, and earth elements. They saw danger in the mixing of elements because fire could burn, boil, and dissipate the other elements.

Yet, Element City was thriving. Through their diversity, there was prosperity, happiness, and acceptance.

So many of our organizations lack good diversity. Our offices are filled with one gender or race or ethnicity.

Organizations thrive when there is diversity in the workplace. It’s not just an idea; it’s reality.

Diverse thoughts and ideas create a melting pot for great ideas to come to the surface. Allow diversity to be a thing in your organization.

2. Our desires for others aren’t always their desire:

Bernie opened the Fireplace, a cafe and a store. His desire was for Ember to take over the store when she was old enough.

The problem?

Ember didn’t want to run the store. She didn’t know what she wanted. But she knew that this wasn’t it.

We have dreams and desires for those we lead. We see their potential. 

What we don’t always see or understand is their desires. Their dreams. Their hopes.

Don’t push your desires onto others. Allow your people to discover what they were created to do.

3. Bernie:

Sometime customer can be tough. Take a breath, make a connection.

Bernie understood that customers aren’t easy to deal with. He had to remind Ember of this when she saw a child customer (Jeff LaPensee) want to get a free sparkler.

Ember lost her cool. She exploded on the kid.

What should she have done? What Bernie had said.

You need to understand this. Your customers and team members aren’t easy to deal with (neither are you). Don’t blow up on them.

Take the time to breathe deeply. Take the time to step back. Take the time to make a connection.

By connecting with those difficult people in our lives, we come to understand that they’re more like us than they are different. We also can help diffuse the tense situations we encounter.

4. Understand why people are in a funk:

Elemental had a cloud game. One of the characters, Lutz (Matthew Yang King), was in a funk. 

Why was Lutz in a funk? Because his mom had been sick. This took his mind out of the game and into his real world.

Do you take the time to understand what’s going on in the worlds of your people? There are so many moving parts that it’s hard to keep straight.

Yet good leaders do that.

They get to know their people. Then they understand what’s happening in their lives.

This doesn’t excuse bad behavior but it does help you understand what’s going on and why a person may be acting out of character. 

5. Connecting is a skill:

Wade had a unique skill. He was able to connect with those around him. His personality made this easy.

Ember wondered why… Why could Wade connect so easily and she struggled? Ember couldn’t even connect with one person.

Wade used his personality to connect with others. He saw potential and goodness in others.

His skill was connecting.

To be a great leader, you must have the skill of connection. You have to understand others and how to make them feel important.

How does a leader do this?

  • Listen to your people
  • Take time to spend with them
  • Compliment their good work
  • Show them they matter

When you do these things, you’ll find yourself connecting.

6. Different situations bring out different sides of us:

Ember could do a cool trick. Standing on different minerals caused her flame to change colors. This made her colors even more vibrant.

Those around her saw this. They were in awe of the beauty that came from the varying colors.

This is a perfect example of how different situations bring out different sides of us. We react differently to stressful, joyful, and sad situations.

Understand this is a part of our lives. We must learn how to use these different sides of us effectively.

7. Wade’s Relative:

Oh, no. You have to do something with that talent

Ember met Wade’s family. During their gathering, a vase was broken. 

Uh oh…

Until Ember heated the glass to put the vase back together. She was able to restore the vase to something better than it was before.

Ember didn’t see it as anything special. It was just what she did. Wade’s relative knew otherwise.

We regularly discount our skills and abilities. Because we have them, we don’t see them as special.

Understand you have crazy skills and talents that others long to have. You can do things others can’t.

Discover those skills and talents. Hone them. Then use them.

8. You can do things others think you can’t:

Cinder was a “romance psychic.” She could have couples light incense to see if they were compatible.

When Cinder discovered her daughter with Wade, she wanted to put an end to their relationship. She had them to the incense ceremony, believing Wade wouldn’t be able to light the incense. 

Wade proved Cinder wrong. Wade changed his shape and used Ember’s heat to become a magnifying glass. The shape of his body amplified Ember’s heat to start the incense.

What do others think you can’t do? Do you believe them? 

You have the ability to do more than others think you can. You have the ability to do more than YOU think you can.

Don’t let others, or yourself, discount your abilities. 

9. Wade:

Let’s start small.

Ember thought she and Wade couldn’t touch. Wade wanted to show her that they could.

There was fear on Ember’s part. She believed she would boil Wade. He’d evaporate. He’d be gone.

Wade didn’t have that fear. He wanted to test the theory, and to do that they had to start small.

A simple touch led them to discover Ember wouldn’t hurt Wade.

We get fearful because we see things as dangerous. We think one simple mistake could destroy everything.

Rather than let fear rule, let’s do what Wade said to do – Start small.

You can take little steps to see if your actions will work. One little thing at a time can show you that what you’re attempting (or want to attempt) is feasible.

Little steps lead to significant results.

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