Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Godzilla Minus One

A Reel Leadership Article

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Godzilla has been terrorizing audiences since 1954 when he debuted in Godzilla. Now, in 2023, it feels like he’s returned to his roots in Godzilla Minus One.

Godzilla Minus One is a complicated movie with lots of themes. Guilt, shame, love, loss, triumph, forgiveness, and more are packed into the two-hour, five-minute runtime.

The film is set in the 1940s during and after World War Two. Kamikazee pilot, Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki), returns his plane to a Japanese military repair outpost. The problem? Shikishima’s plane wasn’t damaged. He was fleeing from the battle and didn’t want to die. He wanted to survive.

Giant monster with spikes on back attacking a city and scowling

Shortly upon landing, the irradiated monster Godzilla appears, killing most of the other soldiers on the island. This leaves Shikishima with more shame.

Eventually, Shikishima has to face Godzilla. The question: Does he sacrifice himself to save his country or does he chicken out once again?

Not only are the themes in Godzilla Minus One varied and wide-ranging, so are the leadership lessons. Those are what we’re going to look at in this edition of Reel Leadership.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Godzilla Minus One

1. Koichi Shikishima:

I am greatly in your debt.

When Shikishima lands his plane at the repair station, another soldier approaches him. The soldier recognizes Shikishima and wonders if Shikishima does as well.

He asks. Shikishima responds in the affirmative. He also states that he is greatly indebted to the soldier.

I want you to think about the people in your life. The other leaders, former coworkers… Who impacted your leadership journey? Who helped you along, gave you ideas that inspired you, and more?

These are people that have had a positive effect on your life. These are people you’re indebted to. 

Recognize them as you lead and teach others. Drop their names. Give them their due.

2. We over-estimate what our tools can do:

Godzilla attacked the military repair outpost on the island of Oda. The soldiers are scrambling, trying to figure out what to do next. They know Shikishima is there with a working plane that has a 20mm gun attached to it. The soldiers state that nothing can survive a barrage from a weapon like that.

They command Shikishima to run to the plane and use the weapons. He makes it to the plane but then freezes. He can’t fire. 

It doesn’t matter. His weapon wouldn’t have impacted the monster anyway. Godzilla could survive much more, but these soldiers didn’t know.

We have a wide array of tools at our disposal. From amazingly powerful computer software to new technology to machines that don’t require human intervention.

Our tools can do a lot. But we can also overestimate what those tools can do. 

Learn how to use your tools but also know they won’t be able to do everything for you.

3. Others suffer when you fail to take action:

While Shikishima wouldn’t have been able to do much to stop Godzilla, he failed the other soldiers when he froze. He ran to the plane but couldn’t pull the trigger. 

It would’ve been suicide to do so, but he could have given the other soldiers a chance to fight or flee. His inaction didn’t provide them with this chance.

You may waffle back and forth on an action to take when an opportunity presents itself. You weigh the pros and cons. You consider everything that could and couldn’t go right.

But you just wait. You don’t make the decision one way or another. Then your people suffer.

Don’t be a leader who can’t decide to take action. 

Leaders are decisive. They examine the situation, and then they make a choice. Be that leader.

4. Koichi Shikishima:

Just because it’s dangerous doesn’t mean I’ll die.

A young woman, Noriko Oishi (Minami Hamabe), had previously run by Shikishima and left a baby with him as she fled the men who were chasing her. Shikishima eventually finds her again and returns the child, scolding her. 

This forms a bond, creates a relationship between the two of them. Noriko eventually visits Shikishima’s home. She decides she’s going to take up residence there. And they slowly fall in love, though neither will admit it.

Shikishima is offered an extremely dangerous job. He’s to go out on a boat and retrieve/detonate mines in the water. 

Noriko expresses her concern. Shikishima tells her the job is dangerous, but that doesn’t mean he’ll die.

Leadership is dangerous. You’ll face all kinds of difficulties and trials. Some will seem insurmountable.

I want to remind you of what Shikishima said. Just because leadership is dangerous doesn’t mean you’ll die. 

You can make it through much more than you and others think. Keep putting one front of the other, keep making decisions. You’ll get to the other side.

5. Shame and guilt will follow you if you let it:

Shikshima had a lot of shame and guilt from his abandonment of his duties and inability to fire at Godzilla. These things followed him for years. 

He would regularly have dreams that would wake him up in terror. He would weep and lament what he didn’t do.

Noriko was there one of the times he woke up and pressed him as to the reason behind the dreams. Shikishima freaked out and took out his anger on her.

That’s due to the guilt and shame he carried with him for so long.

It’s a bad thing to carry around guilt and shame with you as a leader. These feelings will manifest itself in inaction, erratic outbursts, and doubt.

Deal with your past issues. Get counseling, talk to someone, work on becoming a better leader. 

If you don’t, you will struggle with your past, impacting your organization.

6. Our mess can become a beautiful story:

The job Shikishima took on had other workers as well. The team included:

  • Former Naval Weapons Designer Kenji Noda/Doc (Hidetaka Yoshioka)
  • Captain Yōji Akitsu/Captain (Kuranosuke Sasaki)
  • Rookie Shirō Mizushima/Kid (Yuki Yamada)

While together, Shikishima told this trio how Noriko wasn’t his wife. She had just decided to stay at his house and make herself at home. The child she carried with her, Akiko (Sae Nagatani), wasn’t hers but the orphan of a family that had been killed in a military attack.

Doc mentioned that this was a beautiful story. It was three people coming together under uncomfortable circumstances but it turned into something extraordinary.

The situations we find ourselves in may not appear beautiful or positive. They often seem to be dangerous, defeating, or damaging. 

What if you reexamined your situations? Could those situations go from dangerous, defeating, and damaging to beautiful? 

We find that through our mess, beauty can emerge.

7. Watch for warning signs:

Deep sea fish would rise to the top of the water whenever Godzilla appeared. This was a sign that Godzilla was stirring and about to wreak havoc. 

It wasn’t noticed initially, but Shikishima began to see the pattern. When Godzilla attacked Oda, the deep sea fish rose. Then, as the four men were on the minesweeping boat, more deep-sea fish rose to the top. Shikishima saw this and made note of it.

It was a warning sign Godzilla was soon to appear!

What warning signs are there in your business? Do you see people slacking off before certain events occur? Are customers failing to pay around certain dates? Can you feel tension in the air after specific announcements?

These are warning signs you have to pay attention to. They clue you into what could or will happen in the near future.

Warning signs are an invaluable indicator. Pay attention.

8. Leaders protect others:

Godzilla’s next attack was on Ginza. It was a bustling city in Japan. It was also the city where Noriko had just gotten a job.

Shikishima heard of the attack on Ginza. He rushes there to try to find and protect Noriko. When he finds Noriko, she has already been through a lot. But there was more to come.

The two of them were together when Godzilla unleashed a charged heat attack on the people nearby. Noriko sensed something terrible would happen and pushed Shikishima out of the way. This left Noriko in the path of the heat blast and she is assumed to have died in the attack.

Yet, she protected Shikishima. 

To what extent are you willing to go to protect your people? Are you willing to put yourself in the line of danger to keep them safe?

Danger won’t look like sacrificing your life. Danger and protection often look like accepting responsibility for the actions of your people. It may look like standing up for them despite their actions because you know their heart.

Great leaders protect their people.

9. Sumiko Ota (Sakura Ando):

We pull together.

As Shikishima was mourning the loss of Noriko, Doc, Captain, Kid, and Shikishima’s neighbor Sumiko were with him. They were wondering what was next for Akiko.

Sumiko made a surprising statement. She said that they would all pull together to care for Akiko.

Why was this surprising? Sumiko didn’t care for Shikishima. She saw him as the reason her children had died in the war. She had treated him poorly when he returned. No one would have thought she would have this kind of care for the child.

We must have this attitude when things get rough in our organizations. We can’t fight, argue, or pull away. We have to pull together.

Bring people together when times are tough. Tough times can help everyone overcome their past hurts and anger. 

Be a leader who brings people together.

10. Shikishima:

I’ll take the risk.

Doc had laid out a plan to take out Godzilla once and for all. His plan included ordinary citizens, not the military, to take on Godzilla. This could be a suicide mission.

When Shikishima heard of the plane, he asked if there would be a plane. There would. He volunteered to take the risk of flying the plane and distracting Godzilla, though his plan involved more than that.

Leaders see risk and walk toward it. They don’t run away.

See the risk. Walk toward it. Overcome it.

11. Forgiveness should be given:

Lead mechanic Sosaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki) had harbored hatred toward Shikishima because of his failure to act on the island of Oda. Everyone but Tachibana and Shikishima had perished in that Godzilla attack.

When Shikishima needed a mechanic to get the plane, he would fly a suicide mission in an attempt to kill Godzilla, he sought out Tachibana. He sent Tachibana letters to every place Tachibana had been stationed. Tachibana received at least one of those letters and found Shikishima. Upon finding him, he attacked him because Shikishima wrote that Tachibana was the cause of all the deaths. 


But he did it in an attempt to get him to respond. He knew Tachibana’s hatred for him wouldn’t allow him to come any other way. Shikishima apologized to Tachibana and the pair worked together to try to take down Godzilla.

Tachibana had seen the change in Shikishima. He was no longer the coward he once was. He was now willing to lay down his life for the people around him. This allowed Tachibana the chance to offer forgiveness and provide a way out for Shikishima.

Leaders will be hurt throughout their leadership journey. People will negatively affect your organization, they will say hurtful things, and more. 

As a leader, it’s harmful to hold out those hurts. The best leaders have learned how to forgive others, work with them once again, and move on.

Be a forgiving leader. 

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