Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Home Alone

A Reel Leadership Article

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

Today marks the last day of our Christmas At The Movies Reel Leadership series. We’ve covered Christmas classics such as Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, It’s A Wonderful Life, and The Polar Express. We’re ending this Christmas series with the 1990 classic Home Alone.

It’s been a fun journey exploring these Christmas movies here on the blog and then listening to the faith-based messages we can get from them at my home church, The Gateway Church. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Christmas journey as much as I have here.

Red movie theater curtains

Home Alone is one of those Christmas movies that make you laugh, cry, and smile all at the same time. When Peter (John Heard) and Kate (Catherine O’Hara) leave their 8-year-old son Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) home alone as the rest of the family leaves for a Paris vacation, Kevin has to defend the home from the Wet Bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern).

Hilarity ensues as Kevin defends his family’s home against these two criminals. Booby traps, fake-outs, and more leave the Wet Bandits beaten, bruised, and in custody. 

Join us for this Reel Leadership journey as we explore the leadership lessons in Home Alone.

Scene from Home Alone movie. Kevin, blonde boy with red sweater, is hung on a door hook. Harry and Marv, two crooks, are staring menacingly at him.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Home Alone

1. Chaos breeds disorder and lack of peace:

The movie opens with the McCallister family preparing for their upcoming Christmas vacation to Paris. There were the main household, Kevin, Buzz (Devin Ratray), Jeff (Michael C. Maronna), Megan (Hillary Wolf), and Linnie (Angela Goethals), along with extended family members Uncle Frank (Gerry Bamman) and Aunt Leslie (Terrie Snell) and their four kids, Tracy (Senta Moses), Sondra (Diana Rein), Brook (Anna Slotky), and Fuller (Kieran Culkin), and other family members Heather (Kristin Minter) and Rod (Jedidiah Cohen). Their house was a madhouse of chaos leading into Christmas.

No one was peaceful, happy, or in charge during this time. 

Organizations are the same way when chaos reigns free. Disorder reigns supreme. Peace flees.

Find ways to bring a semblance of order and peace to your organization. The more there is, the more peace there will be.

2. Kevin McCallister:

Maybe he’s just trying to be nice.

Kevin goes to talk to Buzz about his sleeping arrangement. In the process, Kevin, Buzz, and another family member see Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) shoveling the sidewalk. Buzz goes into a spooky story about Marley. 

The story goes that Marley killed his family. He put their bodies into a garbage can of salt to dispose of their bodies. Now, he goes around shoveling sidewalks.

It spooks Kevin! But Kevin wonders out loud whether or not Marley is just trying to be a nice guy.

Sometimes, people are just nice people. Their story has no horror backstory (though Marley did have a sad backstory). 

Let people in your organization be nice. Don’t make up stories about them. In fact, you need to discover their stories. 

Their stories will help you, them, and the organization. 

3. Getting what we want isn’t always what we want: 

Kevin tells his mom, Kate, that he wishes never to see his family again. He was adamant about this.

He’s sent to the upper level of the home to sleep. When the power goes out overnight, no alarms go off. The family awakes in a frenzy, and they load up the airport shuttle vans.

They miss Kevin, and he awakens after everyone leaves. He believes he got his wish. His family is no longer there! 

But then reality sets in. He misses his family. He loves his family. There’s a big, gaping hole in his life without him.

He got what he wanted. But what he wanted wasn’t what he wanted.

That’s us! Kevin is us (minus the snottiness)! 

We have these big dreams. These huge desires. We believe they will bring us happiness.

When we obtain our dreams, we often feel empty and alone.

Be careful chasing your dreams. Make sure they’re what you really want. If you’re chasing the wrong thing, you will be left wanting.

4. Kevin McCallister:

It’s only my imagination. It’s only my imagination.

Kevin goes into his basement, a place he’s always feared. His fear is heightened when the home’s furnace blazes on. It’s a giant metal contraption that looks like a monster.

He looks at the device. He begins to do self-talk. What’s he saying? It’s only my imagination. 

He’s telling himself he’s making a bigger deal out of the situation than he needs to be.

Our imaginations can run wild. We can go to DEFCON 5 in a matter of moments when something goes wrong.

Learning to control our imagination and, more importantly, our thoughts will help us lead confidently and calmly. Begin to control your imagination. Don’t let your mind wander to worst-case scenarios that will never play out.

The leader who controls his mind wins the battle.

5. Our security measures can fail:

Most of the McCallister’s neighbors went on a Christmas vacation, just like they did. They all had various security systems in place. These ranged from door locks, security systems, and automated lights.

What happened in Home Alone? Those security measures failed as the Wet Bandits broke into the homes.

Many of the families that were robbed in the McCallister’s neighborhood had given information to Harry when he was pretending to be a cop.

We can have all the security measures and planning we want to have in place. They’re only as good as the weakest link. This makes me think of how ransomware attacks happen. Emails get past email security. Virus scans fail to pick them up. And then an employee clicks on a link, gives out their email or computer login, and then the bad guys are in.

Remember, your security is only as good as the weakest link. Tighten up on the security to help reduce the likelihood that something bad will happen.

6. Kate McCallister:

I’ll wait.

There were no planes available to fly the McCallister’s back to Chicago. They’d have to wait until Friday for a fight. 

One of the airline employees did give Kate an option. The family could go to their destination, Kate could stay at the airport, and she could get on the plane if a seat opened.

Kate decided to wait.

Many of us are impatient. We’re not willing to wait. 

But waiting is part of leadership. We make decisions, we act, and then we wait to see the results.

Be willing to wait through those difficult times of uncertainty. 

7. Kevin McCallister:

When these guys come back, I’ll be ready.

Kevin accidentally became a shoplifter when he stole a toothbrush from a local store. He’d bee-lined it out of there when Old Man Marley showed up. 

A cop chases him, he slides across an ice skating rink, and is almost hit by the Wet Bandits when he runs across a driveway. Kevin recognizes Harry because of his gold tooth. He knew they were up to no good and would be back.

This time, Kevin would be ready.

While there will be times of waiting, we also have to have times of action. We have to prepare for our next steps, decisions, and hires. 

Be ready when opportunity strikes. 

8. Our leadership journies are not straight:

Kate was able to get a flight out of Paris to Dallas. From there, she flew to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she met Gus Polinski (John Candy). He’s in a traveling polka band. They’re headed to Milwaukee and he offers her a ride to Chicago.

Kate’s journey took many twists and turns. Paris, Dallas, Scranton… All over the globe!

Our leadership journeys often look like Kate’s. From one organization to another. From flying high to riding in a rental van (not literally, but you get the drift). Our journies are not what we expect them to be.

Learn to ride the wave. Go with the flow. You will get where you’re going.

9. Our misconceptions about others hurt us and others:

Kevin learns that Marley isn’t the maniac killer Buzz made him out to be when he runs into him at a church. Instead, Marley is a depressed man who lost his son in an argument. For years, Marley and his son haven’t talked. 

Their talk leads to Kevin’s rescue as Marley strikes the Wet Bandits with his shovel. Kevin also encouraged Marley to talk to his son. To mend bridges. On Christmas day, Kevin looks out his window and sees the father and son reunited.

The rumor mill is an organizational killer. Rumors spin and swirl and break apart the team.

Those rumors create misconceptions among you, your team, and others. More importantly, those misconceptions will tear your organization apart.

Stop rumors in their tracks. Seek to clear up miscommunications. The more you do this, the more likely you’ll have unity and peace in your team and life.

10. Great leaders have a plan but are willing to improvise when needed:

Kevin had to devise a plan to take out the Wet Bandits. He did. He drew up a map of the house with booby traps strewn throughout. 

What kind of traps? Tarred stairs, iced steps, a blow torch, paint cans, Micro Machine cars, and more.

Kevin’s planning allowed him to defend his home and beat the bandits.

What does your planning look like? Do you even plan?

I know this is a weak point for me, but Home Alone helped me realize this weakness again. It’s going to be one that I will work on more in the coming year.

Seek to plan where you can. Improvise where you can’t.

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