Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Labyrinth

A Reel Leadership Article

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Growing up, I watched a lot of fantasy movies. I remember tearing up during The Neverending Story, the adventures of Willow, and many other fantasy movies. The film I never remember watching is Labyrinth.

Labyrinth is a Jim Henson (remember the Muppets???) directed film. Henson’s artfully crafted puppets are featured throughout the beautiful movie. So is the musical talent (and acting prowess) of David Bowie as the Goblin King Jareth.

Labyrinth tells the story of 16-year-old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) in her quest to rescue her baby brother, Toby (Toby Froud), from Jareth. Jareth had his goblins take the child when Sarah wished Toby would go away.

David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly in a scene from Labyrinth

There are only 13 hours for Sarah to rescue Toby before Jareth has Toby transformed into one of his goblins. Of course, Sarah accomplishes this task and more.

Along the way, she runs into creatures that will become her friends. She’s also challenged with tough decisions.

For you, you’re introduced to a beautiful world. More than that, you have an open window to a new world of leadership in Labyrinth. We’ll look at those leadership lessons in this Reel Leadership article.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Labyrinth

1. There’s always someone waiting to take over your responsibilities:

Sarah was frustrated. Her father (Christopher Malcolm) and stepmother (Shelley Thompson) tasked her with watching her baby brother while they went out on the town. As Toby began to cry, Sarah became even more frustrated.

In a fit of rage, she thought of the words in the play she’d been reading. Those words summoned goblins that would take away Toby.

While Sarah didn’t want to care for the child, the Goblin King and his minions would make Toby their own.

There will be times when you no longer want the responsibility of leadership. You’ll feel stressed, ineffective, and angry. You’d do anything to give up your responsibility.

Don’t be so quick to give it up. People are waiting, longing to be recognized as a leader. Your frustration and quickness to give up will allow them to take up your responsibility.

2. Goblin King Jareth:

What’s said is said.

Jareth appeared in the window of Toby’s bedroom. Sarah notices the man. Toby is missing, and Jareth is the reason.

Yet, there’s more to the situation than Jareth taking the child. Sarah said the words to summon Jareth. He only listened to what she had requested.

Sarah said what she wanted at the moment. Her words were her words.

We have to be careful with our words. As Jareth said, what’s said is said.

We cannot take back the words we speak. Once we’ve spoken them, they are in the world.

Make sure your words align with your true intentions.

3. Hoggle (Shari Weiser, Brian Henson as the voice):

Not if you ask the right questions.

Goblin King Jareth told Sarah she could get Toby back if she found her way through the Labyrinth and to the castle within 13 hours. She was struggling to find the door to the labyrinth.

This was when she ran into Hoggle. Hoggle tells Sarah that she is asking the wrong questions.

When Sarah finally asked the right question, she was able to find the door.

We have so much trouble because we fail to ask the right questions.

A lot of our questions revolve around how do we increase productivity, bring in new people to the church, or make more money for the organization. These aren’t bad questions, but they’re not the right questions.

Find the right questions to ask.

Better questions might be:

  • How do we serve our customers better?
  • What do our employees need that we’re not giving them?
  • Are you making ethical choices?

The questions we ask matter. Ask the right questions.

4. The Worm (Karen Prell):

You ain’t looking right. It’s full of openings. You just ain’t seeing them.

Sarah is lost in the labyrinth. She only sees a path that’s straight in either direction.

Then she stumbles upon The Worm. The Worm invites Sarah to meet the missus. This invite didn’t deter Sarah.

Sarah was focused on finding her brother. She reiterates this to The Worm.

The Worm relents. He tells Sarah she’s not looking right. There are openings all around. After saying this, Sarah can see the multiple ways to navigate the labyrinth.

We’re like Sarah. We’re so focused on the goal that we miss the opportunities in front of us.

There are new paths, old paths, and more all around us. We’re just not seeing them.

Look for the new paths of leadership. Look for ways to improve and grow.

You’ll find them if you open your eyes.

5. You’ll have people telling you that you’re doing the wrong thing when you’re not:

Hoggle and Sarah are navigating the labyrinth when they come upon a cavern full of talking walls. The walls kept telling the duo that they were going the wrong way.

Were they? I don’t think they were.

Instead, these walls were trying to misdirect Sarah and Hoggle. They wanted them to give up, to give in.

You cannot listen to everyone around you. People will tell you that you’re doing things wrong, going the wrong way, and more.

Make sure you know who to listen to.

6. Sometimes, leaders have to throw stones:

Sarah came upon Ludo (Rob Mills, voiced by Ron Mueck). Ludo was a giant beast. Yet, he was attacked by creatures holding more creatures on a stick. These creatures would bite Ludo, who was hanging upside down.

Sarah couldn’t let this stand. She looked around until she found something to interrupt the transgression. She found a stone (that had miraculously rolled to her). She picked the stone up. Then she threw it at one of the goblins.

I’m not advocating for leaders to throw stones regularly. However, there are appropriate times to throw stones.

You’ll have to throw stones to protect those you lead. To protect those unable to defend themselves.

Be willing to throw stones when needed.

7. Sarah:

Don’t pretend to be so hard.

Hoggle was a fickle goblin. He would come alongside Sarah only to leave her. Then, he’d return when he heard her calling out for help.

Hoggle wanted to be tough. His outward appearance would seem to indicate he was.

Sarah saw something else. Hoggle wasn’t nearly as hard as he made himself out to be.

Leaders don’t have to be hard. Leaders can be kind, loving, and caring.

In fact, these are the attributes that will make you a better leader. When you care for, love on, and are kind to those you lead, your leadership ability goes through the roof.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for permission:

Ludo, Hoggle, and Sarah came to a bridge. The bridge was protected by a creature named Didymus (David Alan Barclay, voiced by Dave Goelz and David Shaughnessy). He was sworn to protect the bridge and not allow anyone to pass without his permission.

The trio tried to get around Didymus. Every attempt failed.

Then Sarah thought of something. She listened to the words Didymus had spoken. All she needed to do was ask permission.

When Sarah asked, Didymus was willing to allow them to pass.

Don’t be afraid to ask for permission. Permission is usually granted when you ask.

You can get further and farther when you ask rather than assume. Be an asker.

9. Leaders don’t leave others behind:

Ludo and Didymus continued toward the castle. Before long, they realized they had left Sarah before.

Uh oh. There’s trouble brewing.

Because Ludo and Didymus had left Sarah behind, she became trapped in one of Jareth’s traps. She was in trouble, and it was all because she was left behind.

Great leaders don’t leave others behind. They’re willing to walk with them, at their pace, to make sure they’re able to accomplish what needs to be done.

Be willing to slow down. Be willing to walk with others.

10. Forgive others:

Hoggle had left and tricked Sarah multiple times throughout Labyrinth. He realized what he had done.

However, he wouldn’t ask for forgiveness. Not because he didn’t want forgiveness. He wouldn’t ask because he thought he didn’t deserve to be forgiven.

Sarah forgave Hoggle anyway. She chose to forgive and move on.

We’ve got to be like Sarah. We have to be able to forgive those who have done us wrong.

Move forward with life. Forgive. Give grace.

You’ll be better off doing so.

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