Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Migration

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

Migration is the latest film from Universal Pictures and Illumination (you know, the people who brought us Minions and Despicable Me). The film tells the story of a family of mallards with an overprotective father, Mack (Kumail Nanjiani). He’s been mentally conditioned to see the worst outcome and has a victim mindset.

Because of this, his family has never left their New England pond. 

4 animated ducks standing on a sidewalk. Pigeon feathers are floating in the air.

It’s a story of growth, missteps, and family bonding. It’s also a story of leadership growth. Mack and his family grow throughout the movie. Each move they make toward Jamaica leads them on a new adventure with a new chance to grow.

Sounds a lot like leadership, right? Buckle in! We’re migrating to Reel Leadership land here. Let’s take a look at the leadership lessons in Migration.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Migration

1. Give people more than they bargained for:

Migration wasn’t the only adventure movie-goers were taken on. A movie short was shown before the movie.

The people from Illumination took viewers back to the world of Despicable Me with Mooned. Mooned tells the story of Vector (Jason Segel) as he is stranded on the moon after trying to kidnap Gru’s (Steve Carell) daughters. When the moon returns to its full size, he is sucked into space with the newly reformed moon.

Mooned wasn’t something people paid to see. It was a little extra treat for the viewers. 

What can you give your customers or your employees that’s just a little bit sweeter than they bargained for? You might up the quality of products you use in your products or offer up a bonus to your employees.

You can slowly work your way toward this if you don’t have the budget to do so. However, surprising and wowing your customers is an intelligent business decision. 

2. Fear is a bad motivator:

Mack tells a bedtime story to his two children, Dax (Casper Jennings) and Gwen (Tresi Gazal). The story he tells is of a pond where everyone is happy… except two ducks. 

The two ducks left the pond. Soon, they confronted the deadly heron. The heron was a vicious animal that would kill any ducks that wandered into its path.

Why did Mack tell Gwen and Dax the story? He wanted to control them with fear. He didn’t want them to leave the pond.

I’ve encountered too many leaders who try to lead with fear. Whether it is a story of how another employer won’t treat the departing employee well or how difficult a job transition will be, fear is never a good tool to keep an employee. It won’t motivate them to stick around. It also won’t motivate them to work harder.

Instead, try giving inspiration, hope, and guidance to your employees. Starting up a learning library, allowing your team to explore their passions while in the office, or creating a culture of positivity will go a lot further.

You don’t need fear to motivate. There are better options out there.

3. Fearful leaders often had fearful leaders:

Mack tells Pam (Elizabeth Banks), his wife, that he’s teaching their kids valuable life lessons. They won’t try to do some things or go to dangerous places. He thought his lessons of fear would protect them.

It was then revealed that Mack had lived with these fears his whole life. He believed they protected him.

Do you see what happened? Mack was fearful because he had been taught to be fearful by others. 

That’s what happens to leaders. They are brought up by a fearful leader. That fear infiltrates their leadership. They’re then afraid to take risks to grow the business.

We all have fears. Not all fears are good. Learn to break free from your fears. 

4. Kim (Isabela Merced):

You should join us.

Kim was part of a family of ducks traveling south to Jamaica. They stopped by the New England pond for a quick breather.

While there, Dax meets her. They share pleasantries, and then Dax tells Kim his family doesn’t migrate. She invites Dax and his family to join them.

She opened up an opportunity for them to join their family.

Great leaders are leaders who invite others to join in. They don’t exclude others. They bring people together.

Find ways to invite people inside and outside of your organization to join you. This could be through partnerships, cohorts, or other methods.

Leaders who invite others in are leaders who build great relationships.

5. Beware who you model:

Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito) was a washed-up old mallard. One day, he literally washed up outside of Mack’s home. 

He had overheard Mack saying his family shouldn’t leave. Uncle Dan said he was right. Mack was right not to want to travel. In fact, Mack would end up just like Uncle Dan if he kept on this path.

Talk about a come-to-Jesus moment. Mack realized what he was doing. He would wind up a weird, strange man who never had an adventure. He didn’t want Uncle Dan to be his model for life.

Think about the people you’re modeling your life after. Who are they? What do they do? How’s their family life? 

Zig Ziglar often shared about the man who came to him wanting to be more like his boss. When Zig began to question him about his boss, the man realized the boss wasn’t all he thought he was. His boss had material success, but he lacked success in his health, spiritual life, and family life.

Your role models and mentors matter. Choose wisely.

6. Our preconceptions can lead us astray:

The movie’s opening saw Mack telling his children the dangers of a heron. On their trip south, they flew into a storm and took shelter underneath a dock. This is when they encounter their first heron.

Erin (Carol Kane) found the family huddled underneath that dock. She invites them into her home. There, the family is terrified, thinking Erin and her husband would eat them.

This fear manifests itself even more as it gets dark. The family sees the pair asleep. They make their way to the door when Erin is there, blocking their path. They think they’re done.

Instead, Erin is trying to save their family. A dangerous fish is lurking in the waters below.

Had Erin not stopped them, they would have been eaten. 

Leaders have preconceptions and misconceptions about people, too. They see the way a person looks, talks, or even acts. An opinion is formed. 

Or, worse, there’s been a hostile situation with someone, and that story has been passed around. The leader gets a whiff of it and believes the person is a bad influence when they’re really not.

Be careful of forming an opinion of someone without getting to know them. That preconception can lead us away from a great team member.

7. Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key):

You knew the danger. You did it anyway.

Delroy was a colorful macaw from Jamaica. He’d been captured by a human chef and held in a cage for years. 

The Mallards met Delroy because of the pigeon Chump (Awkwafina). She told them she knew of someone who could guide them to Jamaica. 

When they met Delroy, he gave them directions. Mack was happy to leave at that point. Dax wasn’t. He said they couldn’t leave him after he helped them.

Mack decided he would go and get the key from the chef. And that he did despite the danger.

Returning with the key, Delroy told Mack he was brave. Mack was shocked to hear this. He had acted to help someone; he didn’t consider it bravery. He considered it the right thing.

Leaders know the danger of the situations they’re getting into. Still, they take action and move forward.

Don’t let fear or doubt stop you. 

8. Our demeanor can change:

At the start of Migration, Mack was the pessimist. He saw everything as dangerous, unobtainable, and useless. As Migration progressed, so did Mack’s demeanor. He became brave, courageous, and dangerous.

His wife Pam was the opposite. She was daring and courageous and free-spirited. That was until Mack and her were captured by the chef. Pam became the pessimist. 

Be aware that you won’t always have the same demeanor every day. You’re going to struggle with challenges. Your emotions will play games with you. Your mindset will change.

Don’t let these things get you down. Instead, recognize it’s a part of being human. It’s a part of leadership.

9. Beware of comfort:

The family wound up at a farm. They stumble upon a group of yoga ducks led by GooGoo (David Mitchell). 

These ducks seem to be living the great life. Maybe their best life ever. 

But they’re soon loaded up in a truck to be taken away by the chef. They’re about to become Duck à l’Orange. 

Their life of comfort was to fatten them up. For them to become someone’s next meal.

Comfort seems great at the moment. Yet, comfort is the enemy of progress.

Learn how to stay uncomfortable. That discomfort will push you to new heights.

10. Mack:

Thank you.

Pam had challenged Mack to become better. She’d pushed him to get out of their small pond and to something bigger. Even though Mack resisted this at the beginning of the movie, by the time the movie ended, Mack was thankful.

He didn’t hold his gratitude in. He shared it with the person who deserved it.

Who on your team needs to hear you say thank you? Who in your family needs to hear you say it?

Don’t withhold your gratitude. By showing your gratitude, you show that you recognize the worth and value of the people around you. 

People need to hear you say those words.

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