Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Monkey Man

A Reel Leadership Article

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Watching the previews for Monkey Man, I had flashbacks to the John Wick movies. It looked like the typical revenge thriller with an Indian twist. The action and adventure had a similar feel to those classic action movies. One of the characters even quips about John Wick in the film.

In Monkey Man, an anonymous man named Kid (Dev Patel) fights in underground battles wearing a monkey mask. This gets him the name Monkey Man. He’s always on the losing end as Tiger (Sharlto Copley) has rigged the fights so Kid will always lose.

Ripped man standing in a ring. He's wearing a monkey mask. Scene from Monkey Man

Kid eventually tires of the endless fights and meager pay. He decides he wants something better. This is when he is introduced to Queenie (Ashwini Kalsekar), a brothel owner. He befriends her and begins to work for her in the kitchen. 

We then discover Kid’s real motivation: To track down his mother’s murderer, Rana (Sikandar Kher). Once his eyes are set on Rana, the movie picks up as the action intensifies.

Monkey Man was not my favorite movie of the year. Yet, there can still be nuggets of leadership to be plucked from the branches of the movie. Let’s dive into those lessons.

CAUTION: Monkey Man contains explicit language and some sexual situations.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Monkey Man

1. What we chase can hurt us:

Monkey Man opens with Kid’s mother, Neela (Adithi Kalkunte), telling him the Hindu story of Hanuman. Hanuman was a young boy who was hungry. He saw what he thought was a piece of fruit high in a tree. It wasn’t.

The fruit turned out to be the sun. As he went to retrieve it, Hanuman was burnt by the sun. 

What he sought, what he chased hurt him.

We have to be careful what we chase, what we consider to be success. There’s so many people telling us what true success is. They tell us what we should chase after.

Once again, be careful.

I’ve seen far too many leaders burnt by what they chase. Whether it’s fame, fortune, or even love. 

When you’re chasing after something for the wrong reason, you may get hurt.

2. Kid:

I don’t want charity. I need a job.

Queenie’s purse was stolen in a scheme to get Kid into her organization. Kid brings Queenie her purse. When Queenie offers him money for the return of the purse, Kid declines. 

Instead, Kid tells her he doesn’t need or want charity. What he really needs is a job.

I love this line, even if Kid isn’t telling the truth here. There are so many people that need to get this.

We can help others by giving them good, solid work to do. Let our charity be in giving others the opportunity to work hard.

3. Kid:

I want something small but effective.

Kid goes to a storefront that’s actually a front for a gun dealing operation. When he is shown the gun selection, he tells the man he’s not looking for the biggest or baddest weapon. Kid wants something small and effective.

This is the scene where John Wick is mentioned. The gun dealer tells Kid he has a John Wick-style gun, but that’s not what he wants.

We often think our organization has to be the biggest or baddest organization around. It has to be able to take out all of the competition. To do so, it needs to be big, right?


We don’t need to be big to be effective. What we need is talented, skilled individuals who can move nimbly and quickly to get the job done.

Stop striving to be the biggest. Strive to be the most effective.

4. We may be being watched:

Queenie tells Kid to face the wall as she enters the combination to the safe to get Alphonso (Pitobash), a drug dealer, money. She didn’t want Kid to see the combination.


What she didn’t understand was there was a reflection on the wall. Kid can see Queenie enter the combination. He can see how much money is stored within the safe.

Queenie was watched without knowing it.

You may think that you’ve taken precautions to avoid being watched. You may have cleared the room, brought in people who are loyal to you, or taken other actions to ensure privacy.

There’s always the possibility of being watched. 

My wife and I found this out during our early youth ministry days. We had so many kids around town who would approach us as we were out and about or after the fact. We knew our students were watching us. It made us conscious of how we behaved in public and impacted our decisions on what to do or not to do.

You have to make the same choice.

5. Dogs can make things better:

Kid sees Rana treating a woman poorly in the club he’s working in. This causes Kid to have a flashback to the massacre of his village and the death of his mother. 

He had to get away. He stepped outside to get some fresh air. That’s when a cute puppy showed up.

Kid plays with the puppy. Eventually, he trains the puppy to do something no one would expect.

But that puppy made things better for Kid in the moment.

I’ve discovered having a dog, or other pet, around is a great way to relax the environment at the office or home. Dogs pick up on anxiety and will do their best to calm the anxious person down.

Consider having a pet-friendly office. There are benefits you and your employees will receive from such a policy.

6. Develop roots for yourself and those in your organization:

Neela is walking with Kid through the jungle. She points out the hundreds of roots above the surface. Then, she asks Kid to think about where the roots go.

She used this moment to teach Kid that roots run deep underground. They plant and hold trees firmly in place. Roots are good!

What roots have you created for yourself? How are you helping your team members to plant roots?

Roots aren’t there to hold you or your people captive. Rather, by helping your team develop roots, you give them a robust and secure foundation they can count on when trouble comes.

Start laying down roots. Then, help your people do the same.

7. Alpha (Vipin Sharma):

We all have scars.

Kid had the dog bring him a gun inside of the club. This allowed him to avoid the metal detectors and attack Rana. The attack didn’t go so well and Kid was injured.

He was injured so severely that he shouldn’t have survived. Yet, he did.

Alpha and those in the temple discovered Kid. Kid is told that he should not have survived the attack but Alpha also noticed the scars on his hands.

That’s when Alpha tells him that we all have scars. We’re all wounded.

While I may not completely agree with Alpha, this statement is true. We all have scars. We’ve all been through hell and back.

That doesn’t make us worse or less than others. It means we’re more alike than we are different.

Be willing to show your scars to others. Let others see that you have more in common than different.

8. Alpha:

All this time you’ve been fighting because of pain. Now you must fight for purpose.

Alpha hears Kid’s story. It’s one of pain and heartbreak. Of death and destruction.

Kid’s story has driven his fight. He’s been fighting to get rid of the pain.

Alpha directs him on a new course. Alpha tells him he must give up the pain and fight for a purpose.

There are leaders who lead from pain. They’ve experienced bad leadership, been fired for no reason, or seen friends or family members let go after years of service.

These leaders have vowed never to let that pain touch their lives. They will take control.

I want to challenge you if you’re one of those leaders. Instead of leading from pain, consider leading with purpose. 

Turn that pain into the right reason to lead. You’ll find it’s much easier and beneficial to lead with purpose than pain.

9. We’re more effective than we show:

Kid goes back to the cage fight arena. He tells those closest to him to beat big on him winning.

This seems strange as he had lost every fight before. He was also fighting Snake, an undefeated fighter.

Tiger hypes of the match. He thinks Snake will handle Kid with ease. That’s not the case.

Kid had been holding back all those years of cage fighting. He took Snake out with one well-placed kick to the chin. It made me think of Shawn Michaels and his Sweet Chin Music.

We often hold back our true potential from those around us. We may have been told it was wrong to show who we truly are or just how much strength we have.

Stop holding back. Let your strength show. 

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