Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Mulan

A Reel Leadership Article

The live-action Mulan movie was the latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of movie theaters. Originally scheduled to release in movie theaters, Mulan was recently released as a premium feature of Disney+. You can purchase Mulan for $29.99 or wait until December 4th, 2020 and Mulan will be free on Disney+.

While similar to the animated Mulan movie, the live-action Mulan takes us on a slightly different journey. Gone are the mythical creatures (except the Phoenix). Here to stay are more realistic story pieces of the Hua Mulan story. Thanks to the live-action version, I realized there was a real legend of Mulan.

Action shot from the live action Mulan movie

What happens? Mulan’s father, Zhou (Tzi Ma), is conscripted to fight in the Emperor’s Imperial Army to help an invading force. Zhou is old and crippled. Going to war would kill him.

Mulan (Yifei Liu) chooses to take her father’s place. She sneaks out in the middle of the night, rides to the Imperial City, and joins the army while posing as a man.

Her courage and strength saved the Emperor and many of those in the Imperial Army.

Mulan can teach us quite a bit about leadership. In today’s Reel Leadership article, we will look at the leadership lessons in Mulan.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Mulan

1. Hua Zhou:

There have been many tales about the great warrior Mulan, but ancestors: this one is mine.

The open voice-over in the new live-action Mulan starts with these words from Mulan’s father. His words talk about the many legends of Mulan. There have been many over the years.

Each variation of the legend changes something. There’s a different path they take or a different focus.

We see this in leadership as well. Past leaders have a legend that surrounds their work and life.

There are variations in these leadership legends too. Something is tweaked here or there. A different outcome happens. Or maybe a different villain appears.

We have to be careful when listening to leadership legends. Not all are true.

2. Unchecked enthusiasm can bring destruction:

Young Mulan was a brash girl. We see this in a scene where she tries to catch a chicken by chasing it.

She almost had the chicken in the pen when it makes a turn. Mulan continues to pursue the chicken. What happens next is crazy!

She knocks over fruit another character was stacking. She breaks the phoenix statue’s wing. And she almost fell off the roof of a building.

When we have unchecked enthusiasm in leadership, we can be like the young Mulan. We can bring destruction to those around us.

We have to know what is worth chasing over. We have to be aware of what we’re destroying in the pursuit of the mission or vision.

It might not be worth it in the end.

3. Leaders do things for a reason:

Mulan was with the matchmaker (Pei-Pei Cheng) and was getting ready to be matched to a future husband. Mulan saw a spider moving about the room. She had to take action.

She moved a teapot from the pad and trapped the spider underneath. Mission accomplished, right? Wrong.

The matchmaker could not have the teapot in the wrong spot. She commanded Mulan to move the teapot back.

Mulan resisted but then relented. She moved the teapot back and then the spider was released. Mulan’s sister Xiu (Xana Tang) screamed, the matchmaker knocked the table over, and chaos reigned.

Had Mulan, who moved the teapot for a reason, had kept it there, none of that would have happened.

Leaders take action for a reason. They see something others didn’t see and had to change course or choose to do something out of the ordinary.

Many people won’t understand the reasoning for what the leader did in the moment. Only after the fact will people know why the leader did what he did.

4. Zhou:

There is no courage without fear.

The Hua family had a beautiful sword in their possession. Zhou and Mulan were looking at the blade and Zhou was fearful.

He was going to go into battle with a bum leg. There was a good chance he wouldn’t come back. He had a right to be fearful.

Yet, he also had courage. He would fight as long and as hard as he could. The courage he had would push him through.

Are you fearful? Do you get nervous over what you have to do as a leader? That’s okay.

You can’t be a courageous leader without fear.

Lead through the fear. Don’t let the fear you feel make you make bad decisions. Rather, know it’s there and lead through it.

5. Training improves skill:

The Imperial Army was a bunch of unskilled peasants. They had never held a sword or a bow.

You see this in a scene where members of the Army had to shoot at a target. They all missed it.

Later, after training, the scene repeats itself. However, something different happens. All of the soldiers hit the target.

That’s the power of training. Training helps improve our skills. It gives us the confidence to do what needs to be done.

Keep training. Keep finding ways to improve your leadership skills.

You may take a college course. Or you might go to an online or in-person conference. Or you might take an online course.

Whatever you do, keep training.

6. Commander Tung (Donnie Yen):

You cannot allow your father’s legacy to hold you back.

Command Tung saw something in the disguised Mulan. She had power and skill. She was also holding back.

He thought it was because of her father’s legacy. She didn’t want to dishonor it or make others think less of her father.

That wasn’t the case. But we see this happen quite often in leadership.

A new leader steps up to the plate. They’ve been mentored by a great leader. Now, it’s time for them to step up and take the former leader’s place.

The new leader holds back. They’re not quite sure they can take the place of the leader. They’re not sure they want to. It could dishonor the previous leader and their mentor.

You cannot let the legacy of those who have come before you hold you back. You are a different person than they are. You have a different story to tell.

Lead in your own way. Lead better than your mentors.

7. You may be called to lead when you’re not ready:

The Emperor’s Imperial Army was in the midst of training when they were called to battle. Garrisons along the Silk Road continue to fall. The Emperor had to do something.

This meant the Imperial Army was going into battle without full training. This didn’t stop the army from going to war. They went even with incomplete training.

You may be a young team member and suddenly you’re called up to lead. You didn’t have the training or mentoring for you to feel completely comfortable.

Too bad. It is time to lead. It is time for you to stand up and get things done.

You don’t need tons of fancy training, leadership seminars, or workshops to lead. You have to have a willing heart and vision for the organization.

Step up to lead when you’re called upon, even if you’re not fully ready.

8. Xianniang (Li Gong):

Your deceit weakens you.

Xianniang was a witch in the service of Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee). She had multiple powers and used them to her advantage.

Once Mulan and Xianniang met, Xianniang knew Mulan was hiding something. She knew Mulan was not a man but a woman hiding her true strength.

Xianniang called Mulan out on this. She told her that her deceit weakens her.

Leaders, if you’re leading through or in deceit, you need to stop it. You’re hurting yourself and you’re hurting those you lead.

The deceit you’re using to hold power, gain power, or show power is weakening you. You don’t have to be deceitful to lead. You need to be you.

9. Zhou:

A lie can live only for so long.

Zhou knew you couldn’t lie your way through life. He knew a lie would either die out or be found out.

He warned others of the life of a lie.

You cannot lead long if you’re lying. Lies will be found out. They will be crushed out. They will die out.

Instead of lying, use what you know to lead. Be honest and open with your team members.

They will understand. You don’t have to lie to lead.

10. Mulan:

I know my place.

Xianniang had been tempting Mulan to join forces with her. She wanted them to team up and become unstoppable.

To do this, Xianniang reminded Mulan that she was going to get into trouble for lying about being a male. She believed this would make Mulan turn to the dark side.

Mulan didn’t. She had found her place. She knew her role. She was going to live it out.

There comes a power when you discover your own place. You begin to step up and step out. You discover you’re more than enough and that you’re accepted by your tribe.

11. People will turn on bad leaders:

Böri Khan had called Xianniang a dog and other derogatory names. He was a bad leader and treated her poorly.

In the end, Xianniang turns on Böri Khan. She found a way to lead Mulan to Böri Khan and to his death.

Bad leaders will discover sooner than later that their bad leadership actions will not create loyal team members. Their actions will do the opposite. The actions of bad leaders will create team members who will turn on them.

You have to make sure you’re leading from a good place. You have to make sure you’re leading with kindness and gentleness (this isn’t weakness and it doesn’t allow for bad team members).

Make sure you’re a good leader. Make sure you’re building up great team members.

12. Zhou:

It is my daughter that means everything to me.

Mulan successfully defeats Böri Khan. She is invited to join the Emperor’s (Jet Li) Imperial Guard. It was a great honor but she turned him down.

She had to return home. She had to expose her lie to her family.

When her father hears her tale, he tells her something important. Zhou lets his daughter know how important she is to him.

We, as leaders, need to remember that our team is important. Still, there’s something more important than our team and our work. Our family should mean more to us than our work.

Make sure your family knows how important they are. Show them your love and care.

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