Growing up, I remember playing the Nintendo Entertainment System’s video game Little Nemo: The Dream Master by Capcom. It was a video game about Nemo and his journey through dreams. I also remember watching Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.
The game was based on the comic series from 1910-1911. Those comics didn’t age well.
Recently, a new entry in the Little Nemo series was released. The release is the Netflix movie Slumberland.
Slumberland stars Jason Momoa as the eccentric Flip, Marlow Barkley as Nemo, and Chris O’Dowd as Uncle Phillip.
The film is enjoyable, especially as a great retelling of a classic story. You’ll be taken to the real world along to dreamland. There, the cast faces multiple challenges.
These challenges all add up to great leadership lessons. This article will look at those lessons and what you can learn from Slumberland.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Slumberland
1. People will offer their help but often distract us:
Nemo’s dad, Peter (Kyle Chandler), had returned home on his boat. He’d left to get ingredients for breakfast. Nemo runs and tells him she’ll help.
What does little Nemo do? Instead of helping, she hops on her dad’s back.
That’s not helping!
We have to be cautious when people offer to help us. When they do, we have to set clear definitions and guidelines of what help really looks like.
Make sure you’re helping people understand what kind of help you need. They’ll distract you and make your work more difficult if you don’t.
2. We need to learn what things really are for:
Early in Slumberland, Nemo asks what’s the point of learning math. She believed math was pointless, especially with what she was going to do.
Nemo believed she would take over the lighthouse. She knew what she needed to know.
Or so she thought.
When Peter asks Nemo what a lighthouse’s point is, Nemo has an answer. The answer was wrong.
We need to get clear on the point of things in our business.
We need to know why we’re doing business. There’s also figuring out how to do business and the work’s purpose.
Learn why you lead, why you do business, and why you make your products. When you know these things, leading gets a lot easier.
3. Leaders have to deliver hard news:
Nemo had been trapped in a nightmare. When she awoke, she heard a boat’s horn honk. She was excited. Dad was home!
Instead of her dad, Carla (Yanna McIntosh) was there. She was bringing bad news.
Nemo’s dad had been lost at sea. His boat sank.
Leader’s cannot only deliver the good news. We have to be prepared to deliver the hard news.
Hard news includes layoffs, a downturn in business, and going out of business.
If you’re not ready to deliver bad news, you’re not ready to lead.
4. Get rid of preconceived notions:
Peter had told Nemo about his friend Flip. Nemo had created a preconceived idea of who Flip was and what he looked like.
When Nemo met Flip in Slumberland, her preconceived notions were flipped upside down. Flip was nothing like Nemo had expected.
Our notions of who people are and how they should behave are often rooted in our own thoughts rather than in actuality. We must be careful not to let these notions cloud our judgments.
Be willing to leave behind your preconceived notions. They’ll hold you back when you meet people where they are.
5. Mrs. Arya (India de Beaufort):
You are capable of more than you think.
Nemo’s uncle, Philip, was struggling. He felt that he wouldn’t be a good father figure to Nemo.
Because of his feelings, he shared with Mrs. Arya that Nemo would be better off anywhere else than with him. Mrs. Arya countered.
She believed Philip had more to offer than he thought. In fact, he was more capable than he believed!
You, yes, you, are more capable than you believe. You have talent and skill and knowledge.
Learn to use what you have. Dig deep into your mindset, your skills, and your talents. You’ll soon discover that you are more capable than you think.
6. We can get lost in dreams:
Nemo and Flip enter Slumberland looking for pearls. One of the first dreams they enter is of a woman dancer.
The dancer is enticing. She lures Flip to her side. There, they dance and dance and dance.
Flip forgets his purpose. He gets lost in the woman’s dream.
Dreaming is great. We stretch ourselves and find who we really are when we look at our dreams. We see who we want to become.
There’s a downside to dreams, especially dreams that are not yours.
You can get lost in them. You begin to live in a fantasy world.
Make sure you’re not getting lost in your, or others, dreams. Pursue your dreams but don’t forget what’s in front of you.
7. Uncle Philip:
I think it would be a mistake if you shut yourself off from the world.
It’s funny that Philip said this to Nemo as we later discover he’s done the same thing he’s warning against. However, he tells Nemo this when she rejects his offer of a sailboat.
Nemo no longer wants to sail. She wants to be in her own world, away from anyone else she may lose.
We’re going to be hurt when we lead. There will be trials, tribulations, and more.
These situations are going to make you want to back away from relationships. Don’t!
You cannot shut yourself off from others or the world. You have to step into it. You have to live and lead.
8. Goals change:
Nemo and Flip had a map of Slumberland. They had to find doors to the next dream and then the next.
One of those doors kept moving.
They watched the map and followed it. They get there, and Whoops!, the door has moved.
Why? Because the door was hidden in a garbage truck driven by a young boy.
This is a silly way to exemplify this, but you can see the reason why. Goals change…
You’re going to get somewhere, discover that what you were trying to do isn’t going to work. Then, you’re going to have to change your goal or direction.
Don’t be afraid to change goals. They change, just like you.
I’m proud of you.
They enter into a third dream. In this dream, the door to the dream was in a toilet bowl. Nemo and Flip exit the toilet, sopping wet.
The duo begins to dry off. Flip starts to dance.
He looks at Nemo and tells her that he’s proud of her.
Wow! Stop the movie right there!
This is it, folks. This is what leadership is about.
Working alongside people. Helping people become who they are. Being proud of your people.
Tell your people that you’re proud of them. They need to hear it. You need to say it.
10. People care about you:
Nemo and Flip had been pursued by Agent Green (Weruche Opia). She was a member of the Bureau of Subconscious Activity. Flip had been running from Agent Green for years!
He had broken the regulations set forth by the Bureau. Why? Because he was running from himself and the hurt he faced back in the real world.
He’d been in Slumberland sooooo long that he believed no one cared about him.
He was wrong.
Not only did Nemo care for Flip, his brother Peter had cared for him as well.
Leadership gets messy. We lose ourselves in it.
When we resurface, we can believe no one cares for us.
They do. People care for you.
11. Agent Green:
Being brave isn’t about not being scared. It’s about doing what you have to do, even when you are.
Nemo had told Agent Green she wasn’t afraid of anything. It was a lie. Agent Green knew this too. However, she handled this statement with tact.
Agent Green told Nemo what true bravery was. Being brave is about doing what you must do, even when you’re scared.
Be brave, not foolish. It’s okay to be scared, it’s not okay to do nothing when you are.
12. Agent Green:
You had to give up your dream. I guess you found something more important.
Nemo had a dream of seeing her father again. The pearls Nemo and Flip sought would allow her to see her dad in her dreams.
Nemo was so close to wishing to see her dad when Flip got in trouble. The Nightmare had grabbed Flip. It was going to destroy him.
Instead of wishing for her dream, she wished to save Flip.
Upon meeting Agent Green at the lighthouse, Agent Green helped Nemo to understand that while she gave up her dream, it wasn’t the end. She told Nemo to check Pig. Pig coughed up another pearl.
We think our dreams die when we give them up for someone or something else. That’s not the case.
Often, it’s just a delay in realizing our dreams. By giving up your dream for someone else, you help them achieve theirs. They can then help you achieve yours.
I didn’t teach you all those things so you could live on an island. I did it so that you could know… you can do anything.
Nemo thought her dad had taught her all everything about the lighthouse so that she could stay there. He hadn’t.
In her wish, Nemo’s dad tells her that he taught her all the things he did so that she could do anything.
Leaders, you’re not teaching your people all that you know so that they never leave. You’re teaching them and helping them grow so that they can know they can do anything.
Don’t hold them back. Don’t hold them captive to your organization.
Free your people. Give them the confidence that they can leave the safe harbor of their training and go anywhere.