Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Original Movie

A Reel Leadership Flashback Article

The world is in utter chaos as the Coronavirus spreads across nations. The spread of the Coronavirus has disrupted much of our normal lives… Including visits to the local movie theaters.

Theaters are shuttered around the world. This means no new movies!!! What’s a reel leader to do?

April O'Neil and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the movie

He goes to Netflix and looks for a good movie to watch. This week, we settled on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Original Movie.

Released in 1990, you can tell it is a 90’s movie. And that makes the movie a lot of fun.

We get to see Leonardo (David Forman, voiced by Brian Tochi), Raphael (Josh Pais), Michaelangelo (Michelan Sisti, voiced by Robbie Rist), and Donatello (Leif Tilden, voiced by Corey Feldman) battle Shredder (James Saito, voiced by David McCharen), Tatsu (Toshishiro Obata, voiced by Michael McConnohie), and the Foot Clan! All in the over the top way only the 90’s could do.

Sit back, strap in, and let’s head into a Reel Leadership Flashback article. Head over to Netflix or Amazon to watch it yourself and then come back here!

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Original Movie

1. April O’Neil (Judith Hoag):

Perhaps the most disturbing silence is the silence coming from city hall.

April O’Neil was a reporter for a local news station. She saw the hidden crime in the city. Crime that was being committed silently. It was also being swept under the rug.

City Hall was silent on the issue. The police department was silent on the issue. This silence was more disturbing than the silence of the criminals.

April was onto something. Bad things happen. We all know this. The bad things are disturbing and don’t need to be mentioned as such.

However, more disturbing than bad behavior is the silence of leaders. Leaders cannot be silent when there is wrongdoing going on.

Leaders have to be willing to speak up and out about the wrong they see. Keeping silent will only make the leader look bad.

2. Celebrate your victories:

The turtles saw April O’Neil being mugged by members of the Foot Clan. They couldn’t let this crime go unpunished. They chose to step out of the darkness and into the light to help April.

On their way back through the sewers, they were excited about their victory. They had seen someone in need, they took action, and then they celebrated.

Great leaders know their teams are doing great things. Every day, your team members are doing something only they can do. Their activities are what keep your business running.

With this knowledge, how are you celebrating your team members and their victories? Large or small, victories need to be celebrated.

Celebrating victories shows your team members you recognize their hard work. It also gives them the recognition they deserve.

3. Splinter (voiced by Kevin Clash):

Our domain is the shadows.

Splinter, a giant rat and the Turtles mentor, knew the people of New York were not ready for the Turtles to be seen in daylight. He warned them of the consequences of being seen. He also knew where the Turtles would operate the best – The shadows.

He encouraged the Turtles to stay in the shadows. To keep fighting crime. And to go unseen.

This was the Turtles domain.

Where do you do your best work? Is it in the corner office, at a remote office space such as a coffee shop, or at your home?

Where you do your best work could be considered your domain. This is where you should operate out of at least 75% of your working hours.

You will get your best work done. You will operate at peak performance. And you will find purpose and meaning when you do good work.

4. Splinter:

You are still young but one day, I will be gone.

Master Splinter gave the Turtles sage advice. He wouldn’t be around forever. One day, he will die. They had to be prepared for this eventuality.

He told them this not to shock them. He told the Turtles this to help them understand they needed to absorb his teachings while they could. Once he was gone, he would be gone.

You have great mentors in your life. You’ve even experienced great leaders.

These mentors and leaders won’t be around forever. One day, they will day.

Do what you can today to learn from them. Seek to get their knowledge and wisdom while you can.

5. Deliver on time:

The Turtles ordered a pizza. A Domino’s Pizza delivery man delivered the pizza to the Turtles… But the delivery man was 3 minutes late.

Domino’s Pizza had a rule where if the pizza was late, you got a discount. The Turtles paid the delivery man the discounted price.

Leaders, we have to get better at delivering our outcomes on time. I know this can be hard because targets and dates are constantly changing.

However, you have to realize this also reflects poorly on leadership. Your team members are watching you. When they see deliverables and time tables changing constantly, they begin to feel like they are treated unfairly when they are reprimanded for not delivering on time.

Let’s get over the double standards. Start holding yourself to the same standards you hold your team to.

6. Different leaders see things differently:

Raphael had stopped a couple of thugs. The thugs ran away and into the waiting Casey Jones (Elias Koteas).

Casey Jones decided to teach the young thugs a lesson. He began to beat them with his hockey stick. Raphael stepped in and stopped Casey Jones.

Why? Because Raphael knew the thugs needed to be taught a lesson but not the way Casey Jones was trying to teach them.

Have you ever encountered another leader or team member who opposed the way you tried to lead things? If you’ve been in leadership any amount of time, you have.

How did you feel? Did you feel like they were trying to usurp your authority? Or maybe they didn’t know what you knew?

Here’s the thing… Different leaders are going to see things differently. From how to discipline a team member to whether or not to make the big investment by buying out a competitor.

Different leaders have different views. That’s okay. What you have to do is figure out a way to come to a consensus.

Talk it out with other leaders. Get their input. Find out why they’re doing what they’re doing. Then see how you can meet in the middle.

7. Splinter:

My master Yoshi’s first rule was to possess the right thinking. Only then can one receive the gifts of strength, knowledge, and peace.

Splinter had to have a heart to heart with Raphael. Raphael was filled with anger. His mind clouded by this emotion.

Splinter had been taught by his master, Hamato Yoshi. One of those lessons was to have the right thinking… the right mindset.

Having the right thinking is crucial to a leader. The right thinking will lead to better decision making. It will help the leader to be clear and focused when he has to act.

Do you have a clear mindset? Are you thinking right?

If not, there’s no time like today to get your thinking right.

8. We’re more alike than you think:

April O’Neil only had frozen pizza in her apartment. She told the Turtles they probably wouldn’t want what she had. Boy, was she wrong!

The Turtles were excited. They loved pizza. Their taste in food was more alike than April thought.

Can I let you in on a little secret? Your team members… They’re more like you than you probably want to admit.

Their dreams and desires, very similar to yours. Maybe on a smaller scale but similar. What they like to do? Probably close to you. They like going to ball games, watching football, going for a run. Their hobbies are your hobbies.

The people you lead are more like you than you think. Use that to connect with them.

9. Bad leaders lash out for failing:

The Foot Clan failed to bring the Turtles back to Shredder. The members of the Foot Clan who failed were attacked by Tatsu, their teacher.

Tatsu was a bad leader. He saw failure and lashed out at his students. He couldn’t control his anger.

The situation could have been bad. People could have been hurt. All because of failure.

As a leader, you have a choice. You can lash out at your team when they fail to accomplish a goal or you can help them accomplish the goal and coach them through it.

Your response will reflect on how you lead. Choose to respond well. Choose to see failure not as an end but as a teachable moment.

10. Great leaders get better because of their interactions with other leaders:

The Turtles were all unique. They had their own fighting style and their own weapons. You could tell they were similar but different.

They sparred with one another. They fought each other. Doing this helped them become better fighters.

When’s the last time you had a mental sparring session with another leader? Has it been a long time?

A sparring session isn’t something violent. It’s a training exercise to help you become a better leader.

You spend time with another leader. Bounce an idea off of him. He’ll shoot back another situation. You’ll give a solution.

Back and forth you go. Sparring with one another. Sharpening your leadership skills.

Find a leader you can spar with.

11. Splinter:

I am proud of you, my sons.

Splinter had something to say to his sons. He wanted them to know he was proud of them. So, he told them.

It’s not a hard thing to do. But it is.

Great leaders know they have to let their team members know when they’re proud of them. Don’t hold back your admiration or your pride. Tell your team frequently how proud of them you are.

This will make their day. It will also make them respect you more.

12. Great leaders were great followers:

As a rat (pre-mutation), Splinter watched Master Yoshi train. Master Yoshi would move and practice the art of Ninjitsu. Master Splinter would mimic the moves he saw Master Yoshi perform.

Splinter was a follower before he led the Turtles. He knew he had to train under someone before he could be successful.

Who are you following? What leader is your mentor?

Great leaders are great followers. They look for someone to learn and grow from. You need to find someone to follow.

13. Make things right when you’ve screwed up:

Danny Pennington (Michael Turney) was the son of Charles Pennington (Jay Patterson). Charles was April’s boss and had brought Danny to her house earlier in the movie. While there, Danny saw an opportunity.

April’s wallet was out in the open. He saw it, opened it, and took money out of her wallet.

At the end of the movie, Danny had a change of heart. He had left the Foot Clan. He began to make better choices. He also knew he had to make things right.

When he saw April, he went up to her. He handed her a $20 bill. He tried to make things right.

You will screw up as a leader. Your choice will hurt someone unnecessarily. Or you will get upset at someone.

When you’ve been wrong, don’t try to hide it. Instead, choose to be the bigger man. Go, apologize, make things right.

This is what a great leader does. This is what you need to do.

Question: If you’ve watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Original Movie, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what Reel Leadership lessons from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Original Movie that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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