Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Call Of The Wild

A Reel Leadership Article

Jack London’s classic literary story of Buck and his journey was originally released in 1903. This past weekend, it was brought to the big screen.

I have to be honest, I didn’t have huge expectations for this movie, much like last week’s Sonic The Hedgehog. However, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the great story they told through the new film.

The Call Of The Wild tells the story of Buck and the hands he passes through as he hears the call of the wild. He had a posh lifestyle living with a judge… Until he was kidnapped and sold to sledders. One of the hands he passes into is Perrault (Omar Sy).

Harrison Ford as John Thorton in The Call Of The Wild

Perrault is a mail delivery person. He treats his dogs well and cares for them. When he receives news his mail route is going away, Buck passes once more into the hands of someone abusive until John Thorton (Harrison Ford) steps in and frees him.

Whether you’re a fan of the original Jack London classic or never read the book (or in my case, you don’t remember the book), The Call Of The Wild is a great movie. You won’t be disappointed in seeing the classic brought to life.

You’ll also head a call. A call to better leadership.

The Call Of The Wild contains plenty of leadership lessons. We’re going to look at these in today’s Reel Leadership article.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Call Of The Wild

1. Abigail (Jamie Bock):

Buck means well.

Abigail said this to a mailman after Buck had knocked him down. The mailman said Buck was a menace.

Abigail knew Buck was more than a menace. He was a good dog who meant well.

We all know people like Buck. They’re good people. They want to do right. And, boy, do they ever try.

They’re good people… They also can be a menace.

Watch out for these people. Sometimes, they don’t know better. These are the ones you need to hang onto.

Like Buck, people who mean well can become your greatest asset.

2. Beware the punishment you give others:

Judge Miller (Bradley Whitford) threw a lavish party. He’d warned Buck to be on his best behavior. Guess what Buck did? He messed up.

Buck saw the spread of food Miller had laid out for the party. It looked sooooo good. So good Buck couldn’t resist.

Buck jumped on the table and devoured the food. He then brought a leg to the family photoshoot.

Miller was beside himself. He punished Buck by having him spend the night outside on the porch.

During the night, a dognapper dropped by the house. He saw Buck was outside and lured him into a crate to haul him away.

Judge Miller lost his dog, his companion because of the punishment he laid out.

Your team will make mistakes. They’ll do things you don’t want them to do.

This is life when leading others. They have a mind of their own and they’ll do what they desire.

This doesn’t mean you don’t reprimand them for doing things wrong or breaking something. Correcting others is part of being a leader. However, you have to watch out for how you’re correcting others.

Does it fit the “crime?” How would you respond to the correction? What other steps can be taken to resolve the issue?

We have to think through our reaction and the way we punish those we lead. We can’t overreact.

3. A leader’s fortunes will change:

We saw this with Buck. His life was cozy and comfortable. He lived with a family who loved him.

Buck was then kidnapped. He was sold into a hardworking position. Then he found a master who treated him well only to lose this master to an evil prospector named Hal (Dan Stevens).

But then Buck’s fortune changed again. Thorton crossed his path and rescued him from Hal. They lived a good life until Buck went to the wild.

Leaders… I can’t say this any more clearly but you will have your ups and your downs. You will have great teams and you will have bad teams.

These are your fortunes. At times you will be happy and pleased with them. Other times you will be disappointed.

When good times come, remember bad times will be here soon enough. When bad times come, remember good times are just around the corner.

4. John Thorton:

He was beaten but he was not broken.

You know Buck had his ups and his downs. He had bad masters. These bad masters tried to beat him into brokenness.

Buck was strong. He continued to fight. He wouldn’t let himself be broken.

You will be bruised while you’re leading. You will struggle to find your place. You may even want to give up.

But don’t…

Remember what Buck did. He continued to fight through the abuse. He chose to stand when he could have shirked back.

Don’t break.

5. Distractions will pull your team off course:

Buck was part of a team of sled dogs that helped run mail to the various towns in the Yukon. He was young and fresh. He didn’t know what he was doing.

One time, Buck saw a rabbit. He lunged and pulled to get it. He pulled the rest of the team off course and over the side of a hill.

They crashed…

Leaders are inundated with distractions. There are new shiny objects around every corner. Everything looks like something a leader should have his team try.

Do you know what this does? This pulls your team off mission and off course as Buck did with the rabbit. Every time you try to change course because something new will revolutionize your leadership style or improve your team, you run the risk of crashing your team.

Make sure you’re not chasing after the rabbits of leadership. Stay the course. Do the hard work. You will get to your destination if you’re not distracted.

6. Leaders don’t always carry a title:

Buck was the new dog to the sled team. He had no experience and there was already a lead dog named Spitz. Spitz was a mean leader.

He treated the other dogs poorly. He took advantage of his position. And he was angry.

Buck was new. He had no desire to lead but began to be seen as a leader. He did this through service.

Buck saw Spitz steal a fish from one of the other dogs. What did he do? He brought his fish to the dog who had his stolen. In another instance, Spitz protected a water hole he had found. Buck knew he could create a new hole to get water from. He did this and invited the other dogs to drink from the new hole.

Buck became a leader. Not through title but through service.

This is how great leaders are born. They lead even when they have no official title. They serve until leadership is earned.

What are you doing to earn the title of leader? Make sure you’re actually a leader by action and not title alone.

7. The better leader you become, the more people believe in you:

Perrault had never believed in much… Especially the dogs. But he did begin to believe in Buck.

Through Perrault’s belief, Françoise (Cara Gee) began to believe in Buck as well. It didn’t hurt Buck saved her life.

At the beginning of your leadership journey, there may not be many people who believe in you. They may think you’re too young, don’t have enough experience, or will leave soon enough.

You can prove them wrong. I would recommend you do this the way Buck did. One person at a time.

You get one person on your side and things begin to take form. This person will influence another to believe in you. Then another and another and another.

Don’t miss the power of connecting with a person and getting them to believe in you.

8. With a good leader, the team does great work:

Spitz had been a bad leader of the dogsled team. We know that. The other dogs knew that.

When Spitz confronted Buck and was ousted as leader, Buck took over. Something miraculous happened at this moment.

The team began to improve their work. They became better than ever.

A good leader can make or break the team. When a bad leader is in charge, the leader will not get the most out of his or her people. They will do enough to get by. Change the bad leader to a good leader and the team can go to the moon and back.

If your team is underperforming, look at yourself. Could you be the piece that is holding them back? If it is, you can improve and become a better leader.

9. Perrault:

We don’t carry mail. We carry lives.

Many people saw Perrault as simply a mailman. He delivered letters to the people.

Big deal, right?


Perrault knew what he was really doing. He was delivering life to the people receiving the letters. Each letter contained a part of someone. Their stories and messages were delivered by Perrault and his team.

Your organization has a mission and vision. Your work counts for something. Do you know what that is?

Perrault knew – He delivered life.

Zappos knows – They deliver happiness.

Figure out what your organization delivers. Then promote the heck out of it.

10. Your team may have to correct you:

Thorton had a drinking problem. After his son died, he left his wife and turned to the bottle. He would drink himself into a stupor.

Buck observed this. He saw what Thorton was doing. He knew he had to step in and stop him.

Buck saw Thorton was drinking again. He went to Thorton and knocked over the glass containing the alcohol. Thorton went for the bottle, Buck took the bottle and hid it outside.

Enough was enough. Thorton had to be corrected and Buck did this to his leader.

It may seem strange to think a leader needs to be corrected. Yet we all do. We all need correction and people who love us enough to tell us when we’re going down the wrong path.

Listen to your team when they bring correction to you. They’re not doing this to hurt you. They’re correcting you to help you get better.

11. Great leaders encourage their team members to leave:

Throughout The Call Of The Wild, Buck was pulled towards the wilderness. He saw a black wolf over and over again. He found a pack with a group of wolves.

His home wasn’t in the domesticated world of man. His home was in the wild.

Thorton saw the pull the wild had on Buck. He didn’t try to keep Buck to himself. Rather, he knew Buck would thrive in the wild. He encouraged Buck to leave.

Your team members have their own goals. They have their own desires. Sometimes these goals, dreams, and desires no longer align with the organization.

What do you do at this point? Does the leader try to keep this great team member locked in at the organization? Or does the leader see the call the team member has on their life and encourages them to go out into the wild?

Great leaders know they can’t hold onto great team members forever. They have to encourage them to leave the nest. To find their true pack.

Let your team members go… Even the good ones.

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

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