It’s been 9 years since we visited the capital city of Panem, created by Suzanne Collins. In The Hunger Games, every year, there is a reaping (choosing of contestants) and The Hunger Games. The Hunger Games is a fight-to-the-death battle between the randomly chosen contestants of various districts. It’s a brutal way for the government to control the districts.
But The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is different. We’re not at the 75th annual Hunger Games. We’re near the beginning, taking place during the 10th Hunger Games. The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes is a prequel to what has already come.
For the 10th annual Hunger Games, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) is chosen to mentor a young girl, Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler), from the impoverished District 12. He was dismayed as his family had fallen on hard times, and he was hopeful he would get a contestant with more skill, energy, and violence so he could win the Plinth Prize. The Plinth Prize was an award to the mentor of the winner of the Hunger Games.
Because of who was chosen, Snow went another route. He decided to make the Hunger Games a spectacle. He wrote a manifesto of violence, entertainment, and change for the Games.
What Snow didn’t realize was that this would change him. And the world around him.
We’re going to dive into the surprising leadership lessons in The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes in this edition of Reel Leadership.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds & Snakes
1. Young Snow (Dexter Sol Ansell):
Why he doing that?
Young Snow is out in District 12 with his cousin, Tigris (Rosa Gotzler/Hunter Schafer), when they come upon a man finding a dead body. The man cleaves a limb off of the corpse, and the children are left in shock.
Snow then asks his cousin why the man did this. Tigris answers that the man was hungry.
While Snow’s English wasn’t proper, his question was valid. The answer was even more profound. Snow was curious. He wanted to know why the man was acting the way he did.
When was the last time you wondered why an employee, coworker, or competitor did the things they did? Asking why is an essential question in the leader’s utility belt. The more he asks why and listens, the more he can understand why someone does what they do.
Imagine it was your name. Don’t discount her just because she’s district.
He was dismayed when it was announced that Lucy Gray Baird would be Snow’s contestant. He believed she would be one of the first contestants to be killed in The Hunger Games. His cousin called him out on this.
Tigress saw potential in someone others discounted. This young girl could, and would, become the victor.
When you look at your team, what do you see? Do you see where someone came from, their stutter, or some other challenge they have to overcome? Maybe you think you don’t have a great time because of them.
You need to stop discounting your team. It doesn’t matter where they came from, what disabilities they have, or what challenges they’re facing. If you believe in them and give them the right resources, they can thrive in their position or a position they get moved to.
3. Lucy Gray Baird:
Snow snuck aboard the transport of the tributes. Upon arriving at the zoo where the games are held, the tributes and Snow are dumped in front of the crowd. The announcer of The Hunger Games, Lucky Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), states all 24 tributes have arrived. Then he sees Snow and wonders how this mentor got there.
Snow freaked out for a minute when Lucy Gray Baird told him to own the moment. Make a show out of it.
He does, and he’s able to score points with the Academy and people watching the games.
Snow found himself in a sticky situation. Leaders find themselves in sticky situations all the time, too.
You may find yourself in a room where you’re the least knowledgeable. You may have to enter a space where you know no one.
My advice to you is to own it.
Hold your head high, act like you belong, and talk with confidence. You may not be the smartest, but you can chat with the smartest and learn. You may not know everyone, but if you confidently walk in, you can get to know the people in the room.
Owning it means you seize the moment and work with what you have.
4. You and your team aren’t so different:
Snow brought food to Lucy Gray Baird to help her increase her strength before the games. She then gave some to another contestant, Jessup (Nick Benson). In a surprising move, she also gives a cookie back to Snow.
Snow had been eyeing the cookie. He, too, was hungry. He admitted this to Lucy Gray Baird when he said things may not be that different in the Capitol.
There can appear to be an enormous chasm between a leader and the team they lead. It may appear that the leader has everything together, things are going well, and they’re taken care of. That’s not always the case. Neither is it the case that an employee is poorly cared for or struggling.
More often than not, there’s a smaller gap between leadership and the team they lead than first appears. Learn to bridge that gap, and you’ll find you can connect and relate to those you lead.
5. Don’t take credit for what you didn’t do:
Snow had devised new and exciting ways for the Hunger Games to be held. This would increase viewership and make people excited for the games. He said he had coauthored it with Clemensia Dovecote (Ashley Liao). That wasn’t true, but he was trying to help her.
When the two met with Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis), Gaul had already had the paper tossed into a vat of rainbow-colored snakes. She asked the two of them who had written the proposal. Dovecote immediately stepped up and said she had written it. Gaul revealed that the snakes wouldn’t harm the person whose scent was on the paper. Dovecote reached in anyway and was bitten.
Her desire for credit caused her apparent death.
We all want to be recognized for the things we do. Sometimes, we also want credit for the things we haven’t done. We see someone basking in the spotlight, or we see something done well, and we go to take credit for it.
Don’t. Stop it. Quit it.
Leaders don’t take credit for the things they don’t do. Heck, great leaders are even willing to give away credit.
You’re chasing a dangerous thing when you take credit for things you don’t do.
6. Power is intoxicating:
One of the other mentors, Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andrés Rivera), had snuck into the Hunger Games arena. He was in trouble, and Snow was sent in to rescue him.
In doing so, Snow had to fight off one of the tributes. During the fight, he was filled with rage and killed the person.
Talking later, Snow said that killing the tribute felt awful. But there was something more. The killing also made him feel powerful.
As we watch in horror, this lust for power slowly changes Snow from a charming, sweet young man to what he finally becomes in The Hunger Games series.
The same thing can happen to leaders. Someone gets promoted or takes on the mantle of leadership. They feel that power. They’re drawn to it. And it changes them.
Power is intoxicating. We must be aware of its power and reject the siren call to embrace it.
7. Use what you have:
Lucy Gray Baird’s friend, Jessup, had been infected by rabies. Jessup began foaming at the mouth and chasing Lucy Gray Baird. The mentors deduced what was happening.
One of the mentors chose to send in a water resource. The resource hit Jessup in the chest, breaking the container of water on him. He went crazier.
Do you know why? A rabies infection causes you to become afraid of water.
In another instance, a pack of tributes began to attack Lucy Gray Baird. Snow saw this as an opportunity to send in water. Not to scare them, not to give Lucy Gray Baird the relief of water. No, he did it because the drones bringing in water weren’t accurate. He knew this and saw it as a way to attack the pack attacking Lucy Gray Baird.
In both these instances, the mentors used the tools they had on hand in ways they weren’t intended to be used. Yet, using them was effective.
We won’t always have the proper tools on hand. We will have something that could work, though.
Use what you have. See what creative ways you can reimagine or reuse your existing tools.
8. Bad leaders change the rules:
The Hunger Games ends when only one tribute remains. That’s how it had been for years. When Lucy Gray Baird won, Gaul wouldn’t let the games end. She wanted to see all the tributes exterminated.
So… she told them to continue. Let the rainbow-colored snakes kill Lucy Gray Baird as well.
It was another sign that Gaul wasn’t a good leader.
We lay out the ground rules for the teams we lead. We tell them what’s acceptable, what’s not, and let them go.
Sometimes, we choose to change the rules midway through. We don’t let them know. We just do.
That’s not good leadership. That’s poor leadership.
Stop changing the rules of your teams, at least without notifying them. If you keep changing the rules, there’s no way anyone will succeed.
9. Sejanus Plinth:
It’s worth the risk to do the right thing.
Sejanus had become a rebel sympathizer. He was helping them with food and other things in District 12.
Snow saw this. He tried to talk Sejanus out of helping them, but he wouldn’t stop.
Sejanus knew something. He knew great leaders took risks despite what may happen to them.
Be a Sejanus leader. Be one who takes risks because it’s the right thing to do.
That’s what great leaders do. They do the right thing despite the costs.
10. A leader’s legacy can be their greatest regret:
We discover that Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) greatly regretted coming up with the idea of The Hunger Games along with his classmate Crassus Snow, Coriolanus’s father. In fact, he despised what he helped create so much that he was trying to get The Hunger Games to end.
This all came to a head when Coriolanus Snow helped make the 10th annual Hunger Games a spectacle to behold. Highbottom shared with Snow that he regretted what he had created. He was trying to tear it all down when Snow did what he did.
Highbottom’s guilt consumed him to the point he drank the poison the young Snow brought to him. Highbottom’s legacy of death and destruction consumed him even though he was trying to change.
What’s the legacy you’re building? Consider each step you take in creating or building your legacy. You may not realize the thing you’re building is the thing that will tear you down.
This isn’t meant to be scary or a warning not to do anything. Instead, I want you to be cautious as you build your legacy. You may come to realize the legacy you’re building is the wrong one.