Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Little Things

Logo for Reel Leadership

Now, The Little Things could mean a lot of things. This one is for the movie The Little Things starring the always amazing Denzel Washington (check out his great movies on Amazon) as Joe “Deke” Deacon, a Kern County Deputy Sheriff who is sent back home to Los Angeles. He is there to collect evidence for a pending court case. His simple task became much more complicated as he begins to try to solve a complicated case involving a serial killer.

He runs into old friends and friends who have become hostile. He also runs into Jim Baxter (Rami Malek from Bohemian Rhapsody), a great up and coming LASD detective.

Denzel Washing and Rami Mallick in The Little Things

The two begin investigating the case together, though separately. Their investigation leads them to Albert Sparma (Jared Leto who played the Joker in The Suicide Squad), their top suspect.

The Little Things will twist and turn as you watch the film. It’s not like Washington’s other films. There’s very little action but a whole lot of thinking.

There’s also lots of leadership lessons in The Little Things. Take a seat, strap in, grab some popcorn, and get ready to become a Reel Leader.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From The Little Things

1. Captain Henry Davis (Glenn Morshower):

Oh no, it’s our problem.

Davis told Deacon he needed to go to L.A. to grab a piece of evidence for an upcoming court case. They were a pair of blood-stained boots.

Deacon protested. He told Davis this wasn’t their problem.

Davis saw otherwise. He knew they needed to go and get the boots.

Great leaders don’t pass the buck. They see a problem, they claim the problem.

Davis did this in The Little Things. You need to do this in your organization.

Whether this means delegating it out to someone else or handling the problem on your own, leaders own the problem. Own the problems you notice.

2. LASD Captain Carl Farris (Terry Kinney):

Everybody needs a little faith.

Captain Farris was a believer, though he wasn’t a very kind believer. One thing he said struck true.

Farris said, “Everybody needs a little faith.”

He’s right. Everybody could use a little faith. The faith could be for different things.

Leaders need faith for:

  • Better days
  • Increased profits
  • Empowered employees
  • Great family relationships
  • Strength for the day
  • And more

I need faith. You need faith. Let’s get and hold onto faith today!

3. Live out your convictions:

Farris displayed scripture behind his desk. You would think he would live out the Word of God.

He didn’t.

He was rude and condescending. He treated people poorly.

This sets a bad example of what a Christian is or should be. He wasn’t living out his convictions.

Are you a Christian leader? If you are, people are watching. They’re looking at you trying to figure out if you’re going to live out what you say you believe.

Make sure you’re living out your convictions.

4. Joe Deacon:

Not that much has changed then.

Joe was talking to Jimmy. Jimmy had mentioned how much things have changed. Joe didn’t buy it.

Joe questioned Jimmy. He asked him one simple question: Do you still have to catch the bad guy?

Jimmy’s answer was “Yes.”

Things are still the same, then…

A lot has changed in leadership. More has stayed the same.

Technology may have changed. Where we work may have changed. How we communicate may have changed. More has changed.

Life is a constant world of change. Yet, not much truly changes for a leader.

We still have to

  • Instill a vision
  • Help people succeed
  • Grow the business
  • Challenge those we lead
  • Innovate
  • Do the hard things
  • And more

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Things change, but not that much has changed for leaders.

5. We all carry reminders of what we’ve done wrong:

Flo Dunigan (Charlene “Michael” Hyatt) was a coroner for the LAPD. She was also a friend of Deacon.

In one scene, we hear Deacon and Dunigan discuss a keychain she carried around. It contained an expended bullet.

She carried this bullet keychain as a reminder of what they had done.

You may not have been part of covering something up as big as Deacon and Dunigan, but we’ve all done something we shouldn’t have. We carry around the burden of these transgressions with us.

This was the underlining theme of The Little Things (though what they did was a big thing).

The little things burden us. They keep pulling us back. They hold us down.

Do your best to free yourself from the little things in your life. The more you do, the less you will struggle with guilt and shame.

6. Know when to rest:

We discover Deacon had a lot happen to him. After a case he worked on, he lost it.

Deacon had a mental breakdown. He had a heart attack. He got a divorce.

This was from carrying the little things. It was also from pursuing his job to an extreme.

Deacon didn’t know how to break free from the job and rest. He put his all into it. It cost him almost everything.

Leaders, we cannot become all consumed with our work. There are things in our life that need tending to outside of work.

Make sure you’re taking care of those things. They may be your family, friends, yourself, outside hobbies, etc… Without these, you will breakdown.

7. You never know what mess lies just below the surface:

Deacon was observing a crime scene from afar. Looking from the bridge, the crime scene looked beautiful. It did. It was a stunning piece of scenery.

However, the closer you got to the crime scene, the more you realize the mess you couldn’t see. It was horrible.

This is true in our lives. So many people see us from a distance. We see so many people from a distance.

Distance gives us a surface-level view. We can easily think things are okay. Others can think they’re okay.

There are major messes just below the surface. We just cannot see them without further examination.

Realize this as you struggle with your internal demons. Be gentle with others as they deal with theirs.

8. People know when things are wrong:

Marsha (Judith Scott) was Decon’s ex-wife. Deacon paid her a visit while in Los Angeles.

I love that Marsha had concern for Deacon. While visiting, Marsha asked Deacon if he was okay.

Deacon’s answer wasn’t straight-forward. His answer left a lot to be desired. He told Marsha, “You know me…”

While this was telling, he didn’t tell her the truth. He was struggling. She realized this through the innuendo.

People will sense when things are wrong with you. If you’re going through a personal issue, a financial issue, or something else, these issues seep into your work-life.

Don’t be coy or shy about them. Expose enough of what you’re going through to help your people understand you’re hurting.

They know something is not right. Don’t hide.

9. Joe Deacon:

It’s the little things that are important. It’s the little things that will get you caught.

Deacon wanted to know what Julie Brock’s (Tiffany Gonzalez) last meal was. He discovered her last meal had been roast beef.

Julie’s last meal was a little thing. A detail most people would have overlooked. Not Deacon. He wanted to know.

It helped him.

Julie’s last meal was not normal for her. Julie was a vegetarian. It was a little thing.

Once again, The Little Things shows us that it is the little things in our lives that matter. The little indiscretions you have, they’re the things that are going to get you in trouble.

If you’re doing little things wrong, stop doing them. They’re not worth it.

10. Every leader has a reason for leading:

Albert was the main suspect in the serial killings. Joe and Jim both wanted to nail the perp. Their reasons were vastly different.

Jim wanted to nail Albert to get justice for Ronda Rathbun (Maya Kazan), Julie, and the other victims. He wanted justice.

Deacon wanted to nail Albert for another reason. He wanted to nail Albert for himself. He wanted peace and closure for the open case he still had.

Every leader you come into contact with will have a different reason for leading. Someone may have inspired them. Others may have seen poor leadership. Still, others may have come upon it naturally.

There’s no right or wrong reason for leading (other than for control and power). The reason leaders have for leading will be a guiding light for them.

11. Split-second decisions have long-lasting consequences:

Albert told Jim he would lead him to Ronda’s body. He couldn’t resist the possibility he may be able to break the case.

They drove to a dirt-filled plot of land that was enclosed by a fence. Albert told Jim to dig in a certain spot. Then he had him dig in another spot… then another… and yet another.

Albert was toying with Jim.

Albert began to talk about Jim’s family. This is when Jim broke. Jim took his shovel and smashed Albert’s face. This killed Albert.

Uh oh…

Jim’s split-second decision changed his life. It made him a murderer. He was going to have to live with this guilt for the rest of his life.

How many times do we act in a moment of rage? We make a split-second decision and it is something we would not normally do?

These split-second decisions are dangerous. They open us up to the possibility of doing something we will regret for the rest of our lives.

Work on yourself. Work on finding ways to make better decisions. Avoid split-second decisions as best you can.

12. Leaders try to give their people peace:

Jim did something he shouldn’t have. He killed a man. Deacon did something he shouldn’t have either. He killed a young woman accidentally and covered it up. The bullet Flo carried? It was the bullet that killed the girl.

Deacon knew the pain Jim was going through. He wanted to lessen the pain.

Jim and Deacon never found Ronda’s body. However, Jim had told Deacon there was a red hair clip Ronda would wear while running.

Deacon did something to put Jim’s mind at ease. He purchased a set of hair clips, mailing Jim the red one. This gave Jim peace.

While I don’t like what Deacon did (he deceived Jim), I can appreciate what he did. He helped give Jim closure and peace. He helped Jim come to terms with what he had done.

Leaders, we can do the same thing but in a better way. We can give people peace. We can help them come to grips with what they’ve done or had to do.

Lead your people in a way that gives them peace.

If you enjoyed this Reel Leadership article, you may enjoy our collection of Reel Leadership articles eBook. You can get this eBook for free by signing up for updates by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.