Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Toy Story 4

A Reel Leadership Article

Toy Story has been a favorite movie of mine for as long as I can remember. Watching the story of toys come to life reminds me of childhood and how I used to play with toys. I’m sure I imagine I used to think my toys could come to life when I wasn’t around. I mean, what kid didn’t?

Toys from Toy Story 4. Includes Buzz, Woody, Bo Peep, Gabby Gabby, and others

This is part of the charm of the Toy Story movies. The story is relatable to every child and child-at-heart. But that’s not the only thing that makes Toy Story great.

The Toy Story cast is amazing. The cast of Toy Story 4 includes the returning voice actors:

Michigan native Tim Allen as Buzz Lightyear

Tom Hanks as the cowboy Woody

Annie Potts as Bo Peep

Joan Cusack as Jessie

Wallace Shawn as Rex

John Ratzenberger as Hamm

Blake Clark as Slinky Dog

The late Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head

Estelle Harris as Mrs. Potato Head

And there are new characters introduced in Toy Story 4. These voice actors and characters are:

Tony Hale as Forky

Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky

Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby

Jordan Peele as Bunny

Ally Maki as Giggle McDimples

Keanu Reeves as Duke Caboom

Along with a host of other co-stars, the voice cast of Toy Story 4 brings the story to life. Not as much as the previous Toy Story movies but Toy Story 4 did a great job in continuing the adventures of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Andy’s old toys.

Toy Story 4 also does something else. Toy Story 4 is chock full of leadership insights and wisdom. You can watch Toy Story 4 for the story or you can take away leadership lessons from Toy Story 4. Or you can do both, like I did.

Let’s get into the latest article for Reel Leadership!

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Toy Story 4

1. Great teams are concerned about their team members:

Toy Story 4 opens with a story from 9 years prior. It’s a stormy night and something is amiss. There’s a missing toy!

You soon discover the missing toy is RC. He’s stuck and the storm waters are washing him away.

Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the toys aren’t sitting idly by. They’ve seen their teammate is in trouble. They spring into action to save him.

These toys cared about RC. The bond the team had formed was great enough they were willing to put themselves in danger to save the lost toy.

Great teams are like the toys in this flashback scene. They know each team member is important. You lose one, you lose a vital part of the team.

Build a team that cares about one another. The care goes beyond the professional into the personal and spiritual realms.

They care about the whole person. Not just the work person. Work on building a team that will support each member in all aspects of their lives.

2. Respect each team members gifts:

In their attempt to rescue RC, you were able to witness the gifts each of the toys had. There were many!

Slinky could stretch and provide a lifeline to reach RC. The Barbie dolls could perform gymnastic feats to reach a higher elevation. And the barrel of monkeys were able to hold onto one another to extend the reach of Slinky.

No one toy could have saved RC alone. Their gifts, united, were what allowed them to save their friend.

Do you respect the unique gifts and talents of your team members? Every person on your team has something that makes them special.

Bill may know how to code like a mother. Susan may be a math whizz. Chad knows how to schmooze the clients. Randi knows how to organize and get things done.

Each person on your team has a valuable gift. Don’t stifle their gifts because it’s not what you expected. Their gifts are what you need.

3. Bo Peep:

It’s time for the next kid.

Woody went to rescue Bo Peep. She had been given to someone when Andy’s sister’s lamp was given away.

Bo Peep tells Woody it’s okay. She’s ready to go. There’s another kid waiting for her.

There was bravery in Bo Peep in letting herself be given away. She knew her position as Andy’s sister’s toy wasn’t forever. There had to be change.

Are you willing to let change take place? Are you willing to let go and move on to the next phase of your journey?

Leaders are not to stay at one company indefinitely. They are to move from one mission to another. They are always moving but always leading.

4. Transitions are hard:

Woody was sad. He loved Bo Peep. She was a great friend of his and a possible love interest (gasp!).

Her transition and leaving hurt him deeply. He knew he would miss her and she him. Yet he had to let her go.

People will transition in and out of your organization. You will transition yourself at some point.

Know transition times are not easy. They will hurt. You will miss people. They will miss your organization.

Yet, to grow, there will always be transitions. Change is a good thing. Don’t let the pain of transitions stop them from happening.

5. Great leaders are often unseen:

On Bonnie’s (Madeleine McGraw) first day of kindergarten, Woody snuck into her backpack. He believed he had to be there to help her get through the difficult time of being new.

While Bonnie was going through her first day, Woody was in the background, helping her. He got her crayons. He even gave her the material to build Forky.

All of this was without him being seen. He was helping and there for her though she never knew it.

It’s easy to think leaders must be seen. They don’t have to be seen, though. They can do great work from the background.

You can gently guide people without them ever knowing you were there or were leading them. You do this by:

  • Equipping them with the tools needed to get the job done
  • Sharing inspiring words of wisdom
  • Asking great questions
  • Inviting the right people to interact with them

There’s plenty of other ways you can be the unseen leader. Whatever works, do it!

6. It can be hard to see your value:

When Bonnie made Forky, he had trouble seeing his value. Forky kept running back to the trash. He would throw himself into the trash and bathe in its “glory.” He felt like he was where he was supposed to be.

Talking to the other toys, Forky also mentioned how he wasn’t a toy. He was trash. He couldn’t give over the value someone else had placed on him. However, Bonnie gave Forky new value. She saw him as a toy.

You may have been told you were worthless. You may have been told you needed to die. Or you might have been told to go away.

These words and actions can hurt. You may have even believed them. Yet you don’t have to continue living out the value someone else had given you.

Let me tell you. You are valuable. You are loved. There is something special about you. You have value. Never let someone else tell you that you don’t.

7. Great leaders check in our their team:

Because of Forky’s self-image problem, Woody took it upon himself to keep watch over Bonnie’s new toy. He would stop Forky from throwing himself into the trash or out of the traveling RV.

This was exhausting. Forky wouldn’t give up. Neither would Woody.

Buzz saw how exhausted Woody had become. He knew Woody might be in trouble. So, Buzz did what any great leader would do. He checked in on his teammate.

Great leaders don’t set their team up and then let them go willy nilly. They know their team members will need a little encouragement along the way. They might need direction or a pat on the shoulder, so they’ll stop by and see how things are going.

What they won’t do is micromanage or continue to look over their team members’ shoulders. They will be there when they need them, though.

8. Great leaders share about their history:

After Forky had tossed himself out of the RV window, Woody left to save him. During the rescue, Woody talked to Forky about his past.

He shared how he was there for Andy. How he saw Andy grow up. And how he saw Andy go away to college.

Woody was there for it all. That meant something to Andy. It meant something to Woody. And Forky meant something to Bonnie.

By sharing his history with Forky, Woody helped Forky realize how important Forky would be to Bonnie. This helped change the way Forky viewed himself. It also helped him relate to Woody.

Your story, your past has power. When you share who you are with your team, you will form a connection that will bond you to them. They will begin to see you not only as someone they need to report to but as someone they can relate to.

Figure out what your story, your history is. Create a real story about who you are and how you got to where you are. Then share it with your team.

9. People are looking for a leader:

There was a void left with Bonnie’s toys. Because Woody wasn’t there, they had no specific leader. This caused them to look for someone they could look up to.

This person was Buzz. Buzz had always been a born leader yet he wasn’t the leader of the toys. Now he was. The void needed to be filled.

You may not be a leader, per se. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader. Especially if there’s a leadership void. The void could be the result of a couple of things. Bad leadership… No leadership… Transitional leadership…

If there’s a leadership void, people are looking for a leader. You can be that leader.

10. We think there are things that will fix us:

Gabby Gabby was the sad villain of Toy Story 4. She had been a toy that was stuck in an antique store. Unloved and unwanted.

Why was she unwanted? Gabby Gabby believed she was unwanted because her voicebox didn’t work.

All she would need is a new voicebox. One that worked. Then people would love her.

In the end, a fixed voicebox did not make her desirable to the antique store owner’s granddaughter, Harmony (Lila Sage Bromley), she was trying to impress. She was tossed aside. )-:

You may think there’s something wrong with you and that’s why no one wants to follow you. Or maybe you’ve been let go from a leadership position and you believe it was because you lacked the talent.

It’s hard to be dismissed. Your rejection can make you think something is wrong with you. Your thoughts will tell you that you need to fix yourself. Then everyone will want you on their team.

Sometimes, it’s not that easy. It’s not about fixing yourself all of the time. Many times, it’s about finding the right fit like Gabby Gabby did at the end of Toy Story 4.

11. Listen to your inner voice:

Buzz and Woody had talked about how Woody knew what to do. Woody told Buzz it was because he listened to his inner voice. This shocked Buzz. However, he was willing to give it a try.

Whenever Buzz didn’t know what to do, he would press one of his action sounds. His inner voice would speak and he would know what to do.

Buzz’s inner voice led him in the right direction many times. It was comical but it was also true.

You have an inner voice as well. You know what to do more often than not… If only you were to listen.

Listen to the still, small voice inside of you. It knows what to do because you’ve trained and prepared for your position. Listen to your inner voice!

12. Duke Caboom:

Be who I am right now?

Duke Caboom had an identity problem. His former kid had discarded him after he failed to perform the exciting tricks the television commercial had shown him doing.

This made Duke feel like a failure. He couldn’t hit the target properly.

In an effort to save Forky, Woody recruited Duke and Bo Peep to help him. Bo Peep encouraged Duke to do what he does best. And Duke responded with “Be who I am right now?”

The toys needed Duke to be who he was. Not who others expected him to be. When he was himself, he succeeded.

You may feel like you’re not enough. You may feel like you’re not who you’re expected to be. That’s okay. You don’t have to live up to the expectations of others. You only need to live up to who you are.

Be willing to let others down if their expectations aren’t who you are. You will be the best you when you embrace who you are and live that out.

13. Bo Peep:

I’m not the one who’s lost.

Woody kept putting Bo Peep’s friends in danger to save Forky. He had this blind loyalty to rescue a toy that would be replaced by Bonnie eventually. Through it all, he didn’t care what happened to the other toys helping him. He was trying to save Forky because it was all he had left…

This caused Bo Peep to rise up in righteous anger. She saw the dangerous path Woody was going down. He was letting his desire to be important put others in danger. He stopped caring about the other toys and only the mission.

It is easy to lose sight of what really matters. You may have set a vision for your team and started out on it. When things became tough, you told them to keep going. This wasn’t because the mission was important. You kept encouraging them to move forward because of your ego or desire to be important.

You have to watch out for your intentions. If your intentions are not pure, you will become lost in leadership. Be careful…

14. Plans may not work out the way you expected:

Gabby Gabby had been discarded by Harmony. She felt like her life as a toy was over.

Woody knew there would be another chance to be loved. And this was proven by the end of Toy Story 4.

As the toys were trying to get to Bonnie’s RV, the toys saw a young girl who was lost. She was scared and crying. This is when Gabby Gabby knew she had to make a move.

She told the other toys she was ready to leave. She went down to the lost girl and let the young girl see her.

Do you know what happened? The lost girl found Gabby Gabby and had the courage to find her parents. Gabby Gabby believed Harmony was the end of her plan. Harmony wasn’t. The lost girl was.

You may be discouraged if your plan didn’t end up the way you desired for it to end. However, many times there’s a better ending you couldn’t see.

Don’t let your discouragement from a derailed plan stop you from moving on to another leadership position. There’s something greater waiting for you on the other side. Go, embrace it.

15. Buzz:

She’ll be okay… Bonnie will be okay.

Here comes the tearjerker part of Toy Story 4 (though it didn’t move me to tears in quite the same way as Toy Story 3’s ending of Andy giving away his toys). Woody and the toys have saved Forky. They were making their way back to Bonnie’s RV. Buzz and the other toys were redirecting the RV back to the park. Then it happens.

Bo tells Woody she’s staying in the park. Woody has a choice to make. Will he stay or will he go? In the end, Woody chooses to leave. He knew his time was up as Bonnie’s toy. Forky and other toys had taken his place.

Woody was still concerned about Bonnie. Yet he knew something. He knew Bonnie would be okay if Woody became a “lost” toy. So, he left.

Part of a leadership transition is leaving people you have spent a good deal of time with. They’ve become more than coworkers. They’ve become friends.

Leaving them is hard. You feel like you’re abandoning them and they won’t be okay. I know this. I had this same thought when I transitioned from one church to another.

There was this doubt that the students would be okay. Even though I knew they would be in good hands.

When it’s time to transition, know your team will be okay. They will have a new leader. They may transition with you. Or they may transition later.

Your team will be okay without you.

16. Pass the leadership title:

In leaving Bonnie, Woody chose to do what great leaders do. He passed his title of Sheriff onto the cowgirl Jessie.

He took his badge off. And then he put the sheriff badge onto Jessie’s shirt. He passed his title to her.

If you’re leaving on good terms, you need to be willing to pass the leadership title (or baton) to the next leader. Let the team know you have faith in who will be there in your place.

Don’t be stingy. You’re not the first nor last leader they will have. You have the responsibility to make sure your transition goes as smoothly as possible.

Question: If you’ve watched Toy Story 4, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what Reel Leadership lessons from Toy Story 4 that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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