Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Wonka

A Reel Leadership Article

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Many of us remember the original 1971 Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory movie based on the Roald Dahl book. What many of us don’t know is the origin of the eccentric chocolatier. 

Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) brings the chocolatier back to life in a prequel conceived by Simon Farnaby and Paul King. Wonka is a musical that tells the story of how Willy Wonka became a famous chocolate maker and won the hearts of many around the world. 

Wonka dives into the young Wonka and the Chocolate Cartel he encounters as he journeys to become a great chocolate maker. 

His story is one of heartache, struggle, and eventually triumph. His journey is one many of us have taken.

We will dive into his story and how you can become a better leader. We’re going to look at the leadership lessons in Wonka.

Man in a purple suit coat and brown top hat.
Actor Timothée Chalamet as the movie character Wonka

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Wonka

1. Your dreams can take years to come to fruition:

Wonka opens with Willy Wonka on a ship. He’d spent seven years on the open sea. All the time, he was dreaming of the big city.

He had dreams. Big dreams.

He was going to become a world-class chocolate maker. That dream sailed with him for many years. 

When he arrived in the city, those big dreams still took time to ferment and become reality. Eventually, though, his dreams did come true. He realized his dream of making chocolate!

Remember this as you pursue your dreams. We’re not in an Easy Bake Oven or a microwave. We’re in a crockpot to grow ourselves, our team members, and our organizations. 

Regardless of what others tell you, there’s no shortcut to leadership. You have to grow yourself. You have to work on yourself. And you have to be in it for the long haul.

Let time work its magic. Your dreams can come true, even years later.

2. Money can quickly slip through your fingers:

Wonka arrived in the city. He had 12 silver sovereign coins. It was all he had.

He was excited, though. He knew he could make it big.

Soon, that excitement faded. He quickly lost all 12 coins. 

They went to buy a map, shoe shine, daydreaming fines, smashed pumpkin, and another shoe shine. 

All his money slipped through his fingers.

The same can happen to you if you’re not wise with your money. It can leave your grasp as quickly as you made it.

Watch where your money goes. Spend wisely and frugally.

Don’t let your money slip away like Wonka did.

3. Noodle (Calah Lane):

Read the small print.

Wonka was found by Bleacher (Tom Davis) and brought to Mrs. Scrubitt (Olivia Colman). Mrs. Scrubitt had a racket going on where she preyed on the oppressed.

Wonka was to be no different.

Mrs. Scrubitt told Wonka she had a room for him. All he had to do was sign the contract. It was pages and pages long. 

Noodle, someone indebted to Mrs. Scrubbit, tried to warn Wonka. He had to read the fine print. But he couldn’t. Wonka didn’t know how to read.

So, he agreed to the contract. He didn’t realize that he was signing a contract that would cost him 10,000 sovereigns.

We can get so excited about the opportunities presented to us. There’s a great new piece of customer relationship management software or a business partnership that we cannot wait to get into.

Stop. Full stop.

Get the details. Read the small print, as Noodle would say.

Make sure you have the details. You must be fully informed before jumping into agreements that drastically impact your life.

4. Find joy in your work:

Wonka and Noodle weren’t the only victims of Mrs. Scrubitt. There were:

  • Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter)
  • Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell)
  • Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar)
  • Larry Chuckleworth (Rich Fulcher)

Each of these characters had made a bad deal with Mrs. Scrubbit. They were working off an extreme debt that would never be repaid. They worked in the laundry business Mrs. Scrubbit owned to try to work it off.

The characters found joy by singing songs while working. The songs made their work go faster and seem not nearly as bad as they were.

Do you find your days drag? Do you think of leaving the office and not returning? There might be a lack of joy in your work.

Find ways, like the workers in Mrs. Scrubbit’s laundry shop did, to bring joy to their work and pass the time. You have the power to make your work go quickly or drag on.

The choice is yours.

5. Pay attention to the competition:

Wonka tried to set up and sell his chocolate at the Galeries Gourmet. Yet, he wound up stopped at every turn.

There was a Chocolate Cartel run by the big three chocolate makers there. These men were:

  • Slugworth (Paterson Joseph)
  • Prodnose (Matt Lucas)
  • Fickelgruber (Matthew Baynton)

The three members of the Chocolate Cartel were assisted by the Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key) and Father Julius (Rowan Atkinson). These two men helped run others out of the town and protected the men.

The Chocolate Cartel members appeared to be enemies to the common folk. They each sold chocolates that competed with each other. In reality, they were in cahoots. They had partnered together to make it so they were the top three.

Pay attention to your competition. What are they doing? Are there partnerships being formed?

The actions of your competitors can directly impact and influence the direction and choices you need to make.

Be aware. Be informed. Be willing to take action.

6. Great leaders keep their word:

Wonka had told Noodle that he would get her a lifetime of unlimited chocolate if she helped him. Noodle didn’t think he would do this but helped anyway.

One night, Wonka wakes Noodle up. He passes a basket of chocolate to her. And then she asks what it’s all about.

Wonka said he had made a promise to her. He had to make good on that promise.

Be aware of the promises you’re making to your employees and customers. Your word should be your bond.

Great leaders aren’t frivolous with their words. Their words are measured and accounted for. They know what they say, the actions to fulfill their words, and then they do it.

Be a leader who keeps their word.

7. Bad things happen when a leader sleeps on the job:

Wonka had gone to an island to get the beans for his chocolate. Years later, an Oompa-Loompa (Hugh Grant) began to steal Wonka’s chocolates.

Wonka always wondered why the Oompa-Loompa was doing this. He finally caught the Oompa-Loompa and asked him the question.

The Oompa-Loompa had been guarding the cocoa bean tree Wonka had taken the beans from. Wonka asked him why he hadn’t said something while he was taking the beans.

Awkward moment here as the Oompa-Loompa had to admit he had fallen asleep on the job. Now, he had to retrieve payment for the goods.

When leaders go on auto-pilot or fall asleep, bad things can happen in their organization. Poor performance, illegal activities, and more can occur as the leader is oblivious to what his people are doing.

Stay awake. Stay alert. Don’t fall asleep while you’re leading. You need to be sharp and aware.

8. Addictions will destroy you:

The Chocolate Cartel had provided the Chief Of Police with chocolate from their shops. It was expensive, and he was unable to afford it.

In one meeting, the Chief Of Police shares how he had been licking and eating the wrappers to get more of his chocolate fix. Throughout the movie, we see the Chief Of Police steadily gaining weight. His addiction got to the point where he couldn’t exit out of a car door.

His addiction was destroying him.

Our addictions may not manifest in the same way that the Chief Of Police did. We may be able to hide them or fend them off for a bit.

Yet, addictions will creep into your life. They’ll begin to eat away at you.

Be aware of them. Stop them in their tracks.

The longer you let an addiction linger in your life, the stronger hold it will have on you. Break the addiction today before it destroys you.

9. You can reverse bad decisions:

The Chocolate Cartel propositioned Wonka. They offered to pay off his coworkers’ debts. 

This offer was a tough one for Wonka to refuse. His friends would be free. 

All he had to do was to give up chocolate-making and leave.

Wonka chose to leave. He figured it was worth it. Until he was on the ship and realized he had to go back.

Don’t let one wrong decision stop you from leading. You can go back and correct those bad decisions.

10. Wonka’s Mother (Sally Hawkins):

The secret is not the chocolate but the people you share it with.

Wonka’s mother said she had a secret to the chocolate she made. She also told Wonka she wouldn’t share it with him until he was ready.

Sadly, she passed away before she could tell him. She passed on a chocolate bar to Wonka that he held onto until the movie’s end.

Opening the chocolate gave Wonka the secret to his mother’s amazing chocolate.

There was no secret ingredient. The secret was who you shared the experience with.

The same goes for leadership. Leadership becomes amazing when you share it with the right people.

Find a team you love and care for. Find a team that does the same for you.

This is the secret to great leadership. Great leadership isn’t based on the leader. Great leadership happens when you lead with great people.

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