Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Porco Rosso

A Reel Leadership Article

I recently had the opportunity to view this classic Studio Ghibli film in an actual theater! GKIDS brought back many Studio Ghibli animated adventures back to the big screen during Studio Ghibli Fest. Other movies shown during Studio Ghibli Fest include Grave Of The Fireflies, The Cat Returns, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away.

Porco Rosso is an animated movie by the famous writer and director Hayao Miyazaki. The movie is based on the 3-part manga Hikōtei Jidai by Miyazaki. And is animated by the acclaimed Studio Ghibli.

Porco Rosso tells the tale of a veteran World War 1 fighter pilot and, now, bounty hunter. The great pilot is haunted by a strange curse. He no longer looks human, instead he has taken the form of a pig.

Discover the leadership lessons in Porco Rosso

In classic Miyazaki fashion, Porco Rosso combines animation, story, and music into a touching film that leaves the viewer longing for more. Not only are viewers treated to a great story in Porco Rosso, viewers will take away plenty of leadership lessons from Porco Rosso.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Porco Rosso

1. Porco Rosso:

Someday I’m going to get off my lazy butt.

The movie Porco Rosso opens with Porco Rosso (Michael Keaton) snoozing on a beach next to his plane. The phone rings and he’s called into action as a bounty hunter pilot. There are pirates attacking a ship and he’s the only one that can get to them in time.

He moves to his plane and begins to start the plane. Only the plane has trouble starting.

Porco Rosso knows the problem. He’s seen it over and over again. But he’s failed to get off his lazy butt and fix the problem which causes more problems.

Great leaders recognize the problem like Porco Rosso did. Yet they take it a step further. They notice the problem and then they begin working towards a solution.

Find problems. Then find solutions. And get off your lazy butt.

2. Great leaders answer the call:

Porco Rosso had a choice. When the phone rang, he could have abandoned the call. He could have left the victims of the sky pirates to their fate.

The brave Porco Rosso didn’t though. He chose to answer the call. He started his plane and went to rescue the oppressed.

Great leaders don’t shy from the call they’re given. They run towards the call.

When opportunity calls, you go for it. You make sure you’re taking advantage of the chances you’re given. Answer the call.

3. Great leaders are generous:

The sky pirates were given an ultimatum by Porco Rosso. They could surrender, return the kidnapped girls, and Porco would allow them to keep some of the loot. Or they could fight Porco Rosso and die.

Porco Rosso didn’t have to give them an ultimatum. He could have attacked them and freed the kidnapped. Instead, he chose the path of generosity. He gave the pirates and option, a generous option at that.

When you’re leading, are you generous when it comes to ultimatums or is it your way or the highway? Do you make people feel like they have a choice?

Great leaders are generous with their choices and ultimatums. They’re not out to hurt someone. They’re out to help them make the best choice possible.

4. Great leaders are rewarded generously:

Because of Porco Rosso’s skill, he had collected twice the bounties as other bounty hunters had. This meant he was paid handsomely.

There are some people who complain about the pay of successful leaders. They wonder why someone deserves to be paid so much.

The answer is: Great leaders deserve to be rewarded for their work. They deserve to be paid for what they’ve done.

Work to increase your value. Achieve the objectives that were set in front of you. Make yourself a prized leader.

5. Remember the good times:

One of Porco Rosso’s good friends was a singer named Madame Gina (Susan Egan). She had been a long-time friend of his. She also had the last remaining picture of Porco as a human.

This picture was a fond treasure of Gina’s. She had framed and hung in her club. While Porco Rosso wasn’t thrilled with the picture, it was a highlight of Gina’s.

The picture allowed her to remember better times.

You will come across good times and bad times in leadership. Many times you’ll be tempted to remember the bad times and forget the good. But you can’t!

You must remember the good times. Remember the successes you’ve achieved. Remember the lives you’ve helped change. And remember the business improvements you’ve made.

Remember the good times will help you get through the bad times.

6. Be prepared:

The cruise ship The Queen Of The Mediterranean was sailing the sea when sky pirates attacked her. What the sky pirates didn’t know was The Queen Of The Mediterranean was prepared.

She had hired two fighter pilots that were traveling with her. When the sky pirates attacked, she called on their help and they began to defend the ship.

You can be like The Queen Of The Mediterranean. You can be prepared by:

  • Hiring valuable staff members
  • Having wise people to consult with
  • Creating a plan of action when trouble arises

Don’t be caught unprepared. Do your best to prepare for the known and unknown.

7. Realize you need help:

Earlier in the Studio Ghibli movie, Porco Rosso realized he needed to fix his plane. After fighting the sky pirates, he also realized he couldn’t fix the plane himself. He needed to bring the plane to someone who could properly repair her.

This led Porco Rosso to Milan and his old friend Mr. Piccolo (David Ogden Stiers). He was a talented mechanic who could make any plane better.

You won’t be able to solve every problem in your organization. You’re going to have to admit to needing help. And then you’re going to have to go out and find help.

Be willing to go outside of yourself to get the help and advice you need. Find your help in outside consultants, internal minds, or other sources.

8. You can resist temptation:

An American pilot, Donald Curtis (Cary Elwes), had joined forces with the sky pirates. He also began to taunt Porco Rosso.

Insults were tossed. Including the word chicken.

Porco Rosso had a choice. He could give in to the temptation to retaliate or he could resist the temptation and be the bigger man.

Porco Rosso chose the later. He refused to take the bait and resist the temptation placed before him.

It’s easy to want to strike back against criticism. You want to uphold your dignity and value. You want to protect yourself.

Sometimes, though, it’s better to let the other party sling mud and to stay silent yourself. You show yourself to be the bigger man.

Resist temptation! You will be respected for it in the long run.

9. Gina:

If you keep acting so pig-headed, you’ll wind up dead.

There was a warrant out for Porco Rosso’s arrest in Milan, Italy. Still, he chose to go there and have his plane repaired.

Gina saw him doing this and knew his choice could lead to trouble. Even to his death!

She tried to warn him. Yet he went anyway.

There are people who want to see you prosper and do well. You can’t ignore their advice without consequences.

Don’t be pig-headed like Porco Rosso. Instead, choose to listen to those who love and care about you. They see what’s happening and how you’re changing.

Be willing to listen.

10. Don’t discount women:

When Porco Rosso arrived at Mr. Piccolo’s shop, Mr. Piccolo had his granddaughter, Fio (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), working in the shop. She was now repairing and designing planes brought in.

This didn’t settle well with Porco Rosso. Oh no, no woman would touch his plane.

In the end, he discovered a major truth: Women are skilled workers as well.

If you’re discounting the women on your team, you’re showing the signs of a poor leader. Great leaders know women can do just as much as men. And they let them serve and do the same types of job.

Don’t doubt what women can do.

11. Believe in your skills:

After hearing the remarks made by Porco Rosso, Fio knew she had to stand up for herself. After all, she believed in her skills.

She challenged Porco Rosso. She told him she would fix his plane. If the plane wasn’t good enough, he wouldn’t have to pay for the parts or the mechanic work.

Do you have the same amount of belief in your skills as the young Fio did in hers? She was willing to do work for free if it didn’t hold up to the best work of others. Would your work be considered the best?

Hone your skills. Make them worth paying for. Then believe in them.

12. Porco Rosso:

Just do what’s best.

As Fio was repairing Porco Rosso’s plane, she began to make recommendations. She would bring him the ideas and he would tell her to do what was best.

His trust in Fio began to change. He began to allow her to make her own decisions in regards to the plane.

You’ve hired your team members because you believed in their skills. Yet you may be micro-managing them. Are you?

Be careful wanting a say in everything going on. This will hinder your team.

Instead, choose to believe they know what’s the best way to accomplish the mission and vision you’ve laid before them. Let them get to work.

13. Ferrari:

You really are a pig.

Ferrari (Jeff Bennett) was an old fighter pilot friend of Porco Rosso’s. They reconnected while Porco was in Milan. Ferrari met with Porco to warn him to get out of Milan.

The secret police were after him. They were ready to take him and his plane away. And he needed to get out of there.

Porco refused to listen to the advice of his old friend. He chose to stay in Milan and this forced Ferrari to speak the truth.

You have to have friends who are willing to speak the truth to you. Their words may sting but they are a truth you need to hear.

If the words of a friend sting, you need to listen. They’re not out to hurt you. They’re out to help you.

14. It’s good to have a friend:

Eventually, the secret police caught up with Porco Rosso. As they did, Fio and Porco rolled the plane out of the shop and into the river. From there, they took off. Then Ferrari reappeared.

This time, he warned Porco about the secret police waiting for him in the skies. He showed Porco how to get around them by flying low to the ground.

Having friends is good for a leader. They can help guide you through trouble and avoid it altogether.

Your friends are there for you, not against you. You have to allow these truth tellers in your life.

15. Porco Rosso:

She’s young but she’s a genius.

Through his adventures with Fio, Porco Rosso came to a realization. He realized Fio’s youth wasn’t a liability. Fio was still able to be valuable.

There are people who discount young people. They believe young people don’t have the skills or experience necessary to get the job done.

The Bible talks about this as well. But the Bible tells you not to look down on a person’s youth. A young person can be just as wise as someone who’s older.

Don’t despise the youth. Seek out their wisdom and value their contributions.

16. Great leaders offer mercy:

Curtis and Porco Rosso agreed to engage in a dogfight. One would survive, the other would not. Or that’s how it was supposed to go.

As the two battled in the air, Porco had the opportunity to shoot Curtis’ plane down and kill him. He wouldn’t though.

He was waiting for the opportunity to disable, not kill, Curtis and his plane. Mercy was offered by Porco Rosso.

You don’t have to crush your competition. You can offer mercy.

Maybe this means looking for mutually beneficial ways to do business. Or maybe it’s a buyout of the competition while keeping their culture intact.

Find ways to offer mercy rather than ruthlessness.

17. Great leaders can take the hits:

Both planes eventually landed and they went from a dogfight in the air to a fist fight on the ground. Curtis viciously attacked Porco Rosso, hitting him over and over again.

Porco’s face was bloody and bruised. Still, he came back and continued to fight. He took hit after hit after hit.

Great leaders don’t give up when the going gets tough. They continue to fight. They continue to move forward.

Don’t let setbacks stop you from leading well. Look at what went wrong and figure out a way to move past it.

18. Methods change:

You know Curtis and Porco’s fight went from the air to land. It also went from machine to physical.

They had to get out of their airplanes. They then had to begin striking each other.

The fight continued. The methods changed.

You may think you’re done when a plan fails. You may think you failed.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. You’re not done. You didn’t fail. But you have to change the method of accomplishing the goal.

Like Curtis and Porco switched to fisticuffs, you may have to change the methods of the mission. See what shifts can be made and how you can attack the goal in a different way.

19. How you view yourself matters:

Was Porco Rosso really a pig? We’ll never know. What we do know is that Porco Rosso viewed himself as a pig. So he lived his life as one.

Others viewed him as a pig as well. They could see his ugliness and couldn’t see past his thoughts and actions.

The way you view and carry yourself matters. People will form an opinion of you based on your actions and the way you carry yourself.

Be aware of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. People notice and will take cues from you on how to respond.

Question: Have you seen Porco Rosso? If you have, did you find any leadership lessons in Porco Rosso? If you haven’t, what leadership lessons from Porco Rosso that I shared resonated with you? Let me know in the comment section below.

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