3 Lessons on Courageous Leadership from Saving Mr. Banks

I love reading and studying on leadership and culture. With all that I’ve learned over the years you would think I wouldn’t mess up with people as often as I do. I need to be a better listener and I need to stop jumping to conclusions about situations and about people.

disneyMy wife and I were fortunate to have our family with us for the Easter holiday. On Saturday night we made some popcorn and watched Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks. If you haven’t seen it yet I would highly recommend it. If you have seen it you may want to see it again as I’m sure I will. I’ll do my very best to not give anything away in this writing.

I had three leadership principles greatly reinforced for me during the movie.

  1. Never Underestimate the Value of a Crisis.   P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, had a challenging childhood. I’m sure some of you can relate to, and worse, the things she went through and they are things you would not wish on anyone. Yet, it was her life experience that flowed out of her in her writings. Mary Poppins was, and continues to be, a great childhood memory of mine and many others. What challenges have you faced that, while difficult or tragic, have shaped you in a positive way that may not have happened without those circumstances?
  2. Be Willing to Let Go of the Past.   Throughout the film, Disney and Travers butt heads in Disney’s efforts to get the movie made. Most of that conflict is a result of Travers unwillingness to let go of the pain of her past. When I was 14 my father passed away very suddenly. I was told by some people how I should deal with that tragic event in my life and those ways of coping were not very healthy. They continue to affect me to this day but I have a better awareness of it now and am able to recognize when I am not coping with things appropriately far more than I did before. What do you hang on to from your past that, if you let them go, would give you a healthier and better life?
  3. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  This quote is most often attributed to Steven Covey but dates all the way back to St. Francis of Assisi. After locking horns with Travers for many, many years in his efforts to get the rights to make the movie Mary Poppins, Disney took a different tact. He decided to try and see things from her perspective. He began to understand her pain because of pain he had suffered in his childhood. Once Travers knew that Disney had empathy for her pain she began to soften in her tone and the deal got done. I’m a guy that likes to be right. Rather than hear someone else’s side of a story I often just load my guns and wait for the right time to shoot my side of the story. How willing are you to really listen to someone else’s complete story before making judgments?

 Leading the right way takes courage. Do you lead courageously or take the easy way out?

As always, I welcome your comments and if you like what you’ve read please share it!


This post was originally published on April 21, 2014

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