I recently went to watch the animated movie Despicable Me. It was funny, cute, and had a number of overarching lessons. The basic premise is Gru (the main character) is an aging villain and he’s trying to get on top of his game in the face of younger, more hip villains. He hatches a plan to enlist 3 young girls as pawns in his evil plot, but things happen unexpectedly…to say the least.
As I was watching this movie, I couldn’t help but notice the amazing leadership lessons that were littered throughout it. I am slow to believe it was written with an emphasis on leadership, so I simply accepted that because of my profession I chose to see things through my own set of filters.
Lesson #1 – Nothing of any magnitude or of any great significance can be accomplished alone. Gru had little helpers (you may have seen them on the IHOP commercials) called “minions”. It was only through their dedication that things kept running behind the scenes.
Lesson #2 – You will always have someone who is trying to do something similar; leverage that. Most of the tension between Gru and his nemesis in the film was because they chose to work against each other instead of with each other. Co-opetition can be infinitely better than competition under the right circumstances.
Lesson #3 – At some point in your leadership you will be forced to make a decision between what is right and what is a “part of your plan”. Gru was faced with this decision and unfortunately chose the “part of your plan” bit. He accomplished his goals, but lost something of greater value in the process. There are times when it is better to take the road less traveled and believe that it is just the right thing to do. What good is an accomplished goal if no one is there to celebrate it with you?
Lesson #4 – When you stop using people as a tool to complete a task and begin to appreciate them for who they are, amazing things happen. Initially, Gru wanted to use these 3 young girls as pawns in his evil plot. As he made changes in his approach to how he dealt with these young girls, his life took a very different turn.
Lesson #5 – When you give to others, what you receive in return is absolutely incredible. Gru, in his own awkward way, began to give instead of take. He recognized the needs of others and allowed those needs to become his responsibility. The change that came from this decision was truly transformative in his life.
As leaders, we all have frequent opportunities to utilize these 5 lessons. We don’t have to, but they sure will make our journey much more pleasant. Look for ways to implement these 5 lessons in how you do leadership. Don’t make it just about something you do, let it become a paradigm shift in your mentality and how you do life. Take it from a villain with a difficult family background; there is always hope no matter how despicable you may have been.