Despicable Me: Leadership Lessons From Children

Posted: July 18, 2010 in Leadership
Tags: , , ,

I just went to watch the animated 3-D version of Despicable Me with my family. As I was reflecting on the movie it occurred to me that there were some leadership lessons to be learned from this wonderfully entertaining movie.

John Maxwell’s definition for leadership is as follows:


This movie in a nutshell is about a villain who adopts three little orphan girls in order to carry out his evil plots. Along the way the girls influence the villain and his legions in a very positive way turning the villain into a nice guy who ends up being a wonderful father and gives up his evil schemes.

Here are the leadership lessons from Despicable Me:

  1. Leadership=Influence: As Maxwell notes that this is the true essence of leadership.  He states that leadership=influence, nothing more, nothing less.  Throughout the movie we see how the little girls have a powerful influence over the ‘evil villain’ and we get to witness his transformation into a ‘good guy’. Don’t underestimate the positive influence you may have on other in your sphere of influence. This is a leadership role many of us fail to recognize or even underestimate at times.
  2. Overestimating Power of Positional Leadership: In this movie we watch three little girls with no positional authority whatsoever turn an entire organization around in a positive manner. Most organizations have much of their direction, execution and delivery of services carried out by middle management and below. Many key decisions are often made by front line team members and are key to the success of the organization. Don’t underestimate the leadership, ‘influence’, that you can have in your organization, no matter what level of the organization you sit in currently.
  3. Change Leadership can start at bottom of organization. The three little orphan girls were not only at the bottom or the organization, they were not even officially a part of the team except as pawns in the hands of the ‘evil villain’. Even with this seemingly impossible situation they displayed change leadership that transformed the entire organization.
  4. The power of leaders winning the hearts of their followers first. The three little girls won the hearts then the minds of the ‘evil villain’s’ organization. Once they had stolen his heart the power of their influence was unstoppable. Even in the midst of accomplishing his life long dream the power of their pull on his heart lead him to do the right thing in the end.
  5. Leaders can come from anywhere in your organization. Many times we fail to recognize leaders in our organizations because we are looking in all the wrong places. We often make the wrong assumptions about leaders needing a certain pedigree  to become successful leaders. No one would give three little orphan girls a chance to lead an evil villain’s organization in a total transformation, but these three girls did.

Even though these lessons are learned from a fictitious story I think they are valid lessons just the same. I am always looking for lessons on leadership from all aspects of life and this afternoons family time at the movies provided some good illustrations of the power of John Maxwell’s definition of leadership.

Leadership=Influence, nothing more, nothing less.

What type of influence have you exhibited today?

  1. girlhappynow says:

    Excellent movie – excellent comments! It was interesting to see myself and other people I have worked for/with in the movie and how they evolved through the action, including the ‘minions’. Leadership is all about influence, and in all directions. Leadership is who you are everyday of the week, and it grows and changes as you do.

  2. PTZ IP Camera says:

    woot, thankyou! I finally came to a site where the webmaster knows what they’re talking about. Do you know how many results are in Google when I search.. too many! It’s so annoying having to go from page after page after page, wasting my day away with thousands of people just copying eachother’s articles… bah. Anyway, thankyou very much for the info anyway, much appreciated.

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