It was the Tuesday of Thanksgiving break, and my wife and I had tickets locked down at one of our local theaters for Frozen 2 with my two daughters. The girls were in their Elsa and Anna dresses and nearly even watched the entire movie. For our two year old, it was her first time in theaters…so she did her best.
As I watched it, there were a few amazingly helpful leadership lessons (one of them outright stated as a key lesson) and even for my own benefit, I wanted to take time and process them here.
Here are the three key leadership lessons from Frozen 2.
The Next Right Thing
One of the key lessons in the movie, and the most overt leadership lesson, is the encouragement to do “the next right thing” when you don’t know the next step.
This is close to another key leadership lesson in this post.
That being said, this paradigm can be really freeing, especially in situations that seem complex, long term, and tense.
When you don’t know where a situation is heading, or what direction to take something, asking for the next right thing keeps you moving. It at least allows you to establish a trajectory.
In the worst case scenario, let’s say you made a decision, or did “the next right thing,” and it didn’t go well. I would rather have to clean up the pieces of making the right decision than be stuck motionless or, worse, cleaning up after a bad decision.
The Necessity of Empathy and the Dangers of Assumed Supremecy
The headline of the article said spoiler free, so I’m going to do my best. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the movie, hopefully this will make sense.
One of the key themes in Frozen 2 relates to empathy and the need for cross-cultural understanding. It’s easy to read our own assumptions into the stories of other people.
In Frozen 2, we see the down line consequences of nationalism and, ultimately, racism. We see the consequences of empathy-impoverished perspectives, and the impact of what can happen when we assume our way is the best way, just because our way is our way.
Again…this one would be much easier to unpack if I wasn’t trying to avoid spoilers.
When it comes to leadership, we need to be slow in our decisions, especially when we are interacting with people from different backgrounds.
If you find yourself assuming facts, don’t jump to conclusions. Assuming someone’s worldview is dangerous or less important just because it’s not your worldview leads to an unhealthy power dynamic where you could feel entitled to superiority just based on your own view of their views.
Seek understanding, not power.
Ask questions, don’t make assumptions.
Lead with empathy, not superiority.
Owning Your Past
In light of the last lesson, it was really interesting seeing how Disney unpacked the idea of generational guilt, and communal responsibility.
This is another lesson that would be easier with spoilers, but there was an overt theme of one generation shouldering responsibility for a previous generation’s actions.
In the movie, the actions of generations before put in play systemic problems that oppressed one group and broke relationships within the region for decades.
Bringing that to leadership, and the impact could be incredible. Owning your past means realizing that the actions of your organization may fall on your shoulders — even if you weren’t present.
It means that the actions of the person who had your position before you may impact your relationships with the people on your team.
It means that the actions of the organization before you were hired will impact how you interact with the community.
It means you can’t look to anyone and say, “Well I wasn’t here for that, so here’s what is happening.”
Whether or not you were here then, you’re here now. You will do more damage by steamrolling over the past than you will being aware of your organizational history and acting in light of that…no matter how difficult that could be.