Leadership in Disney Films


Leadership is probably not what people think of when they hear the words Disney movie. They more than likely have a brief flashback to when they were younger and the many loved characters. Disney movies are well loved. They are a popular choice among both children and adults alike. Not only are they entertaining, but they also contain valuable lessons that can be used in all aspects of life; from personal to business. One of these lessons is how to be a great leader.

Leaders play a prominent role in many Disney movies, and they often show that leaders don’t always fit into one specific mold. They can come in all shapes and sizes. One such film is The Lion King; it is filled with many examples of both good and bad leadership.

Leaders Come In All Sizes

From the very beginning of the movie, it is made clear that Mufasa, the King of the Jungle, is a great leader. Animals, ranging from the smallest to the largest, gather together to greet his newborn son, Simba. In a realistic situation, this would not happen, mainly because the majority of these animals are the lion’s natural prey.  But by showing the assembling of different animals allows the viewers to see that these animals respect Mufasa because he respects them. He has gained their trust.

As Joseph Lalonde writes, “Great leaders inspire people to action and to honor their leadership. The honor is given willingly. The honor is not forced.” This is exactly what Mufasa has done.

Once Simba is a bit older Mufasa explains to him that everything is connected through the Circle of Life. All creatures, no matter their size, are essential in helping maintain the balance of the land. A great leader will always appreciate and understand that everyone has an important role to play to keep their business running.

When Mufasa saves Simba from the elephant graveyard, he doesn’t punish him, instead, Mufasa uses it as a learning opportunity. He explains to Simba that his choice was a dangerous one and that it could have ended very badly. By telling Simba this, he is giving him the chance to learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. Part of being a great leader means accepting the fact that people will make mistakes, but also give them the chance to learn from them.

A Bad Leader

Scar is an excellent example of a bad leader, he uses terrible and conniving tactics to become the king and later places the blame on the hyenas when things go terribly wrong. A bad leader will never take responsibility for the problems that they’ve created, nor will they be willing to help fix them.

During Scar’s reign, the land gradually becomes greyer and bleeker. A complete opposite from the thriving and colorful land that existed when Mufasa was king. Animals that once roamed freely and happily either moved on to greener lands or have been eaten, thus resulting in the land turning barren. It is clear that the honor and trust that Mufasa had gained did not exist for Scar, there was only fear.

Scar only wanted the power of being king; he didn’t care about anything or anyone else. This is one of the many reasons why his kingship failed. A great leader knows that without an appreciated and happy team, his business will not succeed.

At first, it is uncertain if Simba will ever be capable of becoming a great leader like his father. As a cub, he doesn’t fully grasp the responsibilities of being king, thinking only of the freedom it will give him. He also takes a step towards becoming a poor leader when he believes Scar was telling him that it was his fault that his father died.

Instead of facing the consequences he runs away and hides in the jungle. Great leaders will own up to their mistakes, not cower in fear when something goes wrong.

Simba does begin to redeem himself when he befriends Timon and Pumbaa, a meerkat and a warthog. They put their trust in him, hoping that he won’t eat them, and this trust creates a lasting friendship. Not only does he treat them as equals, but they also work together as a partnership. This is one of the lessons that Mufasa had taught him. Everyone is important. By doing this Simba is taking a vital step towards becoming a great leader.

Years later he is found by Nala, his childhood best friend, and she reminds him that he must fulfill his duty. At first, Simba is dismissive; he knows all too well that returning to his home would mean confronting his past. Mufasa visits him in a vision, telling him: “You more than what you have become … You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are.”

It is not until this moment that Simba realizes and understands that all of the teachings his father had given him are still inside of him. Great leaders may not always be aware of their potential, but when they have people who believe in them, combined with the knowledge they have gained from others, they can accomplish great things.

Simba receives one more push, well it’s actually a knock on the head before he fully accepts the fact that he is ready to become king and face the consequences of his past. Rafiki wisely tells him that: “…. the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or… learn from it.” Simba takes the baboon’s advice to heart. A great leader must be willing to listen and accept help.

As the famous saying goes “the truth will set you free,” and this is proven when Simba returns to Pride Rock and finds out that it was, in fact, Scar who killed his father. Empowered with this new knowledge, Simba can defeat him and take his rightful place as king. A great leader will not stand by and let a bad leader win; they will stand up for what is right.

When a company is led by someone who expects everything in return for nothing, it will not be able to flourish and succeed. But with leaders like Mufasa and Simba who are respectful and appreciative, who give and take advice, and are also willing to listen and learn, a company will be able to thrive.

Go out there and be a great leader!




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