Leadership lessons from the Disney movie Inside Out

There are a number of leadership lessons for adults in the Disney Pixar kids movie Inside Out

Leadership lessons from the Disney movie Inside Out
Editorial Team
June 24, 2015
Leadership lessons from the Disney movie Inside Out

The halls of Pixar were probably filled with joy over the weekend. Its latest animated movie feature, Inside Out, pulled in more than $91 million at the box office, $20 of which I happily handed over so my family could enjoy it.

Although the movie Inside Out primarily explores the emotions of an eleven year old girl, Riley, experiencing her first significant life changes (a family move from Minnesota to San Francisco), the film also reminds us that successful relationships, purposeful careers and full lives depend on knowing how to leverage the right emotion at the right time.

The main characters in the movie are young Riley’s emotions: anger, joy fear, sadness and disgust. Each play their part and do their best to help Riley navigate a strange new chapter as her old life recedes and a new one begins.

While these colorful characters try to maintain control in Riley’s “headquarters,” there are a number of leadership lessons for the adults in the audience as well:

Lesson 1: Change happens

  • Personal and professional change, uncertainty and transition occur persistently throughout our careers.
  • How we respond, and with which combination of emotions, depends on how we understand that change.

Lesson 2: Responding to chance choice or crisis

  • Every change resonates as chance, choice or crisis. How we experience that change activates different emotional combinations.
  • When change feels like it’s happening by chance, a mixture of fear and joy help us navigate. When change feels like a choice, it’s accompanied by joyful anticipation and often accomplishment. Change that feels like crisis invites sadness, disgust, fear and anger to help us process the uncertainty.

Lesson 3: The emotional journey

  • Resist the urge to let one emotion take the reins at the expense of others. When we welcome the complementary synergy of our different emotions, we can approach change strategically and integrate it faster.

As the movie progresses, we begin to see what happens when you try to force one emotion through at the expense of others. Our emotional journey — even the day-to-day ones — depend on a complete understanding of the interplay of our emotions.

Ron Ritchhart, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Graduate School of Education reminds us that, “our emotions act as magnets to either pull us into action or channel our energies in a particular direction. Our emotions are also an important means by which we evaluate situations and make decisions about what is appropriate in given situation.”[1]

Thankfully we had a summer escape in the mind of a young girl rather than the number one grossing Jurassic World because a Velociraptor really isn’t the best business coach.

[1] Adapted from Of Dispositions, Attitudes, And Habits:
Exploring How Emotions Shape Our Thinking By Ron Ritchhart http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/article1.html