6 Leadership Lessons From Toy Story 3

On Sunday afternoon, my family and I went to the movies and watched Toy Story 3.  This is not the normal kind of movie I enjoy but everyone I knew who saw it highly recommended it.  We had a great time and what is shown during the credits is absolutely hilarious!  The creativity and talent of the teams at Disney and Pixar are unmatched. 

Since this site is dedicated to the subject of leadership, the following are key learnings that you can take from this movie and apply to any organization.

  1. Compelling Vision – Throughout the movie, Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) had a singular focus – Get Back Home To Andy.  No matter what he encountered, every decision and action he took was to fulfill that one purpose.  In addition to owning the vision, he kept reminding his friends of that purpose as well.  Leaders, do you passionately defend and champion your vision?   
  2. Who Do You Serve – The antagonist of the movie is a not-so-cuddly bear named Lotso.  As the movie progressed, it became apparent that is was Lotso himself that was the primary beneficiary of all his decisions.  A pivotal point in the movie is when Barbie properly diagnosed his linear form of leadership.  This form of hierarchical leadership is cute in an animated movie but the reality is that all leaders fall into 1 of 2 categories – Leaders Serve Others or They Serve Themselves.  Leaders, which type of leader would your team say you are?
  3. Team Approach – For the toys to escape the Sunnyside Day Care Center, it took each toy working together and utilizing their individual uniqueness to facilitate their get away.  For your organization to accomplish anything significant, as the leader you must discover what each team member brings and leverage those skills in an appropriate and productive manner. 
  4. Ease and Accessibility – At 2:20 PM, both a regular (2-D) as well as a 3-D version of the movie were being shown.  The theatre staff had us form a line prior to entering our movie so they could properly clean the room.  The regular version line that we were in had over 50 people.  The 3-D version had 0.  The people I talked to said this is because the 3-D technology is currently more expensive and bulky.  We don’t want the inconvenience of buying and having to keep up with the glasses.  Churches and businesses need to learn from this.  Do you keep your choices simple and easy to engage?  Genius is making the complicated simple, not the simple complicated.    
  5. “I Get The Corvette” – When Barbie was placed in the Donation Box, there was no remorse by the other toys.  In fact, the only statement was “I get the corvette!”  In that humor was sobering reality.  Leaders, don’t be fooled as things will move on without you.  Someone will ask for “your corvette”.  This leads me to the next point. 
  6. There Is No Success Without Succession – The most touching part of the movie was when Andy gave his toys to a young girl named Bonnie as he was going off to college.  In addition to resourcing Bonnie by giving her the toys, Andy even took the time to point out each toy’s characteristics and how to properly utilize them.  This ensured the ongoing viability and success of his 12-15 year investment.  What a picture of how to do multi-generational work!  Leaders, are you preparing your organization to outlive you?

My most special time of the movie though was something you wouldn’t expect.  My 11-year old daughter sat between my wife and I.  She and I were constantly laughing and wrestling over the arm rest.  The way we always resolved this issue would be that she would finally relent and wrap her arm around mine and put her head on my shoulder.  We simply a great time together.

I struck by a realization though as we were driving home.  We had just watched a movie about a young man going off to college and reflecting on a relational investment he spent over a decade pouring his life into.    In seven years, my daughter will be going off to college and on that day her mother and I will reflect on the relational investment we made in her.  Because of that, I will never forget Toy Story 3, the laughter, her arm wrapped around mine, and her head resting on my shoulder.  Because of that, I will never forget yesterday.

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

5 Responses to “6 Leadership Lessons From Toy Story 3”

  1. Great post. I found what I was looking for. Do you mind if I post this on my website and give you credit? If not, it’s ok.

  2. Usually I do not write on posts, but I would like to say that this blog really convinced me to do it! Thanks, very good site.

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