“Remember who you are”, boomed Mufasa, as he passionately reminded his son, Simba of his calling that he seemed to have forgotten. Just one of the many lines, that immediately brings back the nostalgia of ‘The Lion King’, one of the most famous animated classics of all time – a movie that generations have grown up watching over and over again with soundtracks that evoke emotion very few other movies can.
One of the most predominant themes we see running right through the movie, is that of leadership. Mufasa was an amazing leader. Scar was not. Simba had his own journey, but ultimately comes around, and becomes a great leader too.
Here are some things, we can draw out, about being a great leader from the movie, ‘The Lion King’:
- A good leader looks after, and respects all those in his care.
There’s this beautiful scene in the movie where Mufasa takes his son to pride rock and shows him the entire kingdom. “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”
- A good leader is not power hungry.
We see Simba, as a cub, having a very wrong understanding of leadership. He tells his father that he thought being a king meant he could do whatever he wanted and no one could stop him. Mufasa wisely responds, “There’s more to being a king than getting your way all the time.” Leadership is not about getting becoming powerful and being able to do whatever one wants. A true leader understands his responsibility to the people he leads. Scar on the other hand, just wanted power. He didn’t care about the kingdom and seeing everyone prosper.
- A good leader honours those who were before him
Mufasa knew the role his predecessors played. “Simba let me tell you something that my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.” He respected those who led before him and valued what they had done.
- A good leader understands his place in the great scheme of things
He recognizes that he does not live forever. Just the way he honoured those before him, Mufasa also knew the futility of life. He knew that one day his time too would be up. “When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass, and so we are all connected in the great circle of life.” Just because he is the King, doesn’t make him more important than anyone else in his Kingdom. Death is the great leveler.
- A good leader trains his successor and passes on what he has learnt to others
Because Mufasa was aware that he only had a limited time as King, if he truly cared about those in his kingdom, it was important for him to think of succession and how he could impart his wisdom to the next in line. He spent a great deal of time training his son, Simba. He disciplined him in love, encouraged him, modelled good leadership and talked to him about what a good leader should be like.
- A good leader cannot operate out of a place of bitterness.
We see such a contrast in the leadership of King Mufasa and King Scar. All his life Scar was bitter and felt that he had been given an unfair deal. He manipulated his way into becoming King and finally when he did become king, he did a terrible job. The whole Kingdom suffered because of him.
- A good leader can never live a life of ‘Hakuna Matata’.
“It means no worries for the rest of your days. It’s our problem free philosophy – Hakuna Matata”. The line of this song is so catchy and many times, we think this is the ideal life. We see Simba embrace this lifestyle when he runs away and struggles when Nala asks him to come back and take his rightful place as King. He doesn’t want to face his past. He tries to cover his pain with a carefree lifestyle. But the reality is that being a leader, can never involve living a life of no care or worry. Dealing with people is tough, and messy. But one has to be willing to sacrifice a self-centered lifestyle if one wants to be a good leader.
- Making mistakes doesn’t disqualify one from being a good leader
Simba made mistakes. Simba ran away. Simba had his own journey. But when the time was right, Simba was willing to face his past, make amends for his mistakes and do what he had to do, in order to become the rightful King.
There’s no a perfect leader. Each person comes with their own history and that’s what makes each leader so unique. But, if one is called to leadership, one must ‘remember who they are’, and persevere even when it is challenging.
Life Focus Society
Culture Unraveled is an initiative of Life Focus Society