Barbie Movie Message on Leadership

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Exploring Leadership Lessons From the Pinkest Movie of the Season

The Barbie Movie’s message on leadership is quite an interesting topic. In fact, anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the colour pink. Also, as a (previously) natural blonde, when I was younger, I encountered individuals who have drawn parallels between me and the iconic doll, Barbie. Now depending on where you stand, this could be a compliment or an insult. But for me, I considered it a huge compliment.

Love or loathe her, there’s no denying that she has iconic status in the world and has captured the imaginations of children by playing diverse roles in various settings, reflecting on careers, adventures, and inspiring real-world accomplishments. I sit firmly in the camp of Barbie being a true role model to show young girls that they can be, do, and have anything they want in their lives. So when the Barbie movie landed at the cinema, I was eager to go and watch it!

I accompanied my 15-year-old daughter and, like many others, found myself surprised by what I gained from it. Aside from all the (IMHO) great empowering feminine, crush the patriarchy, Girl Power messages. These were the leadership lessons or messages that I took away from the Barbie movie.

Note – there are some spoilers here!

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Barbie Movie Message #1 – Reluctance to Change is Normal

Change takes the spotlight in Barbie, where she undergoes a personal transformation (flat feet and cellulite). She’s not exactly thrilled about her new look and feels the pull to cling to the status quo and keep everything the same as it always has been. This reminded me a lot of the initial resistance most employees display when they are confronted with workplace changes. This is particularly when they seem unpleasant to begin with. Read our article on change management model.

Barbie Movie Message #2 – Own Your ‘Weird’

‘Weird Barbie’ is the Barbie that’s been played too roughly with by her owner. This explains things like her legs being in the splits position, the fact she has a choppy, uneven hairstyle, and that she has been drawn on. Rather than being unhappy about this, she shows us that it’s ok to own the qualities that make us different and that these are in fact the things that make us great.

In leadership terms, owning your weirdness in the workplace is about embracing your authenticity, promoting inclusivity, and cultivating an environment of innovation and self-expression. It’s not just about being different for the sake of it, but about contributing your true self to make the organisation you are working in an even better place to be.

Barbie Movie Message #3 – You Are ‘Kenough’

Early in the movie, the narrator tells the audience, “Barbie has a great day every day, but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him.” Ken’s sense of self comes only from Barbie’s validation, which she doesn’t often give. Barbie tells him he has to figure out who he is without her. This scene is a reminder that it’s easy to seek our self-worth and self-esteem from external factors, be it relationships, job roles, or any other role we may fulfil as a husband, wife, parent, etc. However, this can prove to be detrimental and even devastating to your sense of self when those relationships or roles end.

Ultimately, Ken realises that he doesn’t need Barbie’s approval. He can be anything he wants, and being worthy comes from within. He is enough (or as his hoodie says, “I am Kenough”). It’s a reminder that strength, resilience, and leadership skills all come from within, whether you fit the mould or not. This teaches us that recognising your inherent worth is a pivotal foundation for effective leadership.

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Barbie Movie Message #4 – Growth Comes From Discomfort

The movie guides audiences through a journey. It starts in the utopian world of Barbieland, where perfection defines every day. And leads into the real world, abundant with challenges, inequalities, and complexities. This shift from comfort to discomfort mirrors a path familiar to most of us, serving as a reminder that accomplishments tend to be more satisfying when they are hard-earned.

Ultimately achievements take on a deeper meaning when they emerge from a backdrop of struggles and failures – even though at the time it may feel incredibly uncomfortable! Barbie’s journey exemplifies the value of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Her willingness to step out of her comfort zone and confront the unknown is a testament to her leadership acumen. This lesson transcends industries and careers, reminding us that growth is often synonymous with pushing our boundaries and embracing discomfort.

Barbie Movie Message #5 – Be an Ally Like Allan

One of my favourite characters in the film was Allan. Initially, you might question the leadership lessons held by Allan, considering him somewhat of a secondary character. But I saw him as an important Ally to the Barbies. An ally in the workplace is an individual who actively supports and advocates for underrepresented or marginalised groups. Thus, fostering an inclusive and equitable environment. This support goes beyond passive empathy and involves taking concrete actions to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. While the Kens are all fighting amongst each other, Allan helps the Barbies with an important task. When the Kens learn how to be sexist, Allan — immediately uncomfortable around toxic masculinity — decides to team up with the Barbies to put a stop to it. He gives a lot but asks for nothing – a true ally.

Finally #6 – Dream Big

My final lesson, and perhaps the most important one of all, is to never stop dreaming big. Not only the dreamhouses and all of the different Barbies with their different careers in Barbie land. But the way that Barbie makes the decision to stay in the real world saying:

I want to do the imagining, not be the idea…I want to be a part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that is made.”

Leaders are the ones who hold the vision for the organisation and consider what could be. This is an important reminder that wherever we are right now in our careers or organisations, it costs nothing to dream big and imagine what could be.

I hope you resonate with these leadership lessons or messages I took from the Barbie Movie! Connect with us on Linkedin if you agree.

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