As leaders and managers, we constantly seek inspiration and insights from various sources to improve our capabilities and approaches. Have you seen Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” yet?

I saw it recently, and first, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do. Secondly, it offers an unexpected yet impressive collection of leadership themes that can provide valuable lessons for leading self, others, and organizations. Here are some of the key leadership parallels I came away with.

Embracing Emotional Complexity

In “Inside Out 2,” we see the main character, Riley, navigating her teenage years with an expanded range of emotions, including Envy, Anxiety, and Pride. This evolution mirrors the complexity leaders face in their emotional landscapes. As leaders are on their leadership journey, there are highs and lows with a range of emotions and a rollercoaster of emotions, and compared to the movie, they are all normal.

Leadership Lesson: Self-Awareness and Emotional Intelligence

  • Example: Riley’s journey emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and understanding our emotions. As leaders, recognizing and managing our emotional responses is crucial. This self-awareness helps us make balanced decisions and relate better to our team members.

Fostering a Culture of Empathy

The introduction of new emotions in Riley’s mind underscores the need for empathy in leadership. Each emotion plays a unique role in guiding Riley through challenges and conflicts. Sympathy isn’t the same as empathy, and empathy is one of those essential leadership skills.

Leadership Lesson: Empathy in Action

  • Example: When Anxiety takes the helm, we see Riley becoming more cautious and considerate of potential risks. Leaders must similarly recognize and empathize with their team’s anxieties and fears, fostering a supportive environment where concerns are heard and addressed. When working remotely, these can sometimes be difficult to identify, so it takes an extra astute leader to sense these emotions.

Navigating Change and Uncertainty

Riley’s experiences reflect the uncertainty and changes that organizations often face, and many are facing in today’s market. Her ability to adapt and learn from new emotions provides a roadmap for leaders.

Leadership Lesson: Adaptability and Resilience

  • Example: Riley learns to adapt and grow as she confronts new situations and emotions. Leaders must cultivate resilience, adapting strategies and approaches to navigate the ever-changing business landscape effectively.

Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion

The diverse array of emotions in Riley’s mind highlights the importance of embracing different perspectives. This diversity ensures a more holistic approach to problem-solving and decision-making. One of the perspectives that we might be less likely to recognize, or want to recognize, is failure, and yet, these less-than-perfect experiences are what help us learn new and better ways of doing things.

Leadership Lesson: Valuing Diverse Perspectives

  • Example: In one scene, Pride and Envy conflict, but their interaction brings a deeper understanding of Riley’s motivations and desires. Similarly, leaders should encourage diverse viewpoints within their teams, recognizing that varied perspectives and even mistakes made lead to richer, more innovative solutions, and deeper trust.

Building Trust and Collaboration

The dynamic between Riley’s emotions showcases the necessity of trust and collaboration. Each emotion must work together, respecting their unique contributions to guide Riley effectively.

Leadership Lesson: Collaborative Leadership

  • Example: Joy and Sadness, initially at odds, learn to collaborate by acknowledging each other’s strengths. Leaders should foster a culture of collaboration, where team members trust one another and work together towards common goals. This doesn’t happen overnight and takes deliberate work on the leader’s part.

Leading with Vision and Purpose

Riley’s internal journey is driven by a search for purpose and direction, much like organizations and even teams, striving to align their actions with their vision and mission.

Leadership Lesson: Visionary Leadership

  • Example: Riley’s moments of clarity come when her emotions align with her core values and aspirations. Leaders need to articulate a clear vision and purpose, inspiring their teams to align their efforts with the organization’s mission. Additionally, they must continually revisit their core values, vision, and purpose to make sure they stay on course.

“Inside Out 2” not only provides entertainment, and a wonderful insight into mental health but also offers profound insights into effective leadership. By embracing emotional complexity, fostering empathy, navigating change, encouraging diversity, building trust, and leading with vision, we can enhance our leadership practices. As leaders, these lessons from the movie can be instrumental in shaping our approach to leadership development programs and initiatives.

Let’s take a page from Riley’s book and lead with emotional intelligence, empathy, and purpose, creating a more inclusive and resilient organizational culture.

I would love to know what your biggest “ah-ha’s” were. Please share them once you have seen the movie.