Leadership Lessons from... WALL•E

My family and I went to a Drive-In movie a couple of weeks ago and watched Pixar’s hit film WALL•E. I totally agree with Roger Ebert’s take on the film: He says that WALL•E "succeeds at being three things at once: an enthralling animated film, a visual wonderment and a decent science-fiction story."

My favorite part came about 45 minutes into it when WALL•E reminded me of a great leadership principle. Since you have probably seen a few 'robots' or even ‘cartoon characters’ in leadership positions before, you may wonder how a digitally animated robot could teach anything having to do with leadership. Two words – Rubik’s Cube®

WALLE•E holding a Rubik's Cube

In chapter six of our new book, Toy Box Leadership, Ron Hunter Jr. and I write about the valuable lesson that a Rubik’s Cube® can teach about ethics. Here are a few excerpts from, Making The Right Turn:

"If you are a child of the ’80s, you probably remember parachute pants and Member’s Only jackets. Big hair and skinny ties. Ronald Reagan and Madonna. Cabbage Patch Kids and Trivial Pursuit. However, no other icon epitomizes the 1980s like the Rubik’s Cube® puzzle. It is colorful and complex—trendy yet timeless." (Page 91)

"The qualities of the Rubik’s Cube® puzzle that make it so intriguing are the same qualities that make it such a good example of ethics. It can be frustrating. It can seem impossible. You may be tempted to lay it aside. But... it can be done. The cube’s color, depth, and dimensions represent the complexity of your ethics. As you solve the problems of life, this toy teaches the importance of making the right turns." (Page 94)

Ethical Parallels in the Solution of the Cube:

"There Is an Acceptable Standard of Right" (Page 94)

"There Are No Shortcuts in Ethics" (Page 96)

"Every Move Affects the Whole Cube" (Page 97)

"Does your organization have a mixed-up standard of right? A confused set of ethics? Are you prepared to lead it in making the right turns—creating order and integrity in all you do? Like the Rubik’s Cube® puzzle, you have many possible moves each day, but only one right turn." (Page109)

See the movie buy the book - Two Thumbs Up!

Add New Comment


  • Manjit Syven Birk

    Just watched that movie with my kids earlier this evening and just came online and thought how coincidentally strange that I find a blog about it. What I liked about Wall-e were all those fattened up human characters who are highly system led and fed people, who finally realizing they can get up and walk because they saw the captain doing it. That is the ultimate leadership lesson in Wall-E for me. We can all do that especially if when we lack belief in our own capability or we become lazy fat cats taking life just for granted, it is not a case of following the captain, but realizing that which is really possible. My kids stayed up tonight for a double feature, because we also watched "Sydney White", and we turned the projector off just after midnight before writing this. The real joy of both of these movies for me isn't the wonder of the animation or the cleverness of adapting Snow White, it's about enjoying something that is both wonderful and hilarious, without judgment in the company of my own kids. Micheal we as a society have been huffing and puffing about leadership lessons until we have got blue in the face and we still find that this house breaks down - but with all respects to you being a "leadership" author, sometimes we should treat a kids film as a kids film in the company of kids - and the book, well - let that be the book in the company of adults. Learning itself isn't fixed, it is emergent and I believe very much in emergence. The best leadership book that anyone can write is stored right in one's heart and as a father, my kids are my leaders, for they are the one's who teach me how to be a better dad. Today IMHO we are not living in age of leaders and followers but an age where trust is important (but an age where distrust is the actual reality). I have to say that I don't accept what you say when you wrote, I quote: "you may wonder how a digitally animated robot could teach anything having to do with leadership": Micheal what are you saying here, animated robots have mostly been teaching society about leadership for decades, because the first thing a robot forgets is how to simply be human. Anyway Good luck with the book, but the film, enjoy it with some fun loving kids, - I did. (and as for your response to this, just let it be), I write this because it's in my head right now, and as for tomorrow, well that is another new day, and I guess that is when leadership really starts best, as a fresh new day......M.