What “Little Boy” Taught Me About Being A Great Leader

It was a perfect Thursday night: Netflix streaming on the television and me winding down after a long day of work. The movie I picked? An independent film I hadn’t heard of before (I rarely watch movies) called Little Boy, the story of a child trying to do everything he can to end World War II and bring his father back home. But it wasn’t just the story that interested me. It was also the movie’s lessons on leadership. 

Here are my 4 biggest takeaways on what being a great leader looks like:

 1. Great leaders inspire their followers

In the film, the little boy (Pepper) believes he possesses the magical power of telekinesis, which he confesses to his priest Father Oliver. Father Oliver responds with two simple words: “Show me.” Pepper focuses all of his attention on the bottle, staring at it with all his might, trying to will it to move. It doesn’t. Father Oliver then reaches down and picks up the bottle.

“You moved it for me,” Pepper says.

“You moved me to move it,” Father Oliver replied.

That’s what great leaders do. They support and inspire their followers. Leaders show you that no matter what obstacles may be in front of you in your life or your business, they can be overcome.

2. Great leaders understand others, even if they don’t necessarily agree

Great leaders don’t shame their followers. Instead, they offer compassion. When Pepper’s dad goes off to war, he’s left without a strong guide to teach him right from wrong, and he makes a few mistakes. But Father Oliver doesn’t hold these mistakes against him. Great leaders forgive mistakes and show people a path to choose better next time. Be better, do better.

 3. Great leaders meet people where they are, but don’t do the work for them

Father Oliver sees potential in Pepper. In order to guide him and channel Pepper’s fiery motivation, Father Oliver hands Pepper a list of 5 or 6 ways he can use that passion for good. On it there are things like “Feed the hungry” and “Clothe the naked.” Father Oliver doesn’t force Pepper to complete his tasks, and he doesn’t do the work for him. He simply gives Pepper the opportunity to better himself, with guidance.

Great leaders see where you are and where you’re heading, and they give you the tools you need to change directions or develop yourself in positive ways. It’s not about rules; it’s about road maps. Leaders put you on the path to being better.

 4. Great leaders bring out the hero in everyone

In the film, Father Oliver gives Pepper the direction he needs to get his life on track and make his dreams come true. He doesn’t belittle Oliver or focus on Oliver’s weaknesses. He reflects Oliver’s best self back to him.

We all have insecurities, and as people we tend to think of ourselves in terms of faults, not our strengths. That’s where a leader stands the tallest.

Leaders see the hero in everyone, making it easier for us to see it in ourselves.

In the film I recognized the teachings of Darren Hardy and John Addison weaved throughout the story. It might not have gotten good reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but all of its leadership lessons have made it my go-to for when I need a bit of extra inspiration!