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Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise

A Reel Leadership Article

Spies In Disguise is a cute, fun animated movie. Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is a super spy for H.T.U.V. (Honor, Trust, Unity, and Valor). Everyone loves him. He’s the star of the agency. Walter Beckett couldn’t be more different than Lance. Walter (Tom Holland from the latest Spider-Man movies) is a super-nerd and weird. He creates non-lethal weapons under the radar at the spy agency.

When the two meet and Lance accidentally drinks Walter’s “biodynamic concealment” concoction that was supposed to make him invisible. The concoction did, in a sense, make Lance invisible. By drinking the concoction, Lance is turned into a pigeon.

Will Smith and Tom Holland's characters in Spies In Disguise giving one another fist bumps

Pigeons are largely overlooked in society. No one questions why a pigeon may be in the area. It’s there to get food and annoy people, right?!?

With the world’s greatest spy now a pigeon, Lance has to figure out a way to regain the M9 Assassin, an attack drone he lost. A Japanese arms dealer, Kasu Kimura (Masi Oka), had planned to sell it to Killian (Ben Mendelsohn) when Lance had originally crashed the party. Killian made away with the device and the chase is on.

Whether you go to see Spies In Disguise because you want to or because your child wants to, don’t fret. You will enjoy the animated movie. More than that, you will be able to take away Reel Leadership Lessons from Spies In Disguise.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise

1. Wendy Beckett (Rachel Brosnahan):

What’s wrong with weird? The world needs weird.

Wendy is Walter’s mom. She asks him this question because Walter is concerned about the kids at school thinking he is weird.

Wendy realizes she has to give Walter a good answer. She tells him the world needs more weird. He can’t be concerned with what kids think about him. He has to be who he is.


The world needs weird – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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I think David Rendall will agree. He talks about being weird in his book The Freak Factor.

Being weird isn’t a weakness. Being weird is a strength. Weird people think and act differently than normal people. They see what others don’t and realize what makes them great also makes them weird.

The world needs more weird. Be the weird the world needs.

2. Use technology appropriately:

Lance was on a mission to infiltrate an arms deal between Kimura and Killian. As he infiltrated the building, he deployed drones to scan the area.

The drones allowed him to see how many people were in the building. He could also see their movements.

Technology is neither good nor bad. Technology is only as good or as bad as you make it.

There’s plenty of technologies out there that can improve or destroy the lives of leaders. When using technology, make sure you’re using technology appropriately.

3. Good leaders don’t always see the results they desire:

Lance made an amazing entrance and exit from the arms deal of the Yakuza. He was able to jump through the helicopter Killian was in and obtain the attack drone.

Or so he thought…

When he returned to the H.T.U.V. headquarters, he discovered the case he had taken from the helicopter was empty. He had failed the mission.


You won’t always get the results you desire – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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You may think you’re going to see an increase of 200 people to your church or profits rise 30% this quarter in your business. What happens when you do all of the right things only to have the results not show up?

You can still be a good, even great, leader and not get the results you desire. Your hard work and efforts will only go so far. There are external factors that may derail the results you went after.

Don’t be discouraged when the results aren’t there. Go back to the drawing board, look at what you can change, and go after them again.

4. Walter Beckett:

There has to be a better way.

Walter was an odd duck. Everyone knew it. Especially the members of H.T.U.V. They knew he was weird and Walter was still struggling with embracing his weirdness.

One of the things Walter had done was to equip Lance’s suit with non-lethal weapons. Lance was hot to trot. He wanted death and destruction.

Young Walter told Lance there had to be a better way. He was trying to show him the better way.

You have to constantly be on the lookout for a better way for the way you lead and how to get things done in your organization. There’s always ways to improve.

Something to think about maybe looking at how to LEAN your organization. Business owner Paul A. Akers shares his LEAN secrets in his book 2 Second LEAN.

There are plenty of strategies on how to improve your organization in the book. From looking at ways to decrease the time it takes things by 2 seconds or the way you organize your office.

There are better ways to do things. Look for them. Find them. Implement them.

5. Beware of imposters:

Killian, the man with a robot hand, had scanned Lance’s face. He used the scan of Lance’s face to impersonate him and commit a crime.

The internal affairs department of H.T.U.V. saw the film of Killian committing the crime but believed Lance was the culprit. He was the victim of an imposter.


Beware of imposters – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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Imposters are all around us. They pretend to be one thing when they’re really something else. These imposters can hurt you, your business, and themselves.

Beware of imposters. They can be hard to spot and cause a lot of havoc.

6. Great leaders will be missed:

Walter’s mom had been killed in the line of duty. She was missed by those she worked with. More importantly, she was missed by her son Walter.

Walter longed to see his mother again. He knew this wouldn’t happen but he still missed her. Her memory lingered with him.

The great leaders you come into contact with will leave a lasting impression on you. They will imprint themselves on you and help you become a better leader. When they transition to a new organization or pass away, they will be missed.

It is okay to miss great leaders that have moved on or died. They played a major role in your leadership development.

Mourn them. Grieve them. More than anything, remember them and don’t be ashamed to miss them.

7. Lance Sterling:

Pretend you’re a normal person talking to an even cooler normal person.

Lance entered Walter’s house after Marcy (Rashida Jones), Eyes (Karen Gillan), and Ears (DJ Khaled) had tried to capture him. He was looking for the biodynamic concealment concoction so he could get away from the misguided department and clear his name.

He accidentally drank the concoction thinking it was a glass of water Walter was offering him. It wasn’t. It was the concoction!


Stop using leader-speak – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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Walter tries to explain what Lance had drunk. He was also trying to explain to him what was happening and why. The terms Walter used were all sciencey and hard to understand.

Lance wanted, no needed, to know what was going on so he asked Walter to explain what was happening.

Leaders can fall into the trap Walter did. They can use their leader-speak and confuse those they’re leading.

Words and phrases like

  • Decision matrix
  • Ethical climate
  • Horizontal leadership
  • Decision tree
  • Framing Level 5 leaders

May leave people scratching their heads. These phrases are not common to the everyday person.

Speak to people with words and phrases they can understand. When you can’t, help them understand the words and phrases you’re saying.

8. Bad leaders place blame inappropriately:

Lance had willingly, though unknowingly, chose to drink the biodynamic concealment concoction. He discovered what he had done and he instantly began to place blame on Walter.

It wasn’t Walter’s fault Lance had burst into his home. It wasn’t Walter’s fault Lance drank the concoction. And it wasn’t Walter’s fault when Lance turned into a pigeon.

The choices Lance made set him on a course where he did those things. He broke into Walter’s home, drank the concoction, and turned himself into a pigeon. It was Lance’s fault yet he placed the blame on Walter.

Are you like Lance? Do you place the blame on everyone else but yourself?

You need to be careful. Great leaders know they can’t place the blame on other people when they’re making the decision.

You make the call, you take the blame. Stop blaming others.

9. Look for the benefits:

Lance hated pigeons. He thought they were dirty birds. He hated the fact he had become one. Until he was able to see the benefit of being a spy pigeon.

Lance and Walter were in a Yakuza-filled area. Lance, as a pigeon, was able to calmly walk past the Yakuza. They didn’t notice him or pay attention. He was invisible!

You may think the situation you’re in is hopeless. There’s no hope and you’re screwed.


There are benefits to every situation you get into – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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Stop with the negative situation. The situation isn’t as bleak as you think it is. There’s always a positive side.

Look for it and be grateful.

10. Walter Beckett:

Oh, look… Being in a flock helped you.

Lance was one of those lone ranger leaders. He hated working in a team. He thought he could do everything by himself (he wasn’t a good leader or team player!).

However, he began to learn the benefits of working with a team. He had a flock of other pigeons (Lovey, Jeff, and Crazy Eyes) that brought him into their family.

As Lance was trying to steal the key card to Kimura’s room, the other pigeons made noise. They were noticed and the hotel receptionist knocked Lance out.

Lance thought he’d lost the key. He hadn’t. Crazy Eyes had swallowed the key and brought it to them. The team Lance didn’t want was a help.

You may struggle with wanting a team. You may even have crazy people on your team that remind you of Crazy Eyes.

Working with a team can be difficult. It can also be an extremely rewarding experience.

Don’t shrug off teamwork because you think you can do things better alone. Many times you cannot. Only with the help of a team will you accomplish what you desire.

11. Help people to see a way:

Walter and Lance had to escape from the H.T.U.V. team. They were in a room on the upper level of the hotel. The only way out was either down or jumping to another balcony.

Walter didn’t think he could do it. The jump was too far and he didn’t know how to do it.


Great leaders help people see a way – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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This is when Lance spoke up and helped Walter to see the parkour jump (if you don’t know what parkour is, check out the video below) in a new way.

Lance told Walter parkour is simple physics. You look at the angles and figure out a way to make it work. This inspired Walter. He gained the confidence to make the jump (though it didn’t turn out the way he had hoped).

People can be intimidated by the work placed in front of them. They may see the work as difficult, even impossible, to do. You know differently. You’ve done the work and seen others accomplish it.

Because you’ve been there, done that you can help people see a way to do the impossible. Help them see new ways of looking at difficult problems. You can be the one to help them accomplish more than they ever thought possible.

12. Walter Beckett:

Science is all trial and error.

Walter had been working on an antidote for Lance. The antidote would turn Lance back into a human.

Walter’s first attempt at an antidote failed. The antidote bubbled and became a blackened mess. It wouldn’t work.

Walter told Lance the truth. Science is trial and error. You try one thing, see if it works, and then try something else if it doesn’t.

Leadership works the same way. There are so many leadership theories and methods out there that can work.

However, not every leadership theory or method can be applied to every situation. You have to do trial and error. You have to experiment to see what leadership theory works in specific situations.

Try them. Play around. Discover what theories and methods work for you.

13. Walter Beckett:

We have different skill sets. That’s what makes us an effective team.

Lance began to realize teamwork made the dream work. It wasn’t so bad to work with other people.

Walter explained to Lance why teamwork works. Teamwork works because each team member has a unique skill set. The skills each team member brings to the team compliments other team member skills.


Different skillsets are valuable – Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise
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When you bring people onto your team, look for unique skills each member can contribute. Don’t be scared if someone has skills you question. Look for ways you can implement those skills into your team and improve them.

Teams work because each individual contributes something different. Don’t stifle this.

14. Joyless (Reba McEntire):

We need people like you. We need people who can do things differently.

This leadership lesson from Spies In Disguise kind of goes along with the previous lesson. Joyless, the head of H.T.U.V. saw the value Walter brought to the organization.

His keen eye on non-lethal weapons was something different. Something the organization had never seen before.

Walter’s different thinking made him an asset to the organization.

Be cautious of thinking less of yourself because you think differently than others. Your unique way of thinking can be exactly the thing your organization needs.

Help people to see the value in different thinking. Different thinking gets different, even better, results.

Question: If you’ve watched Spies In Disguise, what leadership lessons did you take away from the movie? If you haven’t seen the movie, what Reel Leadership lessons from Spies In Disguise that I shared resonated with you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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The post Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Spies In Disguise appeared first on Joseph Lalonde.



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