I grew up in a family of movie quoters. We got our first VCR in 1981, and recorded Steve Martin’s The Jerk, Burt Reynolds’ The End, and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from broadcast television and promptly memorize them all. My brother, Scott, and I amazed our older cousin that we worked with by quoting the entire script of The Jerk, line by line, during our commute.
I have sometimes found, throughout my life, that a relevant movie quote, shared at an opportune moment, can build teamwork, create a mantel of leadership, or contribute to the company’s culture in a positive manner.
With these thoughts in mind, I humbly share five of my favorite quotes for business leaders from one of the all-time great quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987):
- Hyou keep hyusing that hword. I do not think it means hwhat you think it means.” (Inigo Montoya)
Leaders need to identify and correct inaccurate and harmful trends among their employees and within their company, especially among the managers. Leaders know that telling someone the answer is not as effective or as long-lasting as getting them to figure out the answer on their own.
- “Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.” (Westley)
Acknowledging threats when others deny their existence often requires more vision, courage and honesty on the part of a leader than actually dealing with the threats. Ignoring such threats, on the other hand, will end up getting you burned (and probably smelling like roasted possum).
- “Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.” (Ryan, the Dread Pirate Roberts, as quoted by Wesley)
Leaders know how to provide personalized motivation. What motivates one employee may not motivate another. Rewards, recognition and responsibilities are common methods (and usually more effective than mortal threats).
- “We’ll never survive.” (Buttercup)
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” (Westley)
A visionary leader sees possibilities, focusing on what can be done in the future and not on failures of the past.
- “I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?” (Inigo Montoya)
“Do you always begin conversations this way?” (Man in Black)
Conventions are not sacred to leaders. Sometimes they need to ask the difficult and uncomfortable questions. If leaders were to see the world as everyone else does, they WOULD be like everyone else. Doing the unexpected can help employees escape routine and focus on critical issues.
What about you? Do you have a favorite quote or two from The Princess Bride that could be valuable to leaders? Or perhaps suggest a different movie for a future post? Please let me hear from you.
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