Leadership Lessons from Princess Bride

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“Good night, Westley. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”- Dread Pirate Roberts.

It is the 30th anniversary of the cinematic classic, The Princess Bride, this year.  This fairy tale adventure centers around Princess Buttercup and the hero, Westley, who is on a quest to find and save her. It is also a story that unfolds as the grandfather reads the Princess Bride book to his grandson, while the boy recovers from his illness. There are so many great quotes and moments in this movie. There are also a lot of good, timeless leadership lessons embedded in this tale, including some gems from Prince Humperdink, Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, Westley, and the Grandfather.

Prince Humperdinck:  Prince Humperdinck has a leadership title but does not focus on or rally supporters. He is totally self-absorbed and pursues Princess Buttercup not for love, but for power. There is a scene where Westley was captured and Humperdinck is asked if he wants to come to the dungeon. The Prince responds, “You know how much I love watching you work, but I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.” Ever worked for this guy? The outtake: Titles don’t make leaders, character does.

Vizzini: Vizzini is the movie’s villian, hired to kidnap and kill Princess Buttercup. He plans elaborate schemes to trick others and to try to get his way. He is convinced that he is the smartest person in the room and that no one else can be trusted, so talks down to everyone he encounters. It is “inconceivable” to him that anyone else could outwit him. In an exchange with the Man in Black he states, “I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains…Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? (They are) morons.” His ego prevents him from connecting to others and ultimately, in an elaborate game of slight of hand costs him his life. The outtake: Leaders need brains, and they also need humility.

Inigo Montoya: Inigo Montoya joins our hero on his quest, not to save Buttercup, but to avenge his father. His life’s purpose has been to find and kill the man who killed his father. He has unquestionable dedication and drive- but it is this same single-mindedness that narrows his perspective of the world. He laments to the Man in Black that “It’s been twenty years now and I’m starting to lose confidence. I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills. There’s not a lot of money in revenge.” After almost wrongly killing the Man in Black, he does finally get to put his iconic line “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” into action. The outtake: Leaders are motivated by passion and the big picture.

Westley: Westley is our hero. He is a farmhand in love with Princess Buttercup who sets out to earn the money needed to ask for her hand in marriage. Of course like all good movies it is not all smooth sailing for our hero, Westley, who has to use his wits and his sword to fight pirates, to outwit Vizzini, and to find his way back to Buttercup. His simple background and demeanor belie his commitment and passion. This may be best represented by his line “As you wish.” At first Princess Buttercup thinks it is because of her status that he defers to her but as their relationship progresses she comes to see it is because he loves her and wants what is best for her. The outtake: Leaders are found at all levels.

Grandfather:  The Grandfather brings the book the Princess Bride to read to his sick grandson who initially wants nothing to do with it. Once the Grandfather promises to skip all “the kissing parts” the grandson relents, then is quickly enraptured by the story.  As the grandfather is reading the story to the grandson about the Buttercup’s upcoming marriage, the grandson interrupts, “See, didn’t I tell you she’d never marry that rotten Humperdinck?” to which the Grandfather smirks and replies, “Yes, you’re very smart. Shut up.” The grandfather successfully draws his grandson into the story by inviting him to partake in the adventure and letting his Grandson form his own ideas and draw his own conclusions. The outtake: The best leaders draw the outline and let you color in the details.

The movie Princess Bride has humor, action, and adventure. It also has a lot of good leadership lessons embedded throughout the film. Think about the characters in your office and the parts that they play.  Most importantly, remember that “wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv. ”

 

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