Take a Movie’s Advice is a weekly column attempting to discover the similarities between our favorite movies and real life. Grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show.
It took a while for me to realize that true leadership isn't about the title or the role, but rather about the impact one makes.
I'll be honest: I lost sight of this a few years ago.
My freshman year of college, one of the more prestigious campus organizations was accepting first-year applicants for their leadership team. I was eager to apply, and my attitude got the better of me in the process.
The team required a written application, along with in-person interviews. I was certain that I could hold any one of the student director positions. After all, I met all of the qualifications and I had nailed the interview. Or so I thought.
It was a bittersweet moment when I received notification of the results. While I was accepted onto the leadership team, it wasn’t for a coveted direction position.
My initial reaction? Not my proudest moment.
After reading through the email a few times, I made myself more and more upset. I proceeded to rant and rave to every dormmate that would listen. I followed that up by downing an entire sleeve of Oreos to make myself feel better.
Yeah, it wasn't cute.
However, after working with everyone else on the team (yes, I sucked it up and embraced the team position I was given), I soon noticed that I was building my skills and becoming a leader in my own right.
From lecture halls to campus organizations and internships, there are ample opportunities to become a leader in your community. It’s not always about being the loudest person in the room, the one with the most prestigious title, or the one that demands all attention be on her.
For Mia Thermopolis, leadership was about influencing others and learning how to do what was right for her people.
Our favorite Genovian princess made her comeback in The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004) (see our post on what we learned from the first Princess Diaries film here), and her story can teach us a few things about leadership success.
About the Movie
In the second movie of The Princess Diaries franchise, Mia (Anne Hathaway) journeys back to Genovia after graduating from Princeton University. There, she will reunite with her grandmother and prepare for her coronation when she assumes the throne as queen.
Her dilemma? Parliament will not allow her to assume her duties as Queen of Genovia until she finds a husband. According to one member, there’s another person in line for the throne: Lord Devereaux (Chris Pine), who also just happens to be Nicholas, the handsome bachelor Mia meets at her 21st birthday gathering.
From perfecting the waltz and riding sidesaddle to fighting persistent paparazzi, this queen-to-be has a lot of challenges heading her way, especially those rooting for her failure. But Mia knows that by staying true to herself, and listening to the support of her friends and family, she can be one of the best leaders Genovia has ever seen.
(Want to see the movie before reading further? Check out the DVD here.)
Here are the four best leadership tips we learned from The Princess Diaries 2
1. Learn more about your role.
After Mia settles down in Genovia once again, she begins to work with her grandmother Clarisse in order to prepare for her coronation.
Her first step? Attempting to ride a horse sidesaddle for an upcoming ceremony.
Mia is provided with a wooden leg decoy that’s been in the family for decades that enables her to pretend she can actually ride a horse in this manner.
While this occasion results in a horse being spooked by a fake snake, it does allow Mia to learn more about Genovia’s traditions and customs. By learning more about the history of the people she is about to lead, Mia can further understand their wants and needs.
Regardless of your affiliations and activities, taking the time to fully comprehend your role - and to learn a little something about the people you're going to lead - will make a huge difference. This invaluable knowledge will help you set goals and plan for how you can successfully execute your duties.
2. Recognizing your strengths.
Since Mia did not grow in Genovia, her people naturally doubted whether she was actually fit to be the nation’s queen. However, in this film, she proves herself more than prepared to rule.
At the Independence Day Parade, Mia suddenly interrupts the festivities after seeing a few boys teasing a younger girl. Upon learning that these children are orphans, Mia decides to have them join her in the parade, declaring that anyone can be a princess (or prince).
One of the young (almost) queen’s strengths is her ability to relate to others and view the world from their perspectives. The crowd praises her for her generosity, which continues after the event, as Mia plans to convert one of the royal palaces into a children’s center.
In your own life, figuring out areas where you excel can help you become a much more effective leader. You need to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and act accordingly. While it is beneficial to improve any weaknesses, focusing on your strengths will allow to be more confident around your peers.
3. Express your gratitude.
Mia makes it a priority to thank those who have helped her get to where she is today, especially those in the royal palaces.
Throughout the film, she seeks advice and guidance from her trusty bodyguard, Joe. With his experience and expertise, Joe assists her in preparing for upcoming events and shows her how to handle the annoying paparazzi.
Mia teaches us that a simple expression of gratitude can have a major impact.
According to Laura Trics, “Being appreciated is one of those things that really motivates us […] a little goes a long way when if you can offer up a genuine thank you when it’s appropriate.” Not only is it nice to express your gratitude, it can help you motivate your team to success.
4. “Forget the haters ‘cause somebody loves you.”
One of the tougher challenges Mia has to face is finding a husband in order to become queen. She struggles enough to learn how to ride sidesaddle, perfect her archery form, and figure out the proper ways to use a fan!
In the end, Mia is able to have the rule changed: She does not need to marry in order to become queen. In the end, she finds that by staying true to herself, she is able to garner all the support she needs to enact change. She finds that along with her grandmother and the royal palace staff, her friends from all over the world support her in full.
Besides, even if Viscount Mabrey was not in favor of her no-marriage-required rule, his nephew sure was!
While it’s easy to give in when others challenge us, remember that it doesn’t matter what they think of you, but rather what you think of yourself. If you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, you can enact great change in the world.
Have you heard that there are talks of a third movie for The Princess Diaries franchise? Do you have any stories about when you were a leader? Are there any other tips you’d like to share? Start the conversation – comment below!