9 ways Disney’s Moana teaches us management lessons

This is Moana presented by Walt Disney

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Management lessons can be found in abundance in books, business schools, seminars and mentoring sessions. You’ve most probably already gone through the grind and rigor of management training and experience. Well, that’s how life unfolds. New learning and lessons reside in every corner of our world.

We’ll get to the part about management lessons from Disney‘s Moana in some time. However, I must give a Spoilers Alert notice, in terms of either the ending or key moments of the film.

Peter Shaffer summed up life quite aptly,

The trouble is if you don’t spend your life yourself, other people spend it for you.

Every one’s life is unique in its own way but the concepts remain applicable to all. However, life throws up these lessons in new and varied forms, every now and then. I got to experience such a new learning experience in complete 3-d and animated style few days back. Yes, I’m talking of the newly released Hollywood film Moana by Walt Disney.

Moana is a movie about an adventurous teenager who sails out on a daring mission to save her people. During her journey, Moana meets the once-mighty demigod Maui, who guides her in her quest to become a master way-finder. Together they sail across the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous monsters and impossible odds. Along the way, Moana fulfills the ancient quest of her ancestors and discovers the one thing she always sought: her own identity.

Alright then, let’s see for ourselves what management lessons does Disney’s Moana have for us.

1. Strength comes in different shapes, sizes and places

management lessons to be learnt from Hei Hei in Moana

Yes, strength can come from anywhere. This idea was appropriately highlighted by Moana in the film when she speaks about the rooster Hei Hei.

Sometimes our strengths lie beneath the surface.

Although, everyone in the village wanted to cook Hei Hei and eat it, Moana stands up for him. She always believed that everyone is special, even though they might act weird, bizarre or abnormally. Most of the times, our strengths rise up to the surface and become apparent to the world outside us. However, a lot of the times, our strengths never cross the thresholds of our innermost boundaries. In such cases, they remain locked up inside us. So, this does not mean that the strength is missing. It only means that either time or some external catalyst is required to bring out that strength to the fore.


2. Fear immobilizes us

management lessons of fear from Moana

Since our childhood days, one piece of memory never fades from our consciousness. Our first tryst with the unknown face of fear stays with us for a very long time.

In the movie, we see that the ancestors of Moana’s village were actually voyagers. They went from island to island searching for new places to inhabit. However, due to the fear of the unknown and of what lay beyond the reef, they stopped navigating. The villagers hid their sailboats and settled down on the island.

Moana was always dissuaded from traveling beyond the reef.

Fear doesn’t let us move forward.

Management lessons – As long as fear holds you, nothing can happen. Your strengths, your dreams and your passion will lie like a pile of rocks.


3. Taking responsibility

management lessons of taking responsibility from Moana

Owning up to one’s actions and responsibilities are the true indicators of a responsible and mature individual.

Moana’s island was in trouble. The coconuts had dried up and turned black and the fish had also disappeared. In such times, it was Moana’s grandmother who tells her that,

Someone will have to go.

Someone had to travel beyond the reef in search of better alternatives and food. The other members of the village had been living a life of fear which stopped them from traveling. Grandmother knew that a young and brave girl like Moana would be able to complete this Herculean task. After several hiccups, Moana finally does take up the responsibility and goes ahead to fulfill the task.

Management lessons – In life as well, one must always be ready to take up responsibility.


4. Definition of success

management lessons of defining success properly by Moana and grandmother

The true definition of success can get lost with so many ideas floating around, so many people discussing ideas and so many misconceptions in place.

In the movie, we hear Moana’s grandmother share the story of Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and how he successfully stole the heart of Te Fiti. Only after he steals the heart does he realize his idea of success is wrong.

Never let society define success for you.

Management lessons – Indeed, as long as one lets society guide the definitions, innovations and change shall never take place in our world. People who take a different stance and forge new definitions of success for themselves are the ones who drive the human race forward.


5. Management lessons of motivation

management lessons of motivation by Moana

Life is one continuous journey with obstacles and peace distributed and spread across equally. Hence, motivation forms the foundation for any individual to navigate in this journey.

Moana was in a dual motivational dilemma. Not only did she have to find motivation for herself but she also had to motivate Maui. Maui refused to join Moana on her journey. Maui also had tattoos which told stories. One of these stories told Moana about the glorification of Maui as a God. She used this as a tool to convince Maui to join her cause.

Management lessons – In this way, Moana teaches us to look for motivation in all places.


6. Being a student for life

management lessons of being a learner and a student by Moana

Learning is the key stepping stone in life. It helps us to move forward and put to use our talents and skills.

Teach me to sail.

Moana had the open mind of a student and a learner. She kept persisting with Maui to teach her how to sail. She aspired to become an expert way-finder just like Maui.

Management lessons – One should never feel too old or too mature or too experienced to learn something new.


7. Purpose of life

management lessons of purpose of life by Moana

We all face an eternal struggle taking place inside us. I’m talking of the struggle of purpose. We spend months and years in the search of our purpose/our true calling.

Moana faced this question and this struggle throughout the movie. However, once she finds her purpose, she becomes steadfast and puts all of her focus and determination into fulfilling it.

Management lessons – Keep looking for your purpose and do not stop.


8. Practice

management lessons of practice by Moana

There’s no substitute for practice in life. It’s the single most important factor which separates the true skilled individuals from the amateur ones.

Maui uses a magical fish hook in the movie which is the source of his power. However, he loses the hook and as a result his powers also wane. In due course of time, he forgets the use of his powers. When he is reunited with his hook, he is unable to use his powers. With hours and hours of practice, he’s finally able to correctly use his powers.


9. Leadership

management lessons of leadership by Moana

Many a times in life, one has to stand alone to take the most difficult but the most appropriate decisions.

In the film, Moana has to decide and choose between two alternatives. Either set sail to the sea to go beyond the reef or stay back with her family and dying grandmother. She chooses to do the former.

Management lessons – Dilemmas and conflicting situations do arise. Deal with them and move ahead to the next thing.

So, these were the 9 ways in which Disney’s Moana teaches us management lessons. What do you think of them? Are they appropriate? Can you think of some more of these?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below and let’s have a discussion there.


4 thoughts on “9 ways Disney’s Moana teaches us management lessons

  1. Nice write-up Jay 🙂 Truly inspiring story of Moana….she led by example by going on deadly mission to save her people.
    We should lead by example as she did by accomplishing this task 🙂

    1. Indeed, you said it right. Leadership is all about leading from the front. Thank you for sharing your views.
      Which of the 9 lessons do you think are applicable to your organization and work-space?

      1. Well the most relevant lessons which are applicable in my organization or in any organization I will say are “Leadership”, “Taking Responsibility” and “Being a student for life”. Other lessons like “Strength comes in different shapes, sizes and places”, “Fear immobilizes us”and “practice” are also applicable.

        1. Yes, the 3 which you mentioned are essential to an organization’s smooth workflow. I hope that you too apply it in your organization. 🙂

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