3 Powerful Leadership Lessons I Learned From Kung Fu Panda….REALLY!


The other day, Carl and I brought our kids to see, “Kung Fu Panda 3”.  My youngest was extremely anxious to see the movie so we had a family outing.  I was expecting to be entertained, but what I didn’t expect was to learn leadership lessons from the movie.  Dreamworks does a great job teaching important lessons while creating entertainment at the same time.  So how can a movie about a Kung Fu Panda teach us anything about leadership?

In the third part of the series, Master Shifu hands over the responsibility of teaching Kung Fu to Po, someone who has never taught anyone anything before.  In the beginning, he does a terrible job, actually creating physical danger to his team.  He doubts himself and Shifu gives him lessons that help him eventually train a whole Panda tribe.

Discouraged, Po tells Master Shifu that he can’t teach.  What is Shifu’s reply?


“If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are”.

This is the essence of leadership.  Treating people not as they are but as they have the potential to be.  To believe in your team and inspire them to “be more”.  One of a leader’s greatest talents should be the ability to see in the person what they don’t yet see in themselves.


Frustrated, Po is explaining to Master Shifu that he will never be like him.  How does he answer?


“I am not trying to turn you into me.  I am trying to turn you into you.”

Sometimes a leader can get caught in the trap of looking for someone just like him.  Have you ever said this? “If only I can find someone, just like me”.  Real leadership is about encouraging people to find their own strengths.  It is not about fitting into a mold but creating their own mold.


In this series, there is always a battle between the good and bad.  In Kung Fu Panda 3, the bad guy is Kai, who used to be Master Oogway’s colleague and best friend until he got greedy for power.  He wanted to steal Chi from Pandas so that he can enhance his own.  Saddened by his friend’s lust for power, he tries and teach Kai an important lesson.


“The more you take, the less you are”.

Leadership is not about what you get out of the relationship, it is about what you give.  Have you ever had a leader who took all the credit and gave none of it to their team?  How engaged were you with that leader?  Leadership is about helping those not performing to their potential perform better and those already performing aim for more.  How can you help your team develop the skills they need to advance in their careers?  If you are only focused on climbing the ladder yourself, you will soon find that your ladder won’t lead you very far.


What leadership lessons have you learned recently?