4 Leadership Lessons from The Lion King

Brent Osborne
3 min readJul 28, 2019


Lions are animals of strength, loyalty, and valiant leadership. Disney’s film The Lion King is dripping in the magic and charm that Disney movies are known for, but the film also focuses on a unifying theme of growing into the role of a successful leader.

This theme is so universally relatable that The Lion King has become one of the most quoted movies in Disney history. After watching the new live action film last week, I walked away with four valuable lessons in leadership that anyone can appreciate.

  1. Recognize the Potential in Others

Empathy is one of those terms that’s thrown about when it comes to modern leadership. Authority is built on empathy — the ability and desire to really understand and share the feelings of others.

When Timon and Pumbaa meet Simba, he is arguably at an all-time low. He just lost his father, is miles away from home, and has literal vultures circling around him. Yet despite his state, they see something in him and make the brave choice to take in a young lion and nurse him back to health.

When we create room to look at ourselves and others honestly and openly, we recognize who we are today and how we want to show up tomorrow. We’re all simply aspiring to be better versions of ourselves. It’s important to recognize the potential within yourself and the people around you.

2. Celebrate Others Success

Dynamics can change when an apprentice rises to become a master in their own right. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba. The trio stick together and cheer each other on as Simba rises to power.

No person, or lion, is an island. Every experience you share with others has an impact on your collective progress — great or small, it all matters. At the end of the day, it’s not just who we’re with, but also how we engage. Timon and Pumbaa nail it and remind us to find success together and celebrate along the way.

I love how the filmmakers zoom in on Simba’s footprints, and how he realizes that his paws don’t fit in his father’s footprints. Talk about filling a respected person’s shoes… it takes a while!

3. Vulnerability is Vital

When Simba’s curiosity gets the best of him and he strays onto the dark side of Pride Land, Mufasa saves the day. Although he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s disappointed with his son’s error of judgment, the wise king forgives his son, uses the moment as a teaching lesson, and shows his own vulnerability.

“I was trying to be brave like you.” — Simba

“I’m only brave when I have to be. Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.” — Mufasa

He tells his son that even kings get scared because they’ve got so much to lose. These are virtues of a good king: stern, yet gentle. He’s got immeasurable strength against his subjects and yet restrains himself, and is still willing to be playful under the stars.

4. Find your Kingmakers

Not only does Simba have to fight inner battles to embrace who he indeed is, but he also needs support and a cheerleader. We see Nala rise to the occasion. The world could use more Nalas who believe in the ability of others and will do whatever they can to uphold and strengthen leaders, because they know that it will benefit everyone.

Many kings and queens are languishing with lack of support and discouragement from the very people who should otherwise be cheering them on. We all need people who can awaken us from our slumbers, lest we ALL starve. Your tribe affects your vibe.

May we all learn to inspire others, and be a light within the circle of life.