Napoleon Dyanamite is an often quoted character but rarely has anyone ever uncovered the depth of leadership advice that this man and his cast bring to the table.
I know the above statement may seem impossible but I truly think Napoleon is onto something with his one-liners and life. When we can look at a ridiculous character and their life either we’re stretching a bit or there’s something really there….this may be a little bit of both, you decide.
“You Gonna Eat Those Tots”?- Napoleon Dynamite
If you’ve ever seen the movie you know that this scene is one of the most absurd scenes because not only could it happen it just shouldn’t happen. This parallel makes it hilarious. Napoleon just asked that question of a kid who was about to throw his tater tots away and Napoleon not being able to bear that asks for the tots then proceeds to shove them into his pockets.
The scene pictured shows him then eating those tot scraps in class.
The leadership lesson? Don’t settle for other people’s scraps!
There are a lot of great leaders out there, a lot. I don’t claim to be one of them but I do look up to a good number of past and present leaders. Sometimes as growing leaders, or as current leaders we tend to take the leadership scraps of great leaders.
We try to turn ourselves into these leaders we idolize but to no avail. We try on every leader’s voice we like and end up rarely finding our own voices, which hinders our growth and the growth of those we are leading.
This is a big lesson that I fail at too often. I know I look like Napoleon; sneaking a bit of “leader tots” and enjoying their scraps way too much…only to find myself disillusioned and wanting something more, from myself and those I lead.
I struggle to find my own voice, asking: “Who am I as a leader? What is my mission as a leader? Am I good at the things I think I’m good at?” Shortly after this tirade of questions to myself I seek to find the next leader’s tots I can borrow from because I’m not sure I like the answers I’m coming up with.
What makes those tots so darn attractive? To me, I’ll be honest and authentic here: it’s because the people eating them are well known. Something in me thinks that if I eat those tots I can be just well known, well heard and important as them.
Yet…I am me, not them.
I am not saying we don’t listen to their advice on leadership, because they have some good stuff to learn from. I think it comes down to trying to eat their tots, the scraps they leave and to me that translates into trying to act like them. Too often we are too ready to eat their scraps and not eat the feast God has for us.
Our voice may rise above theirs, it may not but authentic leadership is leading through who you are. So, it’s better leadership to be yourself than someone else.
Who’s tots have you been eating?