Leading beyond pink

Beatriz Manrique

Hello everyone! Today I want to talk to you about the Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig, and the leadership lessons we can draw from it.

Imagine opening a box of your favorite childhood toy. The emotions that arise are not only about the anxiety of discovering what’s inside, but also about the fantasy of these toys coming to life. They don’t walk or go down stairs; they fly from one place to another, carried by our hands. This is exactly what Gerwig expressed in an interview and what she has recreated in her film: a plastic world full of colors and fashions from the 50s and 60s that comes back to life on the big screen.

In the process of making this film, every detail was meticulously discussed and analyzed, from the precise shades of pink to the styles of the open houses. This effort required a balance between different professionals. There were many hours of discussions and reflections that teach us a great lesson about leadership: the importance of collaboration, patience, listening and teamwork.

This film also teaches us about the importance of connecting with our emotions and those of others. Remembering how we played as children, how those emotions still impact our lives today, and how we can relive those feelings, is essential to connect with the audience and capture their interest in Barbie’s life. Leading from emotions is an art we need to develop, because in real life, we must always make connections to guide people toward the goals we seek to achieve.

Even in seemingly simple decisions, such as choosing pink tones for a movie, lies the essence of leadership: we had to resist simplification and encourage diversity of ideas. In the midst of long discussions, it is easy to fall into “pink is pink,” but the value lies in perceiving and appreciating every nuance. This, which is often not taught in school nor sufficiently practiced in corporate life, demands true tolerance, active listening and the inclusion of diverse experiences and cultures.

Barbie faces the reality of her own mortality and searches for purpose. This leads her to realize that her mission is to help others. As Carl Jung rightly said, “Loneliness comes not from not having people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” Toys may be surrounded by children, but if we had no one to play with, or we took refuge in play whether it was dolls, trucks or video games because of sadness, we realize the importance of genuine connection and communication. Leading reminds us of the need to be truly connected and, for that, we must learn to communicate in a socially alive world.

If we do not think beyond our surface, if we do not question ourselves, we remain like Barbie and Ken, stuck in the box, in the unopened  box,  plasticized and submissive, without taking a step further, without reflecting and unleashing the potential we bring.

Even though Mattel, the company that produces Barbie, was able to increase its sales and break it with the marketing strategy after the movie, we are the ones who decide whether or not to buy into their world and their ideas. We cannot allow ourselves to get caught up in the world of consumerism that makes us believe that we need to have everything to be happy. Instead, we should seek moments of reflection, get out of autopilot and ask ourselves:

  • How can I resist the pressure of consumerism and algorithms that seek to influence my decisions, and stay true to my own values and choices?
  • What is that weakness that I struggle to acknowledge but know that, if I improve, will help me gain greater control over my life?
  • What things am I putting off that could have a significant impact on my life if I address them today?
  • How can I cultivate patience and the ability to listen more to others on my leadership journey?

And now, for those of you who have made it to the end of this article, a little surprise: I actually wrote this article for the 15-22 year olds in my leadership club.

It is essential to free ourselves from the shells that confine us, restrict our potential and stifle our critical thinking. Nurture your analytical skills and foster authentic human connections. We are not just plastic dolls, we are human beings capable of leading ourselves, innovating and transforming the world. And it all starts with the decision to step outside the box.

Not even a blockbuster movie decides your ideas; it is we who, with our critical thinking, can extract the reflections from it. This kind of focus on controversial topics can open up an interesting conversation, not only about leadership, but also about how to analyze with our children when exposed to a variety of viewpoints and experiences. This is an opportunity to delve into relevant and challenging issues that many parents face in today’s world.

For me the goal is not to reverse the power pyramid. It’s not about reversing the submissive roles of women over men, it’s about fostering a world where everyone complements each other. Maybe that’s what Barbie discovers by staying in the real world in the next installment, or maybe not. But your reality is the one that really matters, and that’s the one you can control. You are the protagonist of your life; you run your future today. Thanks for reading and see you next time!