Legally Blonde recently celebrated a milestone on July 13. The twenty-year-old movie franchise revolves around Elle Woods who wanted nothing more than to be married to Warner Huntington III, but the rejection she faced from him spurred her to reinvent and for us to fall in love with the buoyant blonde.
In many ways, each supporting character showcases reinvention traits in a peculiar way. Loose leadership lessons from reinventing can be found throughout this movie if you know where to find them.
1. Break Up With Negative Labels
Elle took charge of things after she was rejected by Warner whom she was so sure would propose to her. However, due to his political ambitions, Warner was looking to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn. Hence her determination to disprove the negative label and that she could be a Jackie, triggered her desire to want to get into law school. Her aspirations spurred by a plan to get Warner back proved that if you set your mind on a goal or an activity, you can push past difficulties and accomplish it.
Elle took charge of things and in retrospect had the full potential for what it would take on the inside of her to get into law school but this would have all been lost had she not gone through her breakup. The popular saying, adversity is the mother of reinvention, plays throughout the movie and the steps she took to transform and shed the dumb blonde persona embodies that.
It’s important leaders get rid of any preconceived notions they have about themselves or those they lead as it prevents them from going to the next level opening the door to prejudice and self-sabotage.
2. Don’t Quit
In her pursuit of gaining admission to Harvard law school, Elle went through a transformation going from self-doubt to self-confidence. Her confidence only came after going through this journey and gaining clarity on what she really wanted out of life, from others and herself. She discovers that there is more to life than just being pretty possibly a higher purpose. Her encounters with Paulette; fellow sorority sister Brooke Taylor Windham and Professor Stromwell further assured her of the need to carry on and the importance of vindicating herself when Professor Callahan propositions her.
The confidence shift Elle went through meant she had to face her fears and have candid conversations with herself to keep her going even when it seemed tough and not worth it when quitting would have been the easier option. After all law school wasn’t a career path that she chose. She could have easily fallen back on her rich dad if all else failed. She persevered and taught us to never let anyone tell us, we’re not good enough or stand in our way as Warner tried so many times to tell her.
Quitting in the midst of adversity as a leader is not an option. You are responsible for carrying the team through to the other side in the good and bad times.
“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” – Vince Lombardi
3. Friendships Matter
Elle’s inner circle made up of Margot, Serena, and Paulette was key to her success. Everyone needs a hype team. A team of people that will bring out the best in you by fueling your confidence especially when you’re at the brink of throwing in the towel. From her prep for the L.S.A.T. to the overwhelming support she got from her sorority sisters and subsequent times when she felt out of place, Elle found support from her inner circle and they made sure she didn’t give up supporting her through her highs and lows.
Leaders need to have that inner circle that they can trust and who feel empowered to speak up when the leader is going astray. In addition, you need that confidante, that one person you can confide in. Elle ultimately had that in Emmett, she could trust him and he got her attention and further empowered her with his words of encouragement and affirmation.
4. Think Outside the Box
Elle Woods’ newfound confidence gave her the extra boost she needed to submit her law school application and thinking she didn’t have much going for her, knew she had to stand out. Her admissions video essay was a brilliant strategy that worked to her advantage as it made her stand out for the heavily coveted spot of admission to the prestigious Harvard law school.
She highlighted and gave compelling reasons why she should be considered and it’s the same strategy leaders should follow when leading a team. You don’t always have to lead the same way it’s been done before, sometimes leadership decisions require taking an action that’s unconventional and you have to be comfortable with that and its outcome.
Elle Woods says it best at her law school graduation when she states “…it is with passion, the courage of conviction and a strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world remembering those first impressions are not always correct, you must always have faith in people and most importantly you must always have faith in yourself.”
It takes courage to go through a process of reinvention as Elle did, and life as we know it is about learning and adapting to new situations in both our personal and professional lives and the ability to evolve is a key leadership trait for success.