Brave and Strong: Lessons on how to work together from Pixar’s latest movie

Pixar’s newest movie, Brave, is at the top of the box office at the time of writing. Brave represents a couple of firsts for Pixar. It’s their first fairytale and it’s their first movie with a female protagonist (something that is long overdue). I saw the movie and enjoyed it, and one of the things that struck me about it was the way that it showed its characters and how they work best. Brave’s characters, like us in the real world have particular strengths and weaknesses. Those characters work best when they can work in their strengths and collaborate with others who have complementary strengths.

I’ve been interested in helping others discover their strengths and to figure out how to work from them for a long time. In this post I’m going to talk about two of the major characters in the movie, how their strengths are displayed in the movie and how their strengths work together as a team. Now, fair warning, there will likely be mild spoilers. I don’t plan on discussing any major plot developments, but if you wish to remain as unspoiled as the driven snow, you may want to stop reading.

A team with complementary strengths

King Fergus and Queen Elinor make a great team on screen and a large part of that is in how we see that their strengths work together. The King’s strengths lie in making people happy and entertained. He’s at his best when he’s promoting harmony while keeping others entertained. In StrengthsFinder terms, he probably has the strengths of Harmony and W.O.O. (Winning others over) in his top 5 strengths. The Queen’s strengths lie in making order out of chaos, in stepping into an out of control situation and making it make sense. I suspect that if she were to take the StrengthsFinder assessment she would come out with Command and Arranger ans part of her top 5 strengths.

We see both their strengths at work about 1/3 of the way into the movie. In handling the fallout from the archery competition (an aside: can we talk about how amazing that trailer is). The King does what he does best, keeps the guests entertained, while the Queen does what she does best, comes up with a plan that will work.

It would be easy to simply see both characters as weak. It would be easy to see King Fergus as a bumbling, oaf and the Queen as an uptight control freak, but that would be missing the value in who they are. What’s more, we might try to force them to over come those perceived weaknesses and change what made them strong in the first place.

Similarly, as we work in our own teams. It’s often easy to see the characteristics of the people we work with as weaknesses, but often if we make the effort to reframe them, we can see how those weaknesses might be translatable into strengths, and we can find the context in which these strengths can shine.