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Guest Post - Brian Dodd

11 Leadership Quotes and Lessons from Top Gun Maverick


I don’t want to be a prisoner of the moment or hyperbolic, but Top Gun Maverick may be THE BEST MOVIE I I’VE EVER SEEN!!! I will explain the reasons why below but first synopsis of the film:

Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is now in his fifties and after once again demonstrating his rule-breaking ways, is tasked with one final mission. Maverick has been ordered to train a new group of pilots for what amounts to a suicide mission. This movie has likable characters, incredible action, pure adrenalin, and the cinematography should win an Academy Award.

There is no nudity, one f-bomb, and one needless GD.

Interesting side note, the movie I attended tonight was sold out. The make-up of the audience was entirely middle-aged or older individuals. There was a strong sense of nostalgia in the building! This is a must-see movie for everyone. Simply spectacular!!!

The following are 11 Leadership Quotes and Lessons from Top Gun Maverick:

Pre-Service/Pre-Movie Hosting

Churches could learn something from Top Gun Maverick. Many churches have a pre-service hosting moment featuring usually an attractive younger person. Tom Cruise actually had a pre-movie hosting moment thanking us for coming. What an incredibly nice touch! Most importantly, Cruise is 59 years old!!! To all my friends at Piedmont Church, I’m 56 years old but if you need an attractive older man to do the pre-service hosting this Sunday, I’m available!!!

Leadership Development Is A Process

What I loved most about this movie is the maturation process of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. In 1986, Maverick was a young hotshot pilot. In 2022, he is a seasoned individual with regrets and a level of humility. Life has hit him with some body blows. At 56 years old, I know I’m a much different person than I was 30 years ago. We all go through a maturation process.

Great Leaders Put Their Teams First At Their Own Expense

In the film’s opening scene, the Navy was looking to shut down a project unless Maverick could fly a Stealth at 10 Gs. Mav’s friend, “Hondo,” Coleman said to him, “You know what happens if you go through with this.” Risking his safety and career, Maverick responded, “I know what happens to everyone if I don’t.”

All Leadership Is Temporary. Therefore, You Must Continually Reinvent Yourself.

Rear Admiral, played by Ed Harris, said, “Thirty-plus years of service. Combat medals. Citations. The only man to shoot down three enemy planes in the last 40 years. Yet you can’t get a promotion, you won’t retire, and despite your best efforts, you refuse to die. You should be at least a two-star Admiral by now, yet here you are. Captain. Why is that?… The future is coming and you’re not in it. Your kind is headed for extinction.” Maverick responded, “Maybe so, sir. But not today.”

All leaders are also headed for extinction. Our job is to put that day off as far as possible.

Everyone Needs A Sponsor

Despite all of Pete Mitchell’s indiscretions, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky always looked out for him and gave him opportunities. All leaders need someone looking out for them as well, I know I do.

Leaders also need someone who believes in them. Once again, I know I do. Prior to his death, Iceman told Maverick, “The Navy needs Maverick. The kids need Maverick.”

Everyone Gets Better With A Coach

The pilots Maverick was training all graduated at the top of their class. They outwardly wondered who could possibly be their instructor. They soon found out what all experience leaders know, everyone gets better with a coach. The following are some of the lessons Maverick taught his uber-talented students:

  • “The enemy doesn’t know your limits.”

  • “As good as they are, they still have things to learn.”

  • “Time is your greatest enemy.”

  • “You think up there, you’re dead.”

  • “Don’t think. Just do it.”

Great Leaders Have Great Self-Awareness

Successful leaders know who they aren’t as much as they know who they are. They know what their strengths are and play to those strengths. Maverick realized teaching was not his best and highest use. He said, “I’m a fighter pilot. I’m an aviator. It’s who I am.” Maverick also added later in the movie, “This is who I am. How do I teach it?”

Your Organization’s Only Appreciable Asset Is People

The answer to every problem is the right person. One of the film’s central themes is, “It’s not the plane, it’s the pilot.” Maverick added, “What is achievable comes down to the pilot in the box.” The lesson we learn from this is what is achievable in your organization comes down to who is in leadership and the team they have built. If you have the right leader, anything is possible.

Successful Leaders Lead By Example

After multiple unsuccessful training exercises, Maverick personally demonstrated how the mission could actually be accomplished. When leaders lead by example, it gives their teams hope and inspires them to do likewise. This leads to the next point…

Great Leaders Instill Hope In Others

Never tell someone what not to do. For instance, never say, “Don’t hit the ball in the water.” This is a sure-fire way to ensure failure. Prior to going out on their mission, Maverick said to “Rooster” Bradshaw (Goose’s son), “We’ll talk when you get back. You got this.”

You Get Respect By Producing Results ***Spoiler Alert***

The best thing leaders can do to earn respect is to do their job. Maverick never got respect from his direct superior Admiral “Cyclone” Simpson, played by Jon Hamm. However, once Maverick successfully completed the mission, he earned Simpson’s respect. You’ll earn everyone else’s respect as well if you produce superior results.

In conclusion, Top Gun Maverick is an absolute classic! Trust me, you will see it multiple times!!!

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