May 22, 2016 15 Comments
Funny what gets out attention going on subjects sometimes. I fell in love with the American Civil War in elementary school, during the centennial celebration, especially the books by Bruce Catton. As someone said, you could feel the heat, the dust, the boredom, and the horrors of battle in his words. Those legendary armies still, all these years, later, march in my mind. That became an obsession with first military history and later history in general. If I’m troubled about most anything, you’re likely to find me with my nose in a book, and invariably it will be either history, or a historical novel, and some of them are very good.
Seems like I’m not the only one, either. My friend Dale, over at Command Performance Leadership, tells a similar tale about the opening of Top Gun a few days over thirty years ago. Well, OK, I admit it, I loved it then, and I still do today, as well. But like good history, Top Gun has some lessons to teach, and that’s Dale’s business, so listen up, we’re gonna sortie right into The Danger Zone.
One month before I left for boot camp, on May 16, 1986, the iconic movie, Top Gun, opened in theaters. Starring Tom Cruise, playing the role of Lieutenant Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, Top Gun would become one of the most endearing military movies of all time. From its opening scene (may I opine: The best opening scene to a movie ever!), to it victorious ending, this movie is jam-packed with great action and music.
If you don’t believe us, hook that video up to a good stereo, and crank it. This was the first movie I bought on videotape (Betamax stereo, in fact), and it’s hard to describe (in polite company) what my reaction was when I played it through my fairly adequate stereo.
In addition to its excellent music and its action-packed scenes, the movie’s dialogue is immortal. Comical, hard-hitting and full of power and meaning, Top Gun is full of unforgettable lines, like these:
“Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash.” ~ Captain Tom “Stinger” Jordan
“Top Gun rules of engagement are written for your safety and for that of your team. They are not flexible, nor am I” ~ CDR Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Commander, U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School – Top Gun)
“A good pilot is compelled to evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what he’s learned” ~ Viper
These, and many other lines, certainly capture the strict discipline and protocol that you would expect from the military. And, then there arelines that you might use at work just to annoy your co-workers, such as the infamous, “I feel the need … the need for speed.” Or, there are lines like the ones listed below that are suited for everyday use and have particular meaning (click on image to be taken to larger image via its web link ): [It won’t work here, but it will from CPL. Neo]
Out of the movie also comes leadership wisdom. Top Gun is referenced often when discussing leadership and team dynamics; a sort of leadership ethos. This was extensively explored by Bob Jennings andJ. Israel Thompson in a series of posts that were written as fictional “interviews” with key characters from the movie. Links to each of those posts are listed below:
Often in the movie, however, there are those times when a butt-chewingwas necessary. The fine art of delivering corrective action is sometimes garnished with some colorful language. As the movie evolves, you notice Viper’s style becomes the textbook example of how to deliver negative feedback. There is, obviously, a right way and a wrong way.
Like Dale, I too learned a lot about leadership from, “Those Magnificient Men in their Flying Machines”, but I’m nearly a generation older, I learned from Gregory Peck, General Savage in 12 O’Clock High. But you know we learned the same lessons, B-17s going to Germany, or F-14s in the Indian Ocean, the lessons are essential and timeless. And just as true in the civilian world, as in the Navy, or the Air Force.
But Dale also brought some fun.
Which ‘Top Gun’ Character Are You?
Which character am I? well, if you must know, Maverick twice, Jester, and Iceman, once each. I think that’ll do.
And remember: “The plaque for alternates is down in the ladies room“!