the leadership of top gun: maverick

Leadership Lessons from Top Gun: Maverick

March 2, 2023

The best leaders aren't focused only on goals, to-do lists or profits. Great leaders are focused on bringing joy to their team and building strong relationship.

Leadership Lessons from Top Gun: Maverick

In the movie Top Gun: Maverick, the lead character Maverick (played by Tom Cruise) is training a team of skilled pilots for an incredibly important mission that could save the lives of millions of people. Unfortunately, he has very limited time to teach the pilots what they need to know. Strangely, with only a week until the mission, he stops the training and lets his team unwind with a lively game of football on the beach. 

As the game proceeds, Maverick’s superior officer approaches and asks why he's wasting time when there's such an important deadline just days away. 

"You said to create a team, sir,” replies Maverick. “Here’s your team."

top gun football scene leadership
You can't have a truly successful team without strong relationships. You can't have strong relationships without bonding. And one of the best ways to bond is to have fun together.  

Maverick knew that playing together would cause his team to bond. He knew that taking their minds off work for a while would cause them to feel rejuvenated. Sometimes not working is the most productive thing your team can do together. 

Great Leaders Create Joy in the Workplace

“Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but not themselves, those who work hard and play hard,” Colin Powell once said. 

How healthy is your office culture? It’s hard to judge, but here’s a tip: listen. Hear any laughter? Laughter is one of the most telling metrics of a healthy office. 

It’s been estimated that you will spend roughly one-third of your life at work. Life is too short not to enjoy the workplace. It’s paramount for employers not only to accept a fun work environment but to create a fun work environment. Choose to be purposeful about adding joy to your organization. 

True Leaders Don't Sit on the Sidelines, They Lead the Team into Battle

Another great lesson from Top Gun: Maverick is when Maverick flies the incredibly dangerous training route that the rest of his pilots haven't been able to accomplish. He demonstrates that it is possible to complete. Great leaders don't simply demand a job gets completed; they ensure it can be accomplish and give their team the encouragement to do so. 

In the final mission mission of the movie, Maverick actually goes into battle with his team. He doesn't sit on the sidelines and just tell his team what to do, he's active along with his team. Indeed, true leaders sit with their team, not ahead of their team.