In the classic 80’s movie Top Gun, Maverick almost loses his career as a US fighter pilot because he operates on instinct rather than the rules. In one of the great scenes of the movie, Maverick is severely disciplined by his superiors because he made a great decision that just happened to go against protocol. Whether you think he made the wrong decision or his decision was the right one, depends on how you feel about risk and following the rules. Do you always need to do things by the book, or do you feel that trusting your gut can lead you in the right direction? History shows us that many of the best decisions were made when people trusted their gut instinct.
Here is a real life example of this valuable and important idea. Imagine your child is getting ready for a game of soccer. The temperature is soaring and all the children look tomato red and are sweating like pigs. Though each child is dying for a drink of water, rules dictate that children can’t drink out of the taps. Soon one of the children faints with heat stroke. The parents are furious and mayhem ensues. The right thing would have been for the coach to allow the children to drink water even though it was against the rules. It is just common sense.
Now take this concept to a business level. Senior management is recruited because they have experience, credibility and confidence that their decisions are right, even if they seem to go against the grain. They are acting in the best benefit of the company as a whole. Effective senior leaders look at the big picture and they don’t always follow the rules. This is how things get done.
No matter where you fall on the rungs of your company, from the purchasing department to the HR department, you can always use your instinct to make the right decision. Maybe your team members are going through a serious personal issue that affects them at work such as a death in the family. While the company rule book may dictate one thing, a good team leader will use their gut instinct to decide whether the rules are appropriate or not.
This isn’t to say that guidelines aren’t important. Guidelines, rules and policies are crucial, but they can always be flexible. Depending on the situation, the rules can be bent for the good of the company. The former CEO of Apple Steve Jobs said this “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. This is what has made Apple an innovative company and leader in the industry. Apple didn’t get to where it is now by hanging back and following the rules. Their rule breaking lead to enormous success.
While Maverick in Top Gun made a reckless decision that would make any rule follower cringe, his instinct and passion saved the day. It is important for any organization to know when empowered decision making is appropriate and when it is better to follow the rules.