Emotional Intelligence – Part 3

August 31, 2019

Tips for Managing Your LAFD Maverick

Adapted for the Grapevine by Alicia Iwakiri, from an LAFDLA presentation by Isaac Yang, Redondo Beach Division Chief

A leader with high emotional intelligence, or EQ, is loyal to the people that they lead and helps them get to where they want or need to be. Now that we have walked through all the components of EQ, let’s look at a case study on the popular film Top Gun where the leader displays high levels of EQ to rehabilitate his talented but deviant subordinate.

Hopefully you’ve seen the film, but if you haven’t Top Gun is about a hotshot fighter pilot, Maverick, who is sent to train at the Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School. Here his reckless attitude, arrogance, and deviance puts him at odds with other pilots as he competes to be the top fighter pilot. At Top Gun, Maverick meets Viper, his commander and instructor, who helps him become a fighter pilot despite his shortcomings.

Are you willing to take risks at your own expense to the benefit of your subordinates?

In the first ten minutes of the film, Maverick performs extraordinary feats like fighting off enemy MiG’s and leading a fellow fighter pilot to safety; however, he does these things while disobeying his commanding officer’s orders. Maverick, while extremely talented, is arrogant, deviant, and pompous, not someone you would not want to see in the workplace, in the Navy, or on the LAFD. If he was your supervisory responsibility, how would you guide this man to some degree of professional development?

Through the lens of EQ, Maverick’s personal competence displays the following:
• Self-awareness – He is too confident, verging dangerously close to arrogance. He is reactive to situations instead of responding to them.
• Self-regulation – He consistently fractures policies.
• Motivation – It is unclear what his drive is when he pushed the boundaries by performing amazing feats and consistently fracturing policies. It may be rooted in a deeper insecurity.

Are these attributes found in some members of the Department? Are these members simply dismissed because they appear too difficult to manage? Can they be guided to their true potential?

Not long into the film we meet Commander Viper. When Viper is introduced on the first day of flight school, it is clear that he is in charge. He didn’t feel the need to shout about his pedigree and accomplishments, he was the alpha and no one questioned it. Throughout the film, Viper is stern, stoic, and nonnegotiable. When Maverick deviates, Viper simply states the expectations, his actions, and dismisses him without making it personal.

When we make it personal it’s because we are reacting instead of responding. When we react we get a JADAS response from those we are trying to influence. JADAS stands for justify, attack, deny, apathy, and self-pity. They either justify their actions, attack you, deny what they have done, become apathetic to the situation, or display self-pity for their actions. When you talk to someone and they react with any one of these categories, then whatever you’re saying isn’t working. Leaders fail when they can’t make an adjustment when they hit JADAS. In the film, Maverick consistently gave smart JADAS responses to everyone . . . everyone except Viper.

Another character who exemplified EQ when it came to dealing with Maverick was his best friend and radar intercept officer Goose. His was peer to peer leadership. When Maverick went too far pushing the boundaries, he put himself at Maverick’s level, creating a safe place for Maverick to give a conscious response and an accountable apology. Goose was compelling and purposeful in his communication, and gave Maverick an awareness and understanding of the dangerous situation they were putting themselves into by constantly deviating. Unfortunately, Goose doesn’t survive to the end of the movie, but his death was a turning point for Maverick to either pull himself together or drop out of the program.

After Goose’s death, Viper was there for Maverick when he needed a guiding hand. When Maverick was in the midst of guilt for Goose’s death and debating on quitting Top Gun, Viper told him, “I’m not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your ass, Lieutenant. A good pilot is compelled to always evaluate what’s happened, so he can apply what is learned.” Maverick had profound highs and lows in his career, relationships, and life, and this is exactly what he needed to hear at the time. Also, this is exactly what Viper implemented in his own interactions with Maverick, using his experiences and understanding to shepherd him.

Through the lens of EQ, Viper’s social competence shows the following:
• Empathy – He understood the personal and professional turmoil Maverick was going through and was responsive to Maverick’s needs. He was invested in Maverick’s wellbeing.
• Social Skills – He was always clear in his communication to Maverick, and knew how to talk to him in a way that would get through to him. He was able to influence Maverick to better himself. Viper not only consistently expected great things out of Maverick, but would remind him of the parameters.

Viper never gave up, never lost his temper, and took the time to guide Maverick. He was loyal to Maverick by taking the risk of investing time and energy in him, and taking responsibility for him when he deviated. Are you willing to take risks at your own expense to make someone else whole? As a leader, how are you empathetic and committed to those who need you most?

If you haven’t seen the movie, I hope this article inclines you to watch it despite the minor spoilers. You can see for yourself a compelling and entertaining illustration of leading with EQ.


• WHERE: The Frank Hotchkin Memorial Training Center
• COST: At the present time there is no cost to attend the LAFD Leadership Academy
• QUESTIONS: Jason Powell, Captain I, In-Service Training Section at (213) 893-9838 or lafdla@lacity.org

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