The movie Devotion is about the first African-American aviator in U.S. Navy history. Jesse LeRoy Brown (Jonathan Majors, who will play Kang The Conquerer in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) fought discrimination, trials, and struggles to become something very few thought he could be.
Devotion is a truly inspirational movie. It’s one of the most moving films I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also sad that Devotion won’t get the recognition it deserves.
Devotion isn’t as visually appealing as Top Gun: Maverick. Yet, the story is more powerful.
This is a movie that needs to be seen. It’s a story that needs to be told (and it was in this movie and a book).
We need to remember Jesse Brown.
In doing so, we can also learn from our past. Devotion takes place in 1950, a little over 70 years ago as of this writing. The lessons are plenty. Plus, there are leadership lessons to learn.
Take a dive into Devotion with me. Let’s discover the leadership lessons in the movie together.
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Devotion
1. Your leadership will be forgotten:
Devotion takes place in 1950. The film opens by stating that this film will delve into America’s forgotten war.
Do you know which war this was?
America’s forgotten war was the Korean War. The Korean War occurred from June 25th, 1950 until July 27th, 1953.
This war isn’t discussed nearly as much as World War I or II, Vietnam, or others. The Korean War has been forgotten.
There will be many great leaders who are remembered for a long time. Their legacy will outlive them.
However, at some point, every leader will be forgotten. Their stories lost to history. The people who experienced their personalities and ideas in person, gone.
It’s okay to be forgotten by the general population. The difference you make will be in the lives you impact today.
2. Jesse Brown:
It helps to know the plane.
Brown and Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) were partners. Hudner was Brown’s wingman.
Before they knew each other well, they were paired together. They were on a training flight when Brown decided to give the pair a detour.
The flight path brought the duo over Brown’s home. The flight was also dangerous.
Brown performed aerial maneuvers that were fast, low, and could be deadly. Thankfully, both of them survived.
In doing so, Brown stated how and why he flew like this. He knew the plane. In understanding the plane, he knew the limits the plane could take.
Do you know your people? Do you know your organization?
The better you know these two things, the better you can lead. You will know what the organization and people can take. You will also know what they can do.
Learn the people. Learn the organization.
3. Tom Hudner:
But I was called to adventure.
Hudner was supposed to take over the family business. He chose not to.
Instead, Hudner chose to go into the United States Navy. He decided to fly jets.
There was something about the allure of the Navy. There was adventure calling.
Leaders don’t haphazardly step into a leadership position. No, there’s a calling.
Much like Hudner felt in Devotion, leaders have a calling. They are called to produce the next generation of leaders.
Do you have the calling?
4. Knowing doesn’t make things easier:
Brown was married with a child. His wife, Daisy (Christina Jackson), and his child knew Jesse could go to war. This didn’t make it any easier when Jesse broke the news to them.
Jesse told his wife that he had been called to go to Korea. Daisy admitted she wasn’t thrilled. The news wasn’t easy to hear.
There will be plenty of times you will know things that won’t be easy to deal with. You will know when layoffs are coming. You will know when you have to let someone go for poor performance. You will know before others if the organization will be shuttered.
Knowing is good. Knowing doesn’t make things easier.
5. Negative words can be inspiration:
Brown had heard some hurtful words over the years. Every time someone said something negative toward him, he would write those words down.
Before going into a heated situation, Brown would repeat those words repeatedly in the mirror. These words were his fuel.
The negative words were no longer meant to taunt him. Brown used the negative words others had said to help him become the man he was meant to be.
We’ve all heard the power of the positive word. What if I told you there was power in the negative word?
There can be. All you have to do is be willing to twist those words into a motivational message for yourself.
Don’t disregard all of the negative thoughts or words you hear. They can be used for positive motivation.
6. You are an inspiration to someone:
Brown had to land his F4U-4 Corsair fighter plane on the USS Wright, later to transfer to the USS Leyte. This was different from the aircraft he had flown for many years, as the Navy had recently upgraded the planes.
On his attempt to land on the USS Wright, the African-American crew stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier. They watched as Brown made his first attempt. The first attempt was a failure. He made his second attempt and landed successfully.
The crew was ecstatic. Someone like them had made Naval history.
You are an inspiration to someone. That person may be your spouse, your children, or someone in the workplace.
Know that the work you’re doing is helping someone. They see the work you’re doing. They appreciate it.
You’re an inspiration.
7. Your choices can have dire consequences:
One of Brown’s crewmates in the fighter squadron VF-32 was Carol Mohring (Nick Hargrove). Mohring was given the task of testing a repaired airplane.
Mohring was excited about the task. He would get to fly that day while the other pilots had menial tasks.
During the test flight, Mohring came in too low. He pushed the power to correct. The power push overcorrected, and Mohring crashed the plane.
This resulted in Mohring’s death. Mohring’s choices in the test flight had dire, no fatal, consequences.
Your choices have consequences. Each choice you make impacts yourself, those you lead, those in your family, and those you do business with.
Make sure the choices you’re making are positive. Do your best to make sure the choices won’t have dire consequences.
8. Lieutenant Command Richard Cevoli (Thomas Sadoski):
The real battle in all of life is being someone people can count on, the most important thing is this: We bring everyone home.
Cevoli was talking to Hudner during this quote. He wanted Hudner to know what the most important things are in life.
The first was that you live up to the expectation that people can count on you. The other is that you bring people home.
In leadership, leaders are people others can count on, first and foremost. That’s a critical aspect of leadership.
You have to work toward being someone people can count on. You’re there not only to lead but to serve them in what they need.
Think about it… Are you someone people can count on? If not, what can you do to become more reliable?
9. People are watching you:
Archie Fambrough (V. Akil Jackson) approached Jesse after Jesse blew up a bridge. Jesse had disobeyed orders but got the job done.
Why did Archie approach Jesse? Because the brothers on the ship had seen Jesse’s shooting. The men were proud of Jesse. They even pooled their money together to give him a Rolex watch.
People are watching what you do. They’re looking to see if you’re someone worth following.
Be a person of integrity. Be a person who gets things done the right way.
People are watching. You’re the example.
10. Not all stories have a happy ending:
If you know Brown’s story, you know his story doesn’t have a happy ending. Brown’s plane was hit by ground fire. His plane lost oil and stalled. Brown had to land the plane in an emergency landing.
He did all of this. Yet, he perished. He became trapped in the plane and couldn’t get out, even with the help of Hudner, who crash-landed his plane to assist his partner.
To this day, Brown’s body has not been recovered. The first African-American Navy pilot’s body is behind enemy lines.
Not all leadership stories will have a happy ending. You may crash and burn your legacy. Your organization may make decisions that result in the organization shuttering its doors.
Do your best to end on a high note but know that things may not end well despite your best efforts.