Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Flight Of The Navigator

A Reel Leadership Article

I recently posited a question on Facebook. I wanted to see what everyone’s top ten 1980’s movies were. The list was long, clocking in at over 75 movies and counting.

One movie mentioned a couple of times was Disney’s Flight Of The Navigator (you can buy it on Amazon).

Joey Cramer in Flight Of The Navigator

It has everything that a classic ’80s movie needs. It had

  • A young protagonist
  • Aliens
  • A quick story
  • Crazy scientists
  • A naive girl who works for the scientists at NASA

I really enjoyed spending the hour and a half watching Flight Of The Navigator again. It had been way too long since I viewed this classic movie.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the leadership lessons in Flight Of The Navigator. I hope you’re ready to enjoy what we can take from this aging movie.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Flight Of The Navigator

1. Don’t jump to conclusions:

As Flight Of The Navigator opens, we see a silver disc flying across the screen. You’re led to believe this will be a flying saucer. If you thought so, you’d be wrong… Sort of.

The silver disc isn’t what you think it is. It is a silver frisbee that a dog is trying to catch. The scene takes place at the 1986 South Florida Frisee Dog Championship.

There’s so much happening around a leader, you can easily jump to conclusions. You may hear whispers of what Bill is doing. The next time you see him, it appears he’s doing what was being whispered.

You jump on him. You give him the what-for. Then you realize you made a mistake. You jumped to a conclusion.

Bill wasn’t doing what the whispers had said. He was doing what you asked.

Be cautious in jumping to conclusions. You may find yourself upset for the wrong reason or chewing out an employee without just cause.

2. Great leaders believe:

David Freeman (Joey Cramer) had a dog named Bruiser. David’s family was at the frisbee dog championships and David believed his dog could be trained to catch a frisbee.

He began to practice with Brutis at the dog show. He was tossing the frisbee and failing to teach Bruiser. Yet, he still believed.

Great leaders are like David. They believe in the possibility of what their team members can do. They believe their team has more in them than they currently know.

Don’t give up hope for your team. They have the potential. You can pull it out of them.

3. Doctor Louis Faraday (Howard Hesseman):

Any idea on how we’re going to move this?

The scientists at NASA had been alerted to an alien spaceship crash. They arrive at the site and see the spaceship hovering in the air. It looked big and immovable.

Dr. Faraday asks those around him how they can move the ship. The watchman on duty at the time of the crash knew how to move the spaceship. He approaches it, touches it with his finger, and gives a slight push.

The shipped moved!

How many of us leaders look at a situation, see a big object, think it is immovable, and try to figure out a crafty way to solve the problem? More times than not, we can operate in this mindset. We try to solve a problem with complexity.

Too often, the solution isn’t complex. We don’t have to come up with a new way to solve the problem. We have to look at old ways of solving the issue and trying them. Or, maybe, you ask someone who deals with situations on the ground. The people you lead hold answers you may not see because you’re not in the day-to-day workings.

Look for simple solutions.

4. Explain acronyms and business jargon:

Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker) was working in the NASA facility David was being held in. She helped deliver the mail and food via the RALF system. RALF was an acronym for the robot.

David saw RALF on the robot and wondered what it stood for. Carolyn took the time to explain what RALF meant.

If you’re wondering, RALF stands for

  • Robotic
  • Assitance
  • Labor
  • Facilitator

In business, there are so many acronyms to remember and understand. This can be jarring for a new leader. Especially when they are thrust into a meeting and the jargon is thrown about.

I remember this happening in one of the meetings I attended. The other company leaders were sharing about the organization and began to use business jargon I didn’t understand. They kept going… Then I spoke up.

I had to ask what they had meant. They took the time to explain it to me but wouldn’t have if I didn’t stop the meeting and ask.

You have to be aware not everyone knows what you’re talking about. You may be knowledgeable of the words you’re speaking. Those in the room may not. Take the time to help people understand.

5. Be aware of what is happening:

David had been locked inside a NASA compound as the teams of scientists tried to figure out how he had gone missing, returned 8 years later, and never aged. This was a conundrum for the ages.

David didn’t like where this was going. He was scared and wanted to be with his family. So, he escaped.

There were guards on duty when David escaped. However, they were distracted. They were playing cards with each other. They were not aware of what was happening.

Have you ever been like those guards? You have a responsibility to know what is going on but then you got distracted? It’s okay, it’s happened to the best of us.

Through this experience, you have to learn to be aware of what is happening around you. You have to be aware of the space you’re in.

Make sure you’re not caught unaware because you’re distracted by the next fancy object or someone in your organization.

6. Be present and opportunities will open to you:

After David escaped from his cell using the RALF robot, he found his way to the hangar where the spaceship was being stored. He walked up to the spaceship and the door opened. This shocked him. It also shocked the scientists when they discovered what happened.

The spaceship had been sealed tighter than tight. There were no seams and noticeable points of entry. Yet the ship opened for David.

He was the key. He was the one the ship waited for.

We’ve all been in situations that looked hopeless. We saw no possible way to get through it and then a door opened. Something happened and you were able to get through the challenging situation.

This is the power of being present. When you’re present, opportunities will present themselves. You only have to be there.

7. You’re more than just a man:

There was an AI robot on the ship. The robot had a challenging name. David decided he would call the robot Max (Paul Reuben of Pee-Wee Herman fame).

During their conversation, Max told David he wasn’t just a kid. David was the navigator of the ship.

Imagine what it must have felt like to be 8-year old David. He thinks he’s nothing special. Just a little kid. Then a spaceship tells him he is more than that. He is the navigator.

I want to be your Max. I want to be the one to tell you that you’re not just Bob or Suzie or Tom or Sheri.

Stop thinking so small. You’re so much more. You’re a leader, spouse, parent, Bible study teacher, etc…

You are more than you think you are.

8. David Freeman:

Why me?


Why not you?

The ship had chosen David to be its navigator. David couldn’t wrap his head around this. He was just a kid and didn’t know anything.

Max and the ship saw something different. They saw DAVID THE NAVIGATOR. They saw a young man with extreme potential.

I loved Max’s response to David. Max wondered why it shouldn’t be David. He had a good point.

You may be wondering why you were chosen to be a leader in your organization. It seems strange they picked little old you. You’re no one special.

Your organization sees something different. When you say “Why me?” they say “Why not?”

9. You have to push those you lead:

Max needed to remind David of how to fly the ship. David didn’t remember and thought he couldn’t. He could.

Max saw an opportunity. As the ship was moving, Max killed the engines and told David to fly.

Whoa nelly! That’s insane. Right?

The ship begins to drop. The tension in the ship begins to rise. David is challenged. He rises to the occasion and accepts the push from Max.

David remembers how to fly the ship. He turns on the engines and begins to fly the spaceship.

This scene reminded me of baby birds in spring. They’ve outgrown the nest but haven’t flown yet. The mother bird then pushes the birds out of the nest.

They don’t crash to the ground. Rather, they begin to take flight from the push.

We have to be willing to push our team members outside of their comfort zones. Only then will they fly on their own.

10. Leaders do dangerous:

Max explained why David had been brought 8 years into the future. He had chosen this point in time because bringing David back to the time when he was taken would be dangerous. David could be vaporized.

David told Max he wanted to go back to his time. He wanted to go to the home he knew. Max explained this was a dangerous move to make. David told Max it was a risk he was willing to take.

Great leaders aren’t unwilling to take risks. They know they have to take risks because risks pay off.

I call this “Leaders doing dangerous.”

Are you doing dangerous? Do you take the time to see what the possibilities are? Will you take the risk when you believe it is a risk worth taking?

That’s what great leaders do. They take risks that are calculated.

Be a risk-taking leader.

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