Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Gran Turismo

A Reel Leadership Article

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I remember growing up and being told video games would rot your brains (much like people say about movies and you know how I feel about that). People would tell you you’re wasting your life away as you played Legend Of Zelda, Street Fighter 2, or other video games.

The movie Gran Turismo tells the story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), a young man fascinated by the racing simulator Gran Turismo on the Sony Playstation 2. He would spend hours racing in the virtual game world. His father, Steve Mardenborough (Djimon Hounsou), thought Jann was wasting his time playing the game. He’d never really race, after all it’s just a game.

But all that changes when Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom) devises a crazy marketing scheme. Nissan would sponsor a video game player who competed in a virtual tournament. This player would go on to actually race in real races, including Le Mans. 

David Harbour and Archie Madekwe in the video game movie Gran Turismo. Wearing Nissan Nismo gear

As Gran Turismo progresses, we see Jann go from a video game player to a racer who competes in some of the most elite races in the world.

Gran Turismo inspires video game players and more to chase their dreams. I believe Gran Turismo also contains hidden leadership nuggets we can take away to apply to our lives and careers.

Let’s dive into the leadership lessons in Gran Turismo.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Gran Turismo

1. Great leaders have a clear vision:

The creator of the video game simulator Gran Turismo is Kazunori Yamauchi (Takehiro Hira). He had a vision for the video game. 

Kazunori wanted to make racing available to everyone. He desired to create the most realistic racing simulator ever.

Thus, Gran Turismo was born.

Little did he know how realistic Gran Turismo would be until the GT Academy was created. Players worldwide competed for a place on a real racing team. Many have made the cut thanks to the realistic nature of the game.

What’s your vision? Are you casting it to those you lead?

You have to have a clear vision as you lead. You must be able to tell those you’re leading the why behind what you do. They have to be able to see where you want them to go.

Work on creating your vision.

2. Steve Mardenborough:

Some day you’re going to have to leave this room.

Jann’s dad was concerned for his son. He saw him wasting away his days playing a “game.” 

Little did Steve know Jann would leave his gaming room one day. Jann would go on to race for Nissan in the real world. 

While Steve wanted Jann to get out into the world, his advice still applies. You can’t test leadership theories all day. You have to get out into the world to try them.

Stop being scared to stretch yourself. Find a challenge, go tackle it. Get out into the world.

3. See the future:

Danny was a Nissan employee who was unhappy with his position. His job had been to repossess vehicles from their owners, basically taking away their passion.

Nissan had been faltering to keep interest in their vehicles. Danny saw the future. He saw Gran Turismo players as fans of the cars but, more importantly, these players were obsessed with the vehicles. They would customize everything in the video game. They knew specific details about the cars.

What if they could put players behind the wheels of their cars? This could change the vehicle and racing industry forever.

Leaders are future seers. They peer into the near and far future to see what is possible. Then, they cast that vision to others.

Look into the future of your organization. Where do you see it headed? Who are your target customers?

Be like Wayne Gretzky and Danny Moore. See the future. Move toward it.

4. Danny Moore:

Don’t you want to take racing back from these pricks?

Danny didn’t have a high view of the current breed of racers. They were high-class, difficult to deal with pricks. In trying to obtain a racing coach for the sim-racers (this is what “real” drivers called those who began their racing careers behind a video game), he went to a former racer, Jack Salter (David Harbour). 

Jack had once been a great racer. Until something tragic happened. Now, Jack was a car mechanic. Danny saw an opportunity to speak to Jack’s heart. To see him doing what he loved.

But he also saw the opportunity to take back racing from those who had made it an elite event.

Leadership isn’t an elite career or status symbol. There are great leaders out there who aren’t getting the attention they deserve because of their race, gender, or other social status.

Don’t keep potential leaders from rising the ranks of your organization because of how they look, what they do, etc… 

Bring leadership back to the people.

5. Persol (Nikhil Parmar):

You need to practice now.

Persol was at the video game arcade Jann would race at. One day, Persol saw a message on the Gran Turismo 7 racing simulator geared toward Jann. The message was that there would be a racing competition to become a real-life racer.

This piqued Jann’s interest, but he wasn’t sure. Persol came back and said that Jann needed to practice. He had a big opportunity ahead.

We all need Persols in our lives. These are the people who see the opportunity in front of us, know our skill level, and understand what we need to do next.

They won’t hold back in telling us that we must train, take time off, or find a mentor. When they speak, you need to listen.

Find your Persol. Begin practicing and putting your knowledge into action.

6. Find your flow state:

At a party, Jann talked with Audrey (Maeve Courtier-Lilley). They discussed their futures and where they wanted to travel. Jann said he wanted to go to Tokyo to visit Gran Turismo’s home. 

Audrey asked why Jann found the game so intriguing. Jann’s answer was significant. He found a flow state when behind the simulated wheel.

Jann said that playing Gran Turismo allowed him to go fast while everything else slowed down around him.

This sounds a lot like flow state, as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csikszentmihalyi describes flow state as the state in which a person is completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this “optimal experience” they feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” In the footsteps of Maslow, Csikszentmihalyi insists that happiness does not simply happen. It must be prepared for and cultivated by each person, by setting challenges that are neither too demanding nor too simple for ones abilities.

We can create flow states in our work as leaders. We must put ourselves completely within the activities of leadership. These situations must stretch us and make us feel strong, confident, and alert. 

The worries will melt away. We’ll find ourselves at our peak performance when we do.

7. Henry Evas (Mariano González):

I didn’t think this would be so physically demanding.

The sim-racers who competed for a spot to become a real driver didn’t understand the physical demands of a race car driver. They were extreme. From G-forces they’ve never experienced to pushing your body to its exhausted limits, racing cars was physically demanding. 

Many people get into leadership not understanding how physically (and emotionally) demanding leadership is. You’re going to be stretched to your limits. You’ll have to give of yourself more than you think.

Train to be a great leader by training your body along with your mental acuity. 

8. Simulations can give you real-world feedback:

Jann crashed one of the Nissan vehicles in the GT Academy. Jack thought Jann wasn’t committed to the turn and that’s why he crashed.

Jann knew better. He knew why the car crashed. It wasn’t from a lack of commitment. Jann’s accident happened because of a mechanical failure Jann felt. 

The brakes didn’t work properly. Jann said they were glazed. Jack didn’t believe Jann. How could this kid know his brakes had malfunctioned? Because of the realistic feedback from the video game.

I’ve always struggled with role-playing in the business world. The role-playing that I’ve done has felt inauthentic and not helpful. Maybe I’ve experienced the wrong kind of role-playing regarding sales. 

Yet, role-playing customer objections, employee responses, and more can be extremely valuable. You get to experience reactions and responses to your message, direction, and leadership.

Role-play challenging situations so you know how to respond.

9. Honor previous leaders:

Jann had a contentious relationship with his dad. Steve thought his son could be so much more than a video game player (he was right; he just didn’t know it at the time). This put a lot of strain on their relationship.

Even with this hurt, Jann honored his father. On his racing helmet, he put a sticker of the football (soccer) team his dad had played for. This showed respect for his father.

We’ve all had leaders who have played a significant role in our lives. Whether those relationships ended well or not doesn’t negate our need to honor those leaders.

Make sure you’re recognizing those leaders before you. Share their quotes or the lessons you learned from them. Drop their names to coworkers and business associates.

Showing that you honor those who have come before you is a big move.

10. You have more bandwidth than you think:

Before the start of one race, Jack communicated to Jann he wasn’t sure if Jann had the bandwidth for what he needed to say. Jack said it anyway.

Jack informed Jann of the competition. He let Jann know who to look out for and the challenges that lay ahead.

You and your team have more bandwidth than you think. You have to be willing to stretch yourself and your team so they can be informed of potential challenges.

11. Not everyone will be for you:

Jann had to make a pit stop for fuel. His pit crew began to raze him. One of the pit crew poked fun at Jann by saying this wasn’t the same as a joystick.

You could tell this hurt Jann. These were supposed to be people who cared for him and helped him win races. They weren’t supposed to be antagonistic.

Yet, here they were…

You have to be prepared for members of your team to be antagonistic. They won’t be for every decision you make.

It’s time you gird yourself for these oppositions. Be ready for the challenges team members may throw your way.

Then go out there and prove yourself.

12. Jack Salter:

That crash is not gonna define who you are. How you respond to it… will.

Jann had been in a crash that severely injured him. More importantly, the crash had killed a spectator

This caused Jann to doubt himself. He didn’t want to get back out to racing. All he wanted to do was quit.

Jack knew better than this. He had experienced something similar. At Le Mans, Jack was in a crash that killed another racer. He never raced after that.

We’re all going to crash at some point in our leadership journey. We’ll make a bad decision, do the wrong thing, or partner with someone we shouldn’t have.

These mistakes will hurt. But what will hurt worse is incorrectly responding to our choices.

Don’t let your bad choices or mistakes define you. Respond to these situations with a positive mindset and move on.

13. Steve Mardenborough:

I didn’t support you properly.

Jann’s dad realized he hadn’t been the best father. He had made mistakes that hurt his son.

Steve didn’t let those sit idle. Steve went and apologized to his son. He knew he had to say he was sorry.

What do you do when you mess up? Do you take responsibility? Or do you run and hide?

Great leaders accept the responsibility of not supporting their teams properly. They own up to it and make it right.

Be a leader who apologizes.

14. Jack Salter:

Nobody wins this thing in the first lap.

Le Mans was a 24-hour race where teams of racers swap out after specific times. Jann was the first racer to start the race. Jack warned him to be careful.

The race wouldn’t be won in the first lap. If something went wrong at the beginning, there would be plenty of time to make up for it.

Leadership is the same way. No one wins the leadership game their first day, or even their first rodeo.

The best leaders get back into it day after day after day. 

Nobody wins leadership their first day, week, or even year. 

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