Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1

A Reel Leadership Article

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Tom Cruise returns for his seventh outing as IMF (Impossible Mission Force) member Ethan Hunt. He’s always been a rogue agent doing what he needs to do to get the job done. In Dead Reckoning Part 1, it’s no different. Hunt must do things his way to accomplish the impossible mission.

What is Ethan Hunt’s mission in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1? He’s been tasked with hunting down a terrifying and deadly new weapon. This weapon, The Entity, is scary, especially in our world. It’s a sentient AI system that doesn’t want to be shut down. 

The Entity has infiltrated banks and defense systems globally. 

Could you imagine if AI began to behave like this in our world? ChatGPT going into banking systems, Claude accessing military records, or Bing AI creating deep fake images of you or your loved ones. Or worse…

Tom Cruise in a scene from Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1

This is what Ethan Hunt and his IMF team members must stop. They have to stop a threat that thrives in the digital world while fighting physical dangers as well.

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 is an action-packed thrill ride from beginning to end. You’ll be shocked by old characters and new alike. You’ll also walk out a better leader.

Brace yourself for the leadership lessons in Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1

1. Beware of technology:

Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1 opens with the crew of the Russian submarine Sevastopol testing a new cloaking system. They’ve been able to slip in undetected by every major world military power. No technology available can beat their cloaking system.

But then something happens. 

A large submarine appeared on their display. This sub notices the Sevastopol and prepares for an offensive strike. The Sevastopol prepares countermeasures.

On their radar, it appears the enemy sub has released a torpedo. The torpedo evades the countermeasures of the Sevastopol. In response, the crew of the Sevastopol fires a torpedo.

The enemy torpedo comes ever closer to impacting the Sevastopol. The crew braces for impact. Then nothing. There’s no impact, no explosion.

The Sevastopol’s torpedo then goes “through” the enemy sub and the display disappears. There was no enemy sub!

Their torpedo then circles back on them, striking the Sevastopol and killing the crew.

Technology is great. I love the tools available to marketers, leaders, and the layperson. Technology has made our lives better (and worse) in a manner of years.

Technology allows these blog posts to be published, our vehicles to run, and our cell phones to connect with almost anyone in the world. Technology is great.

But technology can also be dangerous.

When we allow technology to do all of the work, we may end up in a dystopian world like in the movie Wall-E. We may become lazy. Or we may get the wrong information (the current generation of AI has been known to give incorrect data).

My warning to leaders is to be cautious when using technology. It’s powerful, but it can also fail.

2. Ethan Hunt:

We live and die in the shadows.

A currier delivered a recorded message to Ethan after we saw the results of the rogue AI. This message is one he accepts.

During the delivery, Ethan asks the young man multiple questions. He answers them correctly, and Ethan knows he’s a part of the IMF.

Ethan also said something interesting. He said that the members of the IMF live and die in the shadows.

Do you know who else should do this?


Leaders should live and die in the shadows. They’re not the ones who should get the glory or honor. 

Leaders should be willing to step aside to allow their people to shine. To get the credit. To be the ones seen.

Step into the shadows. Allow your people to operate until you’re needed. Then give them the credit.

3. Control your breathing, control yourself:

Ethan had to go and find a past love, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). She’s somewhere in the desert being pursued by mercenaries.

Ethan finds her location. He sees she’s surrounded. Then the mercenaries see Ethan.

They begin to attack him. This is when Ilsa takes her first shot with her sniper rifle. 

We see her take a deep breath, look through the scope, and slowly pull the trigger.

Her breathing led to a controlled shot.

Your breathing matters. How you intake your oxygen can make you calm and cool or make you jittery.

Try it.

Take quick, rapid breaths that have no control. How do you feel? Probably a bit nervous. Maybe even anxious.

Now, take five slow, measured breaths. How do you feel now? I assume that you feel a little more calm, centered, peaceful. 

Pay attention to your breathing in tense situations. Control your breathing during these times. You’ll find yourself making better decisions and feeling less anxious.

4. Choosing the right thing can cost you dearly:

Ethan invaded a meeting Kittridge (Henry Czerny). The people in the forum were discussing Ethan and the mission. 

During the meeting, Ethan hands Kittridge a mask and releases a knock-out gas to the rest of the room. Ethand and Kittridge then have a discussion.

Kittridge tells Ethan he has a choice to make. He needs to choose a side. Ethan tells Kittridge he already has. Kittridge responds that his choice will cost him dearly.

We make approximately 35,000 decisions a day. Most of these decisions are inconsequential. However, we regularly make decisions that can majorly impact us, our families, or our organizations. 

We have to choose the right things at the right time. If we don’t, our choices can be costly.

5. Share your plans:

Ethan met with his other IMF members, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). They discussed how Ethan was going to obtain the key. The conversation shifted, and a new plan was discussed.

Ethan would sell the key to the buyer. He would then track the buyer to the location of the other half of the key. 

They reasoned there was no reason for a person to buy one half of the key if they didn’t have the other. This way, they could get both pieces.

As you work with others, make sure you’re sharing your plans. Don’t keep things hidden.

You can work through complex operations and situations by sharing more of your plans. Your coworkers and employees can then help you work through your plans and flesh them out.

It’s better to share and work together than alone.

6. Take action or someone else will:

While trying to sell the key, Ethan meets Grace (Haley Atwell). She’s a master thief who swipes the key from him. 

They form an understanding and work together. However, they had to flee the airport when a bomb was found and two clandestine operatives, Jasper Briggs (Shea Whigham) and Degas (Greg Tarzan Davis), were pursuing him.

Grace was being chased by The White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). Then the two agents showed up. Finally, Paris (Pom Klementieff) shows up.

The White Widow and the agents face off. No one makes a move. This is when Paris makes a move. She hijacks the R.S.S. (Russian Secret Service) vehicle and begins her violent pursuit.

I’m all for being cautious in leadership. You can’t rush things. You also can’t be brash.

What you need to do is take action at the right time. If you don’t, someone else will.

7. Grace:

Why should I believe you?

Gabriel (Esai Morales), one of the major villains in Dead Reckoning, got Grace alone. He talked with her and tried to convince her to listen to him.

Their conversation involved him telling Grace that Ethan only cares about himself and the objective. Everyone else is collateral damage. This is why she should listen to him.

Grace, thinking quickly, asks why she should believe him. She didn’t trust him and never did.

Your people are asking the same question as Grace. They want to know why they should trust you.

Make sure you’re proving yourself to your people. Show them you’re trustworthy by your actions.

8. Listen to the right voices:

Ethan needed to find Grace. He needed to get her away from Gabriel. Through the help of Benji and Luther, he was being directed to her location.

Suddenly, Benji and Luther lost communication with Ethan. Yet, Ethan still heard them. Except it wasn’t them.

The Entity had taken control of their comms. It directed Ethan to the wrong location, away from Grace and Gabriel. 

You’re going to have a lot of voices speaking into your life. Sometimes, one voice will try to imitate another voice.

You may not recognize this, especially early on. This voice will tell you to take action in places you shouldn’t. It’ll direct you to go where you shouldn’t.

Make sure you know the voices you’re hearing. Discern what’s true and what’s not.

9. Agent Degas:

What if they had a good reason?

Agents Degas and Briggs had been pursuing the IMF team because they had gone rogue in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. They wanted to bring the team in to face justice. 

Briggs was completely sold on the notion that the team had defected, that they were dangerous. Degas believed this as well, at least at the beginning.

As the movie progressed, Degas began to show his doubts. He began to wonder if the IMF agents had a good reason to go rogue. His thoughts were right. They did.

We don’t want people to jump to conclusions with our actions. Yet we regularly jump to conclusions when it comes to the actions of others.

We place their actions in an echo chamber. Their actions are either admirable or not. We don’t dissect. We only assume.

I want to encourage you to think about your team’s actions when disciplining them. Think about whether or not they had a good reason to make the decisions they made.

You’ll find out that their decision-making process isn’t flawed. They’ll often have a good reason for doing what they did. Their reasons may even align with what you would do but you only saw the outcome.

Think positively about your team’s reasons. They’re not malicious.

10. Great leaders show grace:

Ethan had spared Paris’ life even though she was after him. At the end of the movie, Paris saves his life.

It wasn’t a tit-for-tat. Paris saved Ethan’s life because she wanted to know why he saved hers.

Ethan saved her life because he offered grace. He chose to overlook what she had done in the past. He chose to help.

Are you showing grace? Are you willing to help someone even though they are against you?

I believe great leaders are willing to show grace, even to those who attack and abuse them. 

It’s not weakness to forgive and to help. It’s a great strength.

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