Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Tom Hank’s Greyhound

A Reel Leadership Article

While movie theaters are still closed around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, movie production companies are finding ways to release their movies to the world. We’ve seen this with Trolls: World Tour on various streaming services, Artemis Foul being released on Disney+, and My Spy being released on Amazon Prime.

This past week saw another movie released on a streaming platform. Tom Hank’s Greyhound was released on Apple TV+’s streaming service.

Tom Hanks in Greyhound staring out a damaged porthole window

Greyhound tells the story of Captain Ernie Krause. He’s an inexperienced United States Navy captain who has to lead a convoy of Allied boats through the traps set by a Nazi U-boat wolfpack.

His inexperience shows. It also shows that inexperience doesn’t mean defeat. You can make it through the tough spots of leadership.

If you haven’t watched Greyhound, sign up for Apple TV+ (or their free trial), watch Greyhound, then come back here for all the leadership lessons you may find in the movie.

Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Greyhound

1. Life repeats itself:

Greyhound opens with the words of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He utters the chilling words:

Twice in a single generation, the catastrophe of world war has fallen upon us. Twice in our lifetime has the long arm of fate reached out across the oceans to bring the United States into the forefront of the battle.

The United States had helped the United Kingdom before. He knew the United States had been pulled into wars not their own but willing to fight them. This time, the war came to the United States.

We cannot be unprepared to face what we’ve faced before. We may not want to admit it but the past often repeats itself.

Be ready to go through a repeat of your past experiences.  I hope you’ll be better prepared for this next go around than your last.

2. Prayer can help:

Ernie finds himself aboard the Greyhound. It is a ship tasked with protecting a convey of boats going across the sea.

He’s in his room. He kneels down. He begins to pray to God.

What’s he ask God? To be with him.

This helped Ernie. It gave him peace and a sense that he could get the job done.

Don’t discount the power of prayer. Prayer is a valuable tool for any leader.

How could that be? Prayer gives you access to the God of the universe. You get to dial the BIG MAN directly and he will answer.

Give him a call. Pray. Ask for help and He will answer.

3. Charlie Cole (Stephen Graham):

Two bored sailors with time on their hands, which became fists.

Ernie had asked for a report of the ship. Charlie gave the report and told Ernie there had been a slight bit of trouble.

There were two sailors, Flusser (Matthew Zuk) and Shannon (Jeff Burkes) that had become bored. Their restlessness led them into an altercation.

I found it interesting Charlie mentioned that the two soldiers were bored. I believe this is a common issue with those we lead.

People are looking for meaning and purpose. When they become bored, they become restless. Restless team members are dangerous.

They look for something to do… even if it isn’t a good thing to do.

Help your team learn how to look for positive things to do when their work is slow. This will keep people out of trouble.

4. Attend to bigger issues:

Ernie was getting ready to discipline Flusser and Shannon. Then, he received a call to go to the bridge.

Being called to the bridge typically meant something was going down. Ernie realized this. He also realized reprimanding the two soldiers could wait. He left the two soldiers and went to the bridge.

The issue on the bridge took precedence.

We have to figure out what issues are truly big issues and what issues can be put on the back burner. This is one of the biggest tasks a leader needs to figure out.

If you don’t, there’s trouble. You begin to give every issue the same weight when there are varying degrees of urgency.

Make sure you’re attending to the right priorities.

5. Watch your language:

One of the young men on the Greyhound dropped the F-bomb. He did this in front of Ernie.

We see the young man quickly tell Ernie “Sorry, my language, sir.”

The young man knew he had done something improper. He chose to own it and apologize.

There’s a certain responsibility you have as a leader. You need to watch your language.

Sure, there are books out there that will tell us those who use foul language are better liked, more honest, etc… I don’t believe that.

Our language tells others what we truly think. If we’re constantly dropping the F-bomb or other swear words, are we truly thinking good things?

6. The leader sets the culture:

Why did the young man apologize to Ernie for dropping a bad word? He knew Ernie didn’t approve of such language.

As the leader of the ship, Ernie created expectations for the men he led. One of those expectations was the language of the crew.

Remember, YOU set the culture of your organization. You get to define what is acceptable and what is not.

Your actions will inform the way your team acts.

Set the right example. Create the culture you want.

7. Take care of your team:

Cleveland (Rob Morgan) was one of the Greyhound’s chefs. He brought a sandwich out to Ernie. He figured the captain would be hungry. While grateful, Ernie turned down the sandwich. He, instead, asked Cleveland to bring the sandwich to Cole.

Ernie did this because he figured Cole was hungry. He should be taken care of.

What do you do to care for your team? Are you giving them what they need? Are you willing to give up something you might enjoy for their benefit?

Great leaders take care of their teams. They look for big and small ways to show they care. Let your team know you care.

8. Great leaders protect others:

With the U-boat wolfpack attacking the ships, Ernie was concerned about the other ships. He saw the Cadena was in trouble.

He could have done a couple of different things. What he chose may shock you.

Ernie chose to put the Greyhound between the attacking U-boat and the Cadena. He knew they were a bigger ship and they could offer more protection to the small boat.

Great leaders are willing to get in the middle of things… If it means protecting those on their team.

Be a protector of your people. Be willing to stand up and for your team.

9. You have to make difficult decisions:

The Greyhound saw there were survivors from one of the U-boat attacks. They began to head toward the survivors when a call came in. The convoy needed help. There was an imminent attack.

Now, Ernie had a choice. Rescue the men from the shipwreck or go to the convoy. Ernie made it… He chose to rescue the men and then go to the convoy.

His choice left the rear of the convoy open. The U-boats took advantage of this and attacked.

Talk about difficult decisions. The lives of men in the sea or a floating boat.

Our choices will have an impact on the rest of the organization. You will have to make difficult decisions that impact not only those around you but further out as well.

You will have to find peace with the decisions you make. If you don’t, you will struggle.

10. Charlie Cole:

What you did yesterday got us to today.

Ernie had begun to doubt his decisions. Each one seem to cost men or drag them deeper into trouble. He felt like he was drowning.

Thankfully, Ernie had Charlie to talk sense into him. Charlie saw what Ernie had done. Ernie had made choices that got them from yesterday to today.

You will doubt the choices you make. You will think you made a bad choice. Truth is, you will make a bad choice here and there.

The decisions you make today will, hopefully, get you to tomorrow. If they do, that’s a win.

11. Leaders often carry unseen wounds:

Ernie asked the messenger (Parker Wierling) to go to his room and fetch his slippers. When Ernie removed his shoes, you saw the hidden wounds he carried.

Ernie’s feet were bloodied. His socks were stained red.

No one in his crew saw this before he removed his shoes. No one could tell he was wounded. Yet he was.

Many of you leaders are like Ernie. You’re carrying wounds that are unseen by those around you. You’re suffering in silence.

Be aware, this is normal in leadership. There are times when a leader must carry a heavy burden or wound by themselves.

12. You may have to quickly change course:

The U-boats had fired torpedos at the Greyhound. There were multiple torpedos bearing down on the ship.

Ernie made a choice to quickly change course. He had the ship go in a different direction, slow down, change course again, and then speed back up.

Every decision Ernie made here helped the Greyhound avoid the torpedos.

I often harp on leaders for giving into the squirrel syndrome. This is where a leader constantly changes course because of a new shiny object.

This leadership lesson from Greyhound isn’t about the shiny object or squirrel. What this leadership lesson is about is noticing when you need to change direction.

You change direction when it is required. Sometimes you will have to change course multiple times. Do it.

13. There’s a time to rest:

After multiple days of constant conflict with the U-boats, things had settled down. This is when Ernie passed command of the ship to Carling (Michael Benz).

He let Carling know he was tired. He was going to retire to his cabin.

That’s what he did. He journeyed to his cabin. There, he found a moment of rest.

Rest is crucial to the well-being of a leader, both mentally and physically. Leaders need to learn to rest.

Rest helps you to recover. Your body heals during rest. Your mind heals during rest.

Find time to rest. You need it.

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