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Top 10 Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit

Snodgrass as department head

TOP 10 Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit
A Memoir to the Skies and Guide to Living

The 1986 blockbuster film Top Gun has inspired so many to aspire to a career as a fighter pilot, but there are very, very few who find success in their pursuit of the Hollywood-esque profession. Houston Family Magazine had the chance to speak with one of those incredibly qualified, experienced individuals – Commander Guy Snodgrass. He has extensive experience as a naval FA-18 Hornet fighter pilot, an instructor at the TOPGUN facility in Fallon, NV, as chief speechwriter and Director of Communications for Jim Mattis, and now as a CEO and author.
His latest creative exploit is titled TOPGUN’S TOP 10: Leadership Lessons from the Cockpit. Snodgrass’s second book is a memoir to his extensive career and revolves around ten life lessons he learned regarding leadership, teamwork, and success. One thing I find unique about Guy Snodgrass’s book is that it is applicable to readers of all backgrounds, ages, colors, creeds, and castes. This was one of Snodgrass’s main objectives for the book.
“I want to be able to hand [my book] to someone who has been in business and may be thinking about a career change, a family member, or a friend. And I especially wanted this book to be applicable and approachable to my three children. There’s always a challenge as an author – how do you write a piece so it is approachable but still impactful?”
Many of the experiences described in TOPGUN’s TOP 10 are from Snodgrass’s experience at the title facility in Nevada – first as student and then as an instructor. The Commander spoke more about a day in the life of a TOPGUN instructor, which is the most challenging and advanced position of authority in the world of military aviation.
“Each day was so long. But at TOPGUN, I always felt pure joy and excitement, and like I had reached my calling. I might walk out of my house at 5:30 in the morning, have a flight, debrief, grab a quick lunch, brief my second flight, fly, and then debrief until 9:30 pm or 10 pm. This goes on Monday through Friday.”
Guy Snodgrass also served as Director of Communications for Gen. James Mattis and as speechwriter for Adm. Jonathan Greenert. Not only did he learn to “write my words in their voices”, but he also had first-hand exposure to some of the most powerful figures in America. His experience has led him to believe that a leader sets the tone for their organization, and they have a choice.
“You want to make sure you empower even the most junior member of your organization and let them know that they have a voice and can address those who outrank them. Acceptance is key – I basically treat everybody like they’re my peer.” Snodgrass prefers to defy the stereotypical “Do this, get it to me, great.” boss image that so many have come to associate with the position. After all, he says, “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.
His time commanding squadrons in Japan, on a mission in Iraq, and flying in several other locations overseas has given Commander Snodgrass an appreciation for the diversity of background and of thought. “In today’s divided world, people are throwing pitchforks at each other. We should respect each other regardless of our differences. I sidestep politics for a reason because it’s the enemy of teamwork. Our backgrounds, experiences, and ideas all differ, but we all should work together and build for the common good. Being so incredibly diverse is a competitive strength that few other nations match and we need to use that!”

I greatly enjoyed speaking with Commander Guy Snodgrass – you can order his book on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/TOPGUNS-TOP-10-Leadership-Lessons/dp/1546059636

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