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Tom Cruise: Righteous Leader or Raving Lunatic?

The 'Mission: Impossible 7' star and producer went viral for dressing down crew about Covid-19 protocols.

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When audio leaked this week of Tom Cruise scolding members of the Mission: Impossible 7 crew for disobeying Covid-19 protocols, it was a win-win-win for all things internet: Scandal-hungry surfers got a rare insight into the power dynamics of a high-stakes Hollywood film set; myriad outlets mused on the movie star/mogul and eccentric Scientology adherent's most memorable outbursts; and NBC's streaming Peacock app held millions captive in front of an ad for its Saved by the Bell reboot as a prerequisite for streaming The Sun's audio clip of Cruise's tirade. 

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But the loftier morsel to chew on isn't whether Cruise — who is both the franchise's lead onscreen protagonist and behind-the-scenes producer — went overboard by exclaiming, "We are creating thousands of jobs you motherf***ers!" at a pair of personnel standing in close proximity by a monitor or belittling them for their transgression as they meekly muttered "Yes, sir" in contrition. Rather, it's whether the 58-year-old entertainment titan served as a model for vigilant leadership in the midst of a pandemic that has jeopardized his movie's production timeline specifically and, more existentially, the movie business writ large — as opposed to going off the rails in a manner somewhere between his Magnolia character Frank "T.J." Mackey's quasi-motivational lashings and Christian Bale's infamous spinning out while filming 2009's Terminator Salvation. 

Related: Want to Get More Productivity Out of Your People? Try Yelling at Them.

It's a difficult question to parse when crucial details about the incident remain unclear, particularly whether Cruise's casualties had been repeat offenders, and if he is in fact perceived as ultimately culpable by the studio and insurance companies if further Covid-related snags jeopardize their investments. 

There are cases to be made for all manner of discipline in any environment where the actions of a few can imperil the livelihoods of many. Just ask college-athletics coaches, who lean toward a militaristic method of reinforcing order. Or, alternatively, you could appeal to team members with reassurances about how you relate to the tightrope everyone's walking — and then reiterate your expectations. 

Though as Jeffrey Hayzlett, Chairman & CEO of C-Suite Network, puts it to Entrepreneur, “It’s all about the delivery. You have to be careful how you present your case. You can have a great meal, but if you throw it at someone, you’re not going to be able to eat it.”

Still, in this instance, and despite all his quirks, we'll give Cruise benefit of the doubt that he was left with little option but the nuclear one. Because as the 40-year industry veteran knows better than most, movie making can be risky business.

Kenny Herzog

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Kenny Herzog is currently Digital Content Director at Entrepreneur Media. Previously, he has served as Editor in Chief or Managing Editor for several online and print publications, and contributed his byline to outlets including Rolling Stone, New York Magazine/Vulture, Esquire, The Ringer, Men's Health, TimeOut New York, A.V. Club, Men's Journal, Mic, Mel, Nylon and many more.