12 Most Out of This World Leadership Lessons from Star Wars
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a trilogy was born that was so epic people discussed it for years to come. There were explosive battles, valiant heroes and super villains. That trilogy is Star Wars!
Star Wars was the first movie that I remember seeing, and it has to be the movie that I have watched the most in my life. Every viewing brought a new lesson as I grew up. Now when I watch Star Wars, the first glimpse of Darth Vader still gives me the creeps, but I also see leadership lessons both good and bad in these movies.
Let’s travel to that galaxy where we will join Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader but never Jar-Jar Binks to find the 12 Most Out-Of-This-World Leadership Lessons from Star Wars.
1. Lead or lead not. There is no try.
I know Yoda didn’t quite say this, but the spirit behind his words is clear. Leadership is a commitment whether you are leading a multi-million dollar company or a small club. There is no trying to lead. There is just doing. Commit fully to your role.
2. Leaders determine if those are the droids you seek
The coolest Jedi trick is Obi-Wan using misdirection to escape detection from the Storm Troopers in the famous line, “These are not the droids you seek.” Leaders set the vision for their organization. They tell you which droids (or goals) are important. What the leader chooses to focus on is what the team or organization puts their focus on as well.
3. You’ve got to spend time in the swamp to learn to lead
Luke Skywalker has the raw talent to be a Jedi, but he had to spend a lot of time in the swamp learning how to use the force. Leadership is a skill that we learn by taking classes, self-reflection, feedback from others, mentoring and of course… doing.
4. Avoid your inner Han Solo
Han Solo is a narcissist. It’s all about him. Princess Leia tells him that she loves him, and he responds with “I know.” Jerk move. Leadership is never about the leader — it’s about those you are leading.
5. Han Solo is a jerk, but man can he adapt
You want to avoid the narcissism of Han Solo but totally embrace how well he adapts in stressful situations. Hyperdrive broken? No worries! Hide by the garbage chute and go undetected by your enemies. Han Solo shows you that if Plan A doesn’t work using creativity and ingenuity, a lot of chutzpah can get you out of a tough situation. Leaders are flexible and adapt to whatever is thrown at them (even if it’s a Wookie).
6. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi — you’re my only hope
When Princess Leia is in trouble, she does what every excellent leader does and asks for help. She knows exactly who to ask and does not hesitate to do that. Apply the Princess Leia principle when you lead — never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
7. Mentor new leaders you must
900 year-old Yoda wasn’t looking to stay on top of the Jedi world forever, he was looking for new talent and found it in Luke Skywalker. The job of a leader is to find the next generation of leaders and mentor them in the ways of the Force.
8. Fear is the path to the leadership dark side
With leadership comes power and with power a fear of losing power. As soon as a leader starts being more concerned with keeping and maintaining their own power, he or she is embracing the dark side. Avoid making decisions that put personal power ahead of what is best for the team.
9. Ask yourself what Darth Vader would do, then do the opposite
Darth Vader’s army lives in absolute fear of him. Why? If they make a mistake or speak out of turn, Vader will use the force to choke the life out of them. If your employees fear you, you won’t find out about mistakes or problems until it’s too late.
10. Be open to criticism
Darth Vader scares everyone, but having a fear factor of 1000 is not making him a better leader. In fact, he’ll never improve as a leader. Leaders need to be open to constructive criticism. It not only strengthens leadership, but also improves ideas. It lets those that follow have a voice.
11. Don’t build two Death Stars
If you are a smart leader and your Death Star gets blown to smithereens, you should reevaluate your plan, learn from your mistakes and build something better next time. If you’re the Imperial Emperor, you’ll just build another Death Star. If a plan does not work the first time, it won’t work the second time either.
12. May the force be with you
Leadership takes passion, vision, and dedication to whatever the cause. As a leader, you are constantly striving to do what is best for your organization and team. Leadership is an action packed adventure. In all the responsibility that you have, may the force be with you on your leadership journey.
The leaders in the Star Wars trilogy hold many valuable lessons for even the most seasoned leaders among us. There are examples of amazing leadership behaviors (I’m looking at you Yoda) and qualities that should always be avoided.
Star Wars is not the only movie that holds lessons in leadership for us. What other movies have taught you a thing or two about how to lead? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and may the force be with you.
Featured image courtesy of Ha-Wee licensed via Creative Commons.