Leadership Lessons from Star Wars – The Force Awakens

The entire very diverse team had to work together to defeat the ultimate evil in "The Force Awakens."

The entire very diverse team had to work together to defeat the ultimate evil in “The Force Awakens.”

Just before Christmas this past year, the much awaited new Star Wars Movie, “The Force Awakens” (link to Entertainment Weekly Review) was released with record breaking box office receipts. Having enjoyed the first Star Wars movie while I was still in graduate school pursuing my MBA, I knew I had to see this movie.

I did thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the bringing back of some of the original characters, actors and droids. But I also watched it through the eyes of a management and leadership workplace consultant.

There was an amazing stark contrast between the leadership style of the good Princess Leia (now going by the title General Leia Organa) and the evil love child of Leia and Hans Solo, Kylo Ren.

Let’s first examine General Leia Organa and her approach with her team on figuring out a way to blow up the evil Kylo Ren’s “death star.” A very diverse team of human and not-so-human characters where around a big strategy table each contributing various pieces of information based upon their particular expertise. Everyone listened to and respected each other and as a group took all the various contributions from the diverse parties to arrive at the best solution to win their battle. They seemed enthusiastic and energized working together a team to solve a major challenge. And General Leia led with a positive, enthusiastic style imparting a vision to her team.
starwarsjpegNow let’s look at the evil Kylo Ren. Every time something did not go his way, he threw a temper tantrum and placed blame for the failings on all those around him. He did not listen to advice from his subordinates but instead acted as a dictatorial bully. One scene at which I had to smile broadly was when Kylo Ren experienced another set back and was throwing objects all over the room, some of his troops walked close to the room, saw Kylo Ren in the midst of his temper tantrum, and turned and quickly walked away in the opposite direction! Isn’t that how it is with poor leaders? People do not want to be around them and actually take great pains to stay away.

Whether we are leading a major corporate team, a non-profit, a volunteer group, we can all avoid these traits of bad leadership: bullying, not listening, blaming others, showing anger inappropriately. Instead we can aspire to be excellent leaders: listening to others, appreciating diversity, providing positive vision.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s Innovative New Anti-Bullying Campaign

Blog author Stan Kimer (in the center) with Tyler Clementi Foundation Executive Director Sean Kosofsky and Tyler's mother and foundation co-founder Jane Clementi

Blog author Stan Kimer (in the center) with Tyler Clementi Foundation Executive Director Sean Kosofsky and Tyler’s mother and foundation co-founder Jane Clementi

For this year’s annual October Bullying Awareness Month blog, I would like to introduce a new program being offered by the Tyler Clementi Foundation and rolled out through corporations and organizations. Why is this exciting and innovative? Because most Americans spend the vast majority of their waking hours on the job, so that is the logical place to roll out resources to assist in various aspects of life.

Here are four shorts questions and answers.

QUESTION 1: Who exactly is Tyler Clementi and why is there a foundation named after him?

ANSWER: Tyler Clementi (link to more of his story) was a talented teenager in his first year of college coming to terms with being gay. Without his knowledge, Tyler’s roommate secretly livestreamed him in an intimate act with another young man, and then shared the stream with Tyler’s university peers as well as the roommate’s high school friends and Twitter followers. This act of cyber-bullying was a great embarrassment to Tyler and two days later Tyler died by suicide. After processing the grief of losing their son in this way, Tyler’s parents decided to take proactive action and started the foundation to address cyber-bullying in the hopes that it can be stopped and future harm and even deaths could be avoided.

QUESTION 2: What is my own connection with the Tyler Clementi Foundation?

ANSWER: Last year, a friend of mine from Raleigh, NC, Sean Kosofsky, who is one of the brightest non-profit leaders in the country, was offered the job of being the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s first full time executive director. He returned to Raleigh in early September and helped host a reception with Tyler’s mother Jane Clementi. (See photo at top of blog.) Sean updated us on the latest programs of the foundation and Jane spoke passionately as a mother hoping to bring positive change to America’s cyber-community as a constructive way of dealing with her son’s death. Total Engagement Consulting is proud to have provided a corporate donation to the foundation’s work.

Tyler Clementi, the young man for whom the foundation is named

Tyler Clementi, the young man for whom the foundation is named

QUESTION 3: What exactly is this new program that the foundation will be rolling out via corporations?

ANSWER: Too much of the burden of ending bullying is put on schools. The Tyler Clementi Foundation thinks parents play a key role, and thus has partnered with Workplace Options (WPO) to offer trainings on youth bullying to parents where they are during the day: at work. This training helps educate people about whether the young people in their lives are being bullied or are bullies, and not sharing this information. The focus will be to teach individuals how to identify, approach, discuss and resolve youth bullying issues with their children, and young people in their personal lives. More information can be found on the foundation’s program page. (Scroll about halfway down the page to the heading “Workplace Options / TCF Training

QUESTION 4: Can I provide some links to additional blogs with resources I have previously published?

ANSWER: Certainly!

In last year’s Bullying Awareness Month’s blog, I introduced the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

In my 2013 blog, I wrote about the link between schoolyard bullying and workplace harassment.

In “The Macroeconomic of Gay Bullying” I write about the grave harm to a nation’s well being and economics unaddressed bullying can result in.