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.