Star Trek and Leadership Development

Posted on by in Change, Character, Entreprenuership, Leadership, Managing Talent

Forget whether you’re a “trekkie” or not, the series (from the original onward) has been a great vehicle for observing and evaluating both positive and negative leadership–and this latest edition is no slouch on that account.

I’ve never been a big trekkie fan (though I did think Jean luc Picard was a phenomenal leader) so I wasn’t in a hurry to see this latest Star Trek movie. However, the reviews have been so positive (Rotten Tomatoes has it at 95%, which is incredibly high for a major distribution film) that I finally caved in and went to see it this past Saturday, July 4th (and was amazed, like others, at how good it really was–even if you’re not a Star Trek fan).

And while there are a lot of great leadership lessons in it, the one I think you might find quite useful is found in the development of James T. Kirk’s character. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s basically a prequel to the series, starting with Kirk’s birth (and if you don’t know who Kirk is/was, he was William Shatner character back in the 1960’s).

When we first meet up with Kirk in this film (post birth), we see him as a young teen racing a car before he’s old enough to. Then we see him in a bar fight. Then we see him gaming the system. Then we see him in trouble–again and again and again. In other words, he’s a young, self-assured, rebellious, cocky, somewhat funny, anti-authoritan, and thrill-seeking kind of guy!

Now, if you were getting ready to hire a candidate for your business (let alone for a leadership position), how likely do you think it is that you would hire young Mr. Kirk? Probably between zero and nilch. And yet, by not hiring him, you’d miss out on hiring the very person you want, the next James T. Kirk, commander of the USS Enterprise, the leading ship of Star Fleet.

In other words, one of the great lessons you and I can glean from Star Trek is that we shouldn’t expect 40 year-old behavior from 22 year old “kids.” It’s the driving, wild, often reckless behavior of youth that creates the potential for real leadership. If we take that away, the people who don’t possess those kinds of pasts never seem to become great leaders.

When it’s all said and done, leadership requires taking risks, making bold decisions, trusting your gut (often against the data and others), being confident, having the strength to not be afraid when others are, being willing to charge ahead when others want to flee, etc. All of which are qualities that are often born out of “young, self-assured, rebellious, cocky, somewhat funny, anti-authoritan, and thrill-seeking kinds of guys (and gals).”

So, the next time you’re thinking about hiring someone (young, that is–by age 40 they should have these issues under control), you may want to add in some candidates you would normally toss out. The non-conformist you’re tempted to pass over just may be the very one who will help lead (or possibly save) your company–at least, that’s what the entire universe learned in this latest installment of Star Trek!

To your accelerated success!

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