Friday, October 30, 2015

5 leadership lessons from the Dark Side.

starwars

Star Wars is for many of us the ultimate sci-fi fantasy. As the anticipation for Episode 7: The Force Awakens grows, it has also emerged as an unlikely source of leadership wisdom. Forbes magazine has outlined five key leadership pitfalls from the Galactic Empire: Darth Vader has made these mistakes so you don’t have to.

1. They consolidated power. Darth Vader and the Emperor were for all intents and purposes running the entire show. Not only was it probably asking a bit too much of them, but it means that defeating both of them at one time in one place was enough to bring down an entire galactic political system. Had power been shared more among people further down the management line, there would have been someone to keep things going. There is also no indication that a succession plan had been worked out. As Luke Skywalker warned them only hours before their demise: ‘Your overconfidence is your weakness’.

2. Ruling through fear. Vader wasn’t good at compromising. He would alter a deal and if challenged he would simply tell you to ‘pray I don’t alter it any further’. That kind of aggressive behaviour puts people off and leaves them working out of fear rather than motivation. Once people feel like they have no stake in what is going on, they tend to be less productive or, in Vader’s case, flat out rebel.
3. Zero tolerance for failure. Working for Vader must have been stressful. Failing to finish a simple task could get you killed. He would openly criticise employees for being ‘clumsy as they are stupid’. A good manager needs to solicit ideas and engage with their staff, giving them proper feedback. Accidents will happen. Sometimes you come out of hyperspace too close to your target and you need to adjust without losing your cool. If Vader had been more encouraging, commanders would not have been making decisions out of fear of repercussions, and they may have made more productive decisions, like intensifying forward firepower a little sooner, for example.
4. Single-minded obsession. Vader and the Emperor really only focused on crushing the Rebel Alliance, with turning Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side as a potential bonus. You don’t get the impression they were ever on any conference calls. It’s not much wonder that the Rebel Alliance had so many willing to join the cause, with the Empire not focusing on any practical day-to-day matters. The lack of flexibility in the Empire’s methods is also noteworthy. Their Imperial army seemed focused and designed solely for crushing the rebellion. In the end, a one-size-fits-all approach lead to an oversight in other threats, and their goals were dismantled by a tribe of Ewoks.
5. Failure to learn from mistakes. The Death Star is the kind of project that in the planning phases everyone must have applauded. The wireframes must have been incredibly impressive. In the end though, it only took one shot fired into a thermal exhaust port only two meters wide. Strangely, the Emperor decided not only to build the Death Star a second time, but to allow a design which included a new weak spot big enough to fly entire X-Wings through. Failure to learn from your mistakes can be extremely costly. Sometimes it is better to accept your idea wasn’t so brilliant and move on.

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