I am a big geek. I think you can tell that from previous posts. One of the things that got me started on my road to Geekdom was of course everyone’s favorite nerd crush, Star Trek, and yes, I do own a purring Tribble thank you!
But what always attracted me to the show was not the unidentified Jujube looking candy buttons or tragically bad costumes on the “aliens” it as the stories and the characters. I can honestly say that a great deal of what I learned about leadership and diplomacy I learned from the Captains of the Trek universe. There was even a book that was a New York Times bestseller called ”Make It So-Lessons from Star Trek The Next Generation” Here is a look at what some of those Captains’ taught me about being a leader and communicator;
James T. Kirk: The first of the TV Captains of the USS Enterprise, Kirk was the model of a "lead from the front" commander. Seriously, what Captain would really beam down on every mission with the guy in Red Shirt who was going to get vaporized in the first 6 minutes of the show? He thought outside of the box and never let he never let rules or regulations keep him from achieving his goals. Though his brand of diplomacy was “cowboy diplomacy” it worked for the times when “upper management” (Starfleet Command) wasn’t around to answer questions.
Jean Luc Picard: Picard was the 'by the book' leader that everyone respected. His strengths were that he had high principled and performance standards for the crew of his Enterprise, which he applied foremost to himself, and he accepted his interpersonal flaws and took measures to moderate them. He also demonstrated effective techniques for balancing one on one relations with his crew. It didn’t hurt that he had an awesome speaking voice either!
Benjamin Sisko: As the commander of Deep Space Nine, Sisko was a master at successfully encouraging and leading a varied work force. His supreme strength was his ability to delegate responsibilities with authority while taking full responsibility for his crew and their actions. He also established extensive skill in disagreement resolution as he maintained peaceful relations with various species in his “jurisdiction”. He also had a really cool suave manner about him!
Kathryn Janeway: Captain of the U.S.S Voyager, lost in the unknown Gamma Quadrant, Janeway epitomizes the leader who is comfortable with change and uncertainty. She demonstrated a steady focus on her mission and the ability to problem solve for herself and keep an unsettled crew intact during trying times. She too had a cool voice.
Jonathan Archer: The shortest lived of the on-screen Enterprise captains because the show didn’t take with us nerds…geeks…Trekkers I mean…(darn), Archer was the very “first” Enterprise Captain heading Earth's first deep space exploration mission. He had to write his own set of rules in the wild wild west of unexplored space. His voice was…OK.
At the end of the day they all had the same basic traits we all leaders need;
- The Crew: Their crews were not mere tools to be used to accomplish a mission, but unique individuals, each with a contribution to make.
- Communication: Whether with members of their crews, or with aliens or New Yorkers, each had the capability to get their message across effectively.
- “Risk, is our business”- Kirk: Each of these Captains had the willingness to "go where no one had gone before," and the capacity to make decisions with whatever incomplete information was on hand.
- Honor: The Captains crew and even enemies knew where they stood and respected these leaders because of the standards they set. Each of them “talked the talk and walked the walk” and as Johnny cash would say, “Walk the Line”.
With a new crew in at the helm in a new revisionist movie series, we can only hope that they will inspire the new “21st Century Leaders” (as my friend Ted Coine’s calls the next generation) in whatever business you so passionately work in.
As Picard says, “Make it So. Engage.”
As Kirk would say, “Let’s see what’s out there. Mr. Sulu. Ahead warp factor 10.”