I sometimes like to find leadership lessons in unusual places. Last year, I shared a few lessons that carry great leadership insight. Here are my favorite lessons from 2012:
Lt Col. Dan Ward (USAF) from the Defense Acquisition University presented an interesting acquisition lesson from an unusual source: Star Wars. His article, "Don't Come to the Dark Side," acknowledges, but skips over, the standard fare of "Darth Vader as leader." Instead, Ward highlights why "Death Star"-like projects are a bad idea, for both operational and programmatic reasons. Instead of building expensive and complicated Death Stars, we should focus on the simple and reliable projects: the "R2-D2s" of project design.
Sure, Shan Yu may be the bad guy in that movie, but who says that movie villains can't also be good leaders? And it turns out that Shan Yu is pretty good at developing his team through coaching. Shan Yu's "coaching buttons" are brief, memorable, but not overpowering. He is able to offer his own opinion (and decision) without discounting the team leads. From what we see in the movie, it seems that Shan Yu has taken advantage of other coaching moments to help his future leaders develop.
Alex Knapp at Forbes wrote about 5 leadership lessons from James T Kirk:
- Never stop learning.
- Have advisers with different worldviews.
- Be part of the "away team."
- Play poker, not chess.
- It's okay to (sometimes) blow up the Enterprise.
Knapp posted a followup to the Kirk article, with lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Step outside your normal "zone" for a moment, and look at how Picard views leadership. Here are Picard's 5 traits:
- Speak to people in ways they'll understand / Go to them, don't make them come to you.
- When you're overwhelmed, ask for help.
- Always value ethical decisions over expedient ones.
- Challenge your team to help them grow.
- Don't play it safe—seize opportunities in front of you.
At the risk of referencing My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic one more time, I wanted to share this insight into the value of a liberal arts education. One benefit to a liberal arts education is that your education can cross boundaries, allowing you to leverage different disciplines to see the world differently. In that respect, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a great example. There are several liberal arts topics that you can explore through the lens of this show:
- Language (Learn the elements of a good cheer in French, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian)
- Physics (Use this clip to exercise the basic equations of motion: acceleration, velocity, and position)
- Leadership (Use coordination, delegation, coaching, lead-manage-do, and stretch opportunities to develop your teams)
- Cooking (Yes, we even can learn something about how to make cupcakes, although I suspect that isn't the correct recipe)