In terms of leadership lessons, there is much we can learn from Star Wars in a galaxy far, far away. If we look behind the epic battles between the Jedi and the Storm Troopers, we can see many ideas that shape leadership and explain both successes and failures.
Leadership Lessons: Caring is a force for good
Organisations do not operate on egalitarian lines. There are differences in seniority, status and experience within organisations. Even the flattest of organisational structures will inevitably have some ranks and even the most egalitarian cultures will value some staff more than others either due to expertise, experience or some other contribution. The concept of caring leadership is important to understand the dynamics of organisational life.
If you put yourself into the shoes of a parent, they will naturally discriminate in favour of their child. Parents go above and beyond to take care of their children. Similarly, a caring leader will promote the interests of their employees. A parent is aware of how their child’s needs alter and knows when to step in and take over and when to stand back and empower when their child needs to test their independence. Similarly, in the workplace, you can see maternal associations of caring leadership which creates a supportive culture for junior members to be part of a “family” unit. Just like the Jedi Council in Star Wars, capability and status differences are seen as an opportunity for learning rather than failure.
The Jedi characters display qualities of empathy, compassion, mutual support and most powerful is their caring leadership. The idea of caring in leadership is gaining increasing interest in leadership practice. This notion that employees want their leaders to care is associated with primal emotions such as a desire for protection and a need for understanding and guidance from the organisation in which they belong.
Alongside feeling protected and valued by our leaders, employees are also, on the other hand, likely to resist this kind of leadership too, because care has such powerful associations with dependency, even weakness. For those of us who are parents, I’m sure you can relate to this with your own children. As well as the appeal of a caring leader, employees also want leadership to be powerful and strong, much like children want their parents to set rule and boundaries, despite how much they may protest. Leaders need to be supportive and compassionate, but also effective, strong and keep some distance and be a little remote. Obviously, not as much as Emperor Palpatine, but if we think about how we felt as children in relation to our parents, we needed and wanted some space to grow.
Leadership Lessons: Develop a Culture of Questioning
In complete contrast to the Rebel Alliance, Emperor Palpatine rules with absolute control, creating a culture of oppression and fear. His leadership has to go unchallenged for order to be maintained. He has no contact with the people on the front line. There is very little compassion or consideration for others under his tenure. It is a soulless, depersonalised place with the Storm Troopers and many other figures concealing their faces. In stark contrast to the world of the Jedi, it is not a nurturing place for junior members to thrive and grow. The use of power is to instil fear, not to encourage learning. When we encounter such strong, unchallenged and distant leaders in organisations, it generates a passive workforce. It is plain to see the effects of a culture which does not encourage questioning and demands obedience.
Leadership Lessons: From a family leadership structure
We like the Jedi because we are drawn towards their unit of an extended family. Yoda is the wise, experienced grandparent, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a brotherly figure and Qui-Gon Jinn is like a supportive Uncle. In this family unit, they discuss problems together, experience and resolve together issues and learn from times when things don’t go so well. We can learn a lot from the Jedi Council’s consultative approach to decisions affecting their organisation, enabling all members to have a voice and play a role.
As human beings we are attracted to parallels of a family unit. In an organisation, we want to feel a sense of belonging, care and compassion but, just like in a family where we don’t always agree, we also want to experience a mix of both dependence and independence. We are shaped by, and respond to, a mix of things that are associated with both the positive and negative sides of both Jedi and Empire.
If you found the leadership lessons above useful, you may like to explore other blog posts by The Eventus Recruitment Group:
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