Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Leadership Skills from Captain Kirk

As a long-time Star Trek fan, one of my favorite stops during a mid-west vacation last year was at the Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk in Riverside, Iowa. I love the time-travel irony - Future Birthplace indeed.

It's funny how often Star Trek pops up. The first space shuttle (experimental only alas) was called Enterprise.

At the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio you can take your photo alongside lifesize images of all the Star Trek captains (pictured above). 

In college a roommate wrote a paper comparing McCoy, Spock and  Kirk to the Id, Ego and Super Ego respectively.

Natuarally a blog entitled Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk, in Forbes magazine no less, caught my attention:

1. Never Stop Learning
Kirk’s reputation at the Academy was that of a “walking stack of books”. (Before the reboot in the recent movie which made him more of a rebel.) He defeated a Gorn in personal combat becuase he recalled how to make gun powder and a primitive gun in an age of phasers. He out-thought the "unwinnable" Kobayashi Maru test and beat it.

2. Have Advisors With Different Worldviews
The original Star Trek had a dynamic with Kirk, Spock and McCoy that was never again matched. Three very different worldviews working together, not always peacefully.

3. Be Part of the Away Team
It was never very realistic that Kirk led the Away Teams into danger alongside the red shirts. But it was fun and is often a sign of great leadership when the leader rallies the men from the front lines. The next generation was more typical with Picard on the ship and Riker (his #1) leading the Away Teams.

4. Play Poker, Not Chess
Life is more like poker with bluffs then the rigid rules of chess. Kirk was a master of the bluff and outthinking his opponent.

5. Blow up the Enterpirse?
Kirk's first love of his life was the Enterprise. But in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock he destroys it in order to defeat the Klingons and take their ship. Good leaders are driven by passion but that passion can lead to a dead-end if blindly followed, never changing. Great leaders know when to curb their passion, setting aside past successes that have reached their peak, and begin something new.

Bottom Line

Just like James T Kirk,
"we need to keep exploring and learning. We need to ensure that we encourage creativity and innovation by listening to the advice of people with vastly different opinions. We need to occasionally get down in the trenches with the members of our teams so we understand their needs and earn their trust and loyalty. We need to understand the psychology of our competitors and also learn to radically change course when circumstances dictate. By following these lessons, we can lead our organizations into places where none have gone before."
- Alex Knapp

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