Nearly every Thursday night in 1990, you could find my brother and I sitting on the floor in my parent’s bedroom with a bowl of popcorn anxiously anticipating the airing of a new episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was our reward – our deeply loved tradition - and an opening for educational discussions surrounding science, history, ethics, robotics, and leadership. In honor of my fellow Sci-fi fans and that beloved tradition, I decided to compile 5 leadership lessons I learned from Star Trek:
- Always have a “Number 1”
Every great Captain in the history of Star Trek had a trusty first officer to rely on. Captain Kirk had Spock, Jean Luc Picard had Commander Ryker (aka “Number 1”), Captain Sisko had Major Kira, and Captain Janeway had Chakotay.
Finding a “Number 1” is not only essential to discuss pros and cons, but it is also the person you know will talk straight with you, work to resolve issues, and will accompany you on any adventure.
- Create a “Prime Directive” but be sure it fits with your firm’s shared values
For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek, the Prime Directive is a rule that prohibits members from interfering with alien civilizations. Good or bad - they are not to interfere. Throughout the series, Captains and crews alike struggle with the ethical ramifications of watching an atrocity occur. However, every Trekkie can provide examples of a Captain throwing the Prime Directive out the window based on the shared values of the crew.
Similarly, teams of all sizes should have rules or a “prime directive” on what is and isn’t acceptable based on their shared values. The rules should be clearly outlined for all employees, regardless of title or seniority. This will help to ensure that if someone witnesses an unacceptable behavior, they can raise their concern with a leader based on those shared values.
At ConvergenceCoaching, we proudly publish our shared values on our website which helps us remain committed to and held accountable for each of them. If you are struggling with how to outline your shared values, I suggest reading Jennifer Wilson’s blog, What Are Your Firm’s Values, and Brianna Johnson’s blog, Three Keys To A Safe And Inclusive Environment.
- Captains Don’t Go on Every Away Mission
The Captain usually stays on the bridge of the starship when the crew is out exploring new worlds, boarding a ship, or making the first contact. It was up to the Captain to trust their away team would do the work and do it well. Simply put, Captains must delegate.
In the same way, leaders of organizations can’t be in charge of every project or engagement. You must learn to delegate. To start, make a list of your responsibilities, consider your highest and best use and what items can be delegated out. If you are struggling with determining your highest and best use, check out Renee Moelders blog, Want to Maximize Profits? Consider Highest and Best Use. Once you have determined what can be delegated, clearly outline what the task is, a by-when date, resources available, and how the person to whom you are transitioning will report back to you.
- Embrace Differences
Klingon, Borg, Romulan, Betazoid, Bajoran, Androids…. Starfleet is made up of many species. All with their unique perspectives and experiences working toward a common goal.
The diversity that makes up Starfleet is not unlike any team or group of people. We each have our own individual story and set of experiences that we of which we base our decisions. Use your team’s experiences to your advantage -ask their opinion. Doing so will not only help you to avoid repeating a mistake but will demonstrate to your team that you value their opinion.
- Use Artificial Intelligence to Your Advantage
For my Trekkie friends, I have three words for you: Lieutenant Commander Data. If you are unfamiliar with Star Trek, Lieutenant Commander Data was a prominent character in Star Trek: The Next Generation and he was an Android. He could analyze quickly, hold a moving car in place with one hand, was resistant to disease, and never understood the punchline of a joke. However, while he was essential to the success of the crew, many people were uneasy about him because they didn’t understand how he worked or how he could help them.
Much like today, the increase in artificial intelligence is leaving many uneasy and fearing the world will become more like iRobot or Terminator. However, artificial intelligence is already in use – think Alexa or Siri. It is important that we embrace technology and begin to use it to help us become more efficient. If you are looking to learn more about artificial intelligence, I suggest starting with the Journal of Accountancy’s podcast, What CPAs Need to Know to Succeed in New Tech Age.
As you continue to grow as a leader, I hope you continue your mission to explore new leadership concepts. To seek out new ways to delegate and to boldly go where few leaders have gone before.
Make it so,