Of all the genres of entertainment in film and television, science fiction is one of my favourites. I’m not actually sure when in my life I became so engrossed with it.It likely started with Star Wars, migrated to reruns of the original Star Trek, the ensuing incarnations of the same series, Farscape, and then crescendoing with the mind-blowing Battlestar Galactica.
And I’m not actually sure specifically why I enjoyed it so much to begin with. Of course, there’s the escapism of it all, the fantasy of what could be, and bold predictions of what the future might look like. Crazy adventures that capture a boy’s imagination, gadgets that make our smart phones look dinky, and heroism beyond compare.
Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
All of it made me want to enlist in Starfleet.
As an adult, many of the same fascinations still exist. Yet now highlighted are the themes to which the child of my youth did not recognize – moral character, scientific progress, alternative intelligences, and political structure, to name just a few.
Of all the themes present in science fiction, leadership is the most interesting and complex. Whether you’re a good guy or a bad guy, the quality and character of leadership is what pervasively dictates victory and success. Ali Mattu at Brain Knows Better provides a wonderful summary of five key leadership lessons that we can learn from science fiction.
1. Have a bold vision.
Creating a simple (and powerful) mission, vision, and strategic plan is the most important job for a leader. When done correctly, a strategic plan energizes all members of a group, prioritizes tasks and the allocation of resources, and helps the organization move forward. Without it, organizations risk fading into obscurity.
2. Build a leadership pipeline.
Since most individuals won’t seek out leadership opportunities (because they’re intimidating), it’s the job of those who are currently in positions of power to always be on the lookout for potential successors. That’s how leadership works—experienced people transitioning out mentor new passionate folks in. This type of leadership pipeline keeps an organization nimble and creative.
3. Honour the past.
By honoring the past, leaders ensure consistency with an established plan and open people to the possibility of change.
4. Diversity makes a stronger team.
Without diversity in a group, leadership is stuck kicking around the same stale old ideas.
5. With great power comes great responsibility.
Accepting the responsibilities of power is what separates heroes from the villains.
While Ali offers us an opportunity to reflect on our own leadership style and structure, I would propose that he is missing one essential lesson. Inspired by Bruce Hunter, executive advisor to business owners and entrepreneurs, when reading the manuscript of his book, “The Success Cage. You’ve built a business that owns you. Now what?” I would add…
6. Know who your Spock is. If you don’t have one, find one.
Live long and prosper.
Kirk has Spock. The renegade, risk-taker, and lover of alien woman around the galaxy has the stolid, analytical, and rational thinker. They are close friends. Equally important, their leadership styles are complementary and cohesive, the foundation for many successful missions.
While Bruce dives deeper into the exact types of relationships that make for organizational success, I’m suggesting here that you start with finding someone that can be a confidante, a sounding board, a supporter, a caller of BS, an objective thinker, and an independent observer. Every successful leader needs this type of relationship. Dare I say, every organizational should demand it!
That person may be in your company now. They may be a friend. Or they may be an advisor or coach. What is important is that your Spock needs to have your faith and trust, understand the context of your life, and have your back for the foreseeable future. Your Spock should demand the same of you.