Rick Lash is the national director of the leadership and talent practice for Hay Group in Canada and co-leader of the annual Hay Group Best Companies for Leadership study.
Dear Darth, I know it’s been a while – more than 30 years since your untimely death. I remember the first time I met you at the University Theatre on Bloor Street in Toronto. I knew less then about the world and what makes for a great leader, but you made a huge impression.
I had a soft spot for you – yes, you were evil and cruel, but I always suspected there were other qualities in you that could have made you a truly great leader and made the Republic a force of good in the universe, had you not succumbed to the dark side of the Force.
Now, with a new generation of rebel fighters and the remnants of the Republic about to do battle once again in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’d like to offer some tips on what you could have done differently, and just maybe help other leaders to avoid the way of the Republic and make the universe a better place for all of us.
You know better than anyone how the dark side can suck you in. I now know that you succumbed to your need for personal power – seeing yourself as the supreme leader, looking at all your interactions as “I win, you lose,” and not being able to stop yourself from acting on impulse.
Sure, that can all feel really satisfying in the short run – just ask Donald Trump. But over the long run, you really should have tapped into your socialized power – helping others to feel stronger and more capable and yes, sometimes sacrificing your own needs for the greater good. (Your estranged son Luke did this in spades.) Sure, we all know personal power corrupts absolutely. But we often don’t know it’s twisted us until it’s too late.
Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker are back in The Force Awakens and they have wise counsel for a new generation of rebel fighters. They’re older and wiser and still deeply committed to their cause, but perhaps more realistic than idealistic. They’re not as wrapped up in their own achievement and constant striving as they once were, and may now be more committed to nurturing and guiding younger people. But we hope they have not forgotten where they came from and why they chose to fight.
Darth, you needed to stop crushing the very people who are trying to support you – just look what happened to Stephen Harper. Being controlling all the time is a sure-fire way to erode people’s confidence and their ability to engage others. You really needed to learn how to listen and make people feel their ideas were valued, rather than just sucking the Force out of them when you didn’t like what they said.
Remember Admiral Ackbar, the alien commander who looked like a giant talking carp and led the attack on your partly completed Death Star in Return of the Jedi? The Rebel Alliance saw his potential early in his career – his empathy, his ability to engage others around a common cause and his quietly charismatic way of exuding hope when all seemed lost. You tended to overlook these leadership qualities in others and promoted only those who got things done for you. It was a big miss, Darth, and I suspect your current crop of Republic leaders aren’t much different.
In conclusion, Darth, you would have really benefited from changing your mindset about what it means to be a leader. Not only were you solely driven to satisfy your own personal power at the expense of the greater good, but you never really understood that leadership is much more than just execution (no pun intended).
I’ve come to learn that the role of a leader is to see the whole enterprise and that leaders have a critical role to play in shaping the purpose of an organization, fundamentally transforming it to do great things. Just my thoughts, Darth – may the Force be with you, wherever you are.Report Typo/Error