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Yes, Star Trek Into Darkness Holds a Key Leadership Truth

EnterpriseEven if you think you hate Star Trek, or skipped the new movies out of reverence for the original cast, stay with me. Captain James Tiberius Kirk is a perfect illustration of how our greatest strengths — those assets fundamental to our leadership success — can also be our biggest nemesis. (And if you haven’t seen Star Trek Into Darkness, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers).

The movie kicks off with Kirk breaking the Prime Directive (that pesky rule stating that Starfleet personnel must never interfere with other societies or planets). Jim does so, though, to save an entire civilization. Reasonable, right? Kirk excels at reading situations and people, weighing risks, sifting through possible consequences, and acting.

But then Kirk falls into the trap we all are susceptible to — we make up our minds without conscious reasoning and then justify our reasoning after the fact. He lies about their actions in the report he submits to Starlet. And Spock doesn’t. They get hauled on the carpet in front of Kirk’s mentor, Admiral Pike. Kirk gives a million reasons as to why his actions were right.

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Who Are You Leading?

mudholeI once saw a great leader, a camp counselor, up in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Canoe on shoulders, pack on back, she’d just stepped knee-deep in a portage mud hole. No cries of “Yech” or “Why are we doing this?” Nothing but an cheery call to her campers, “Hey, it’s softer on the left side than it looks, so try the right. I’ll be back to help in a minute.”

Optimism, perseverance, trust that the 13-year-olds she led could keep moving through the mud without her at their side, and a spark of enjoyment through it all–she was modeling all of those as a leader.

But to model those kinds of priorities, one has to be intentional. and be aware that others are watching.

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