8 Leadership & Management Lessons On The Starship Enterprise by Elish Bul-godley

If you are a Star Trek fan, you will know that it’s a franchise borne from Gene Roddenberry’s 1960s vision of an utopian society. It was based on his a coherent set of  idealistic principles the background to which; were the emerging political tensions within American Society during a phase of economic expansion, the Cold war and the Civil Rights movement. It encapsulates a progressive and optimistic take on the future that had great faith in technology.

If you are no fan at all, this article will partly explain why it has such a large fan base and captured the imagination of many. Either way, read on to discover how the principles and tenets behind this episodic scifi franchise present some useful lessons in both leadership and management.

 # 1. “To Boldly Go where No One has Gone Before”

This historic motto best identifies the Star Trek franchise. It encapsulates in one phrase the essence of visionary leadership. It’s no coincidence that the Flagship vessel is named ‘Enterprise” after all, implying an element of  entrepreneurial risk-taking in the drive to expand our knowledge.

  • In business terms,  true leaders develop and expand their businesses by boldly taking educated risks and charting unmarked waters.
  • On a marketing level, its the need to seek out gaps and leave no stone unturned in the search for new opportunities.

Related: Leadership Advice For Groupon’s Beer-Guzzling CEO

# 2. “To Seek New Life and New Civilizations” 

This iconic sentence is uttered during the introductory segment of all Start Trek episodes as its guiding mission. The theme of constant exploration and learning reminds us its worthy exercise to build in continuous learning and exploration into your business practice or corporate culture .

  • A state of open-mindedness and curiosity at all times can form the basis of an adaptable organization primed for constant improvement and innovation.
  • If your organization relies on strong R&D and sensitivity to the changing economic landscape, this should be your mission speak.

# 3. Be Part of the Away Team Sometimes

As the captain of your ship, it’s necessary to be part of your “Away Team” sometimes. In business terms I am talking about your front desk , your shop/factory Floor and also the interface with your customer on the odd sales call.

  • Getting out from behind the desk is an exercise all leaders and managers need to build into their calenders.
  • What better way to both observe the operational challenges first hand and the real time performance of their teams?
  • It is about knowing your business inside out, not losing touch with your core customer, your competencies and of course motivating your staff.

# 4. The Enterprise has a Self Destruct Button

All Trekkie Fans know the Enterprise is more than just a ship , its an idea. The captain is never afraid of pressing a self destruct button because:

  1.  it will be for the greater cause and
  2.  a new Enterprise will soon take its place.

As a leader, know this:

  • The core of your organization is the greater than the sum of its balance sheet, the building it inhabits or the number of people it is composed of .
  • It is an idea , a concept and an ideal that should be easily reinvented and strong enough to undergo a process of creative destruction if necessary, as you chart your way through a changing economic landscape.

Related: 5 Things The Best Boss I Ever Had Taught Me About Being A Great Manager And Leader

# 5. “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”

This tenet of Vulcan philosophy supports the rationale for cross-functional teams apart from its focus on embracing diversity, a central idea in Star Trek ideology. Key lesson: Have adviserswith different worldviews.

  • The diversity of the Enterprise’s crew contributed both varied experiences and versatility to their shared purpose. It demonstrated the usefulness of assembling a team of people with unique skill sets.
  • This focus on job-integrity also allowed for more informed decision-making.  Every time there was a crisis the Captain would assemble his team war room and called for everyone’s views before deciding on the course of action.

This form of leadership values a 360 degree approach in decision-making and the innovative results that can emerge from such a varied crew.

# 6. The Prime Directive

In Star Trek the Prime Directive was a guiding principle that valued non- interference in another society’s development. Here I see a valuable lesson in Personnel Management, whereby HR personnel development models should leave some space for self discovery and an individual pace of learning. Sometimes Leaders should also take heed and remember to leave teams to do their jobs without too much uneccessary interference.

# 7. Red Alert and Battle Stations

Every time there was a crisis, the crew on board the Enterprise knew exactly where their battle stations were on ‘Red Alert’ status.

Does your organization have the same sense of preparedness and well defined job roles found on most military vessels? Have you a plan for worst case scenarios and a clear modus operandi or drill for your team to follow and snap into when you have to move up a gear operationally.

Related: Become A Better Manager: 10 Inspirational Management And Leadership Blogs

# 8. The “Kobayashi Maru Test”

There was a special test in the Starfleet Academy that simulated a no-win situation for aspiring commanders. The key lesson here was to teach future Leaders how to cope and develop the necessary strength of character and discipline required in a losing battle.  It forced future leaders to take full responsibility for their predicament against the odds. Have you had a  Kobayashi Maru Test in your own career and what would you do in a no win-situation?

In Short,  it never hurts to aspire to such an utopian set of ideals even if you know it’s going top be a long time before we get there. I  think the key lesson is to keep trying and the life lessons during our journeys into leadership are the most enjoyable part of anyone’s enterprise big or small.

I hope you had as much fun reading these Trekkie Lessons as I  have had writing about them. Any Star Trek fans  out there with more ideas to add? And for those of you who are not fans, did you find anything of value? Live Long and Prosper!


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