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‘The Rise of Skywalker’: 4 Leadership Tips

May the force be with you at your next board meeting

After 42 years and nine movies, the Star Wars Skywalker saga is now in the history books. And like its eight predecessors, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker held true to the Star Wars tradition of lifting up unlikely leaders while watching the most forceful beings in the galaxy fall from power. In between the space battles and lightsaber duels we found plenty of examples of how to be—and how not to be—a good leader.

Here are some Star Wars-flavored leadership tips to consider the next time you’re commanding an X-wing fleet in battle…or just battling at the next board meeting.

Ahoy: Thar be spoilers ahead!

Tip #1: Don’t foster rivalries

General Hux: “I don’t care if you win. I need Kylo Ren to lose.”

As we learned way back in ‘The Force Awakens,” supreme leader Snoke (and later his puppeteer, Emperor Palpatine) was, to put it mildly, not a very kind manager. His militaristic top-down leadership approach created an unhealthy competition between his two ambitious seconds-in-command, Kylo Ren and General Hux, who were constantly undercutting each other to win his favor. After Snoke disappears and Kylo Ren becomes Supreme Leader of the First Order, Hux looks to sabotage his old rival (who, in his opinion, just got an unfair promotion) by becoming a Resistance spy to weaken his authority and make sure he fails.

The lesson:

A recent study in the journal Human Resource Management showed that performance evaluations based on peer comparison often encourage unethical behavior among employees.

One of the advantages small businesses have is they can implement HR changes faster than enterprise companies can. If you force rank your employees and base their bonuses off of where they fall on a bell curve you’re diminishing their team cohesiveness. Consider changing your review process, and soon.

Tip #2: Be honest in your 1:1s

Rey: “I didn’t finish the training course. I got distracted. I’m just not feeling myself. I know it looks like I’m making excuses.”

Leia Organa: “Don’t tell me what things look like. Tell me what they are.”

Leia is one of the best mentors and leaders in Star Wars. At the start of the movie we see that she’s taken over Rey’s Jedi training; later we discover that she was trained as a Jedi herself decades earlier. Rey gives her an update on her latest training session, but her report gets clouded with her own frustration at failing; Leia drops some essential advice on her protégé to clear her head.

The lesson:

As a manager, you’re working with people, not robots, whose status reports may not be entirely accurate if they experienced a setback. It’s human nature. It’s important to be aware of this and acknowledge their frustrations while encouraging them to give an honest assessment of what went wrong, then help them develop a plan of action. And if you’re the one who experienced a setback, it’s essential that you’re honest about it to your reports as well.

Tip #3: Look forward and backward.

Poe Dameron: “Babu, can you make him translate it?”

[Zorii translates for Babu]

Zorii Bliss: “Yes, but it will cause a complete…”

C-3PO: “A complete I wipe.”

Poe Dameron: “Wait, wait, wait. If we make him translate it, he won’t remember anything?”

Babu Frik: “Droid, the memory go blank. Blank like.”

C-3PO: “Oh, there must be some other way!”

Finn: “Doesn’t R2 backup your memory?”

C-3PO: “Oh, please, R2’s storage units are famously unreliable.”

Despite having the ability to blow up entire planets, the Star Wars universe stores their data in not-always-reliable data tapes. And while Leia was busy mentoring Rey, she overlooked the data management of poor C-3PO, who had to wipe out all his data (and all his happy memories with his friends) in order to translate a Sith dagger and save the day. In the end, R2 was able to restore many of C-3PO’s older memories, but his most recent ones were lost forever.

The lesson:

It’s easy to want to focus on the exciting new technology your business is working on and lapse on backing up critical data for too long. (R2-D2 didn’t do it for two movies!) If you aren’t backing up your data on reliable media or in the cloud, and doing it on a scheduled basis, it’s time to reevaluate your backup process now. (HP can help.) Likewise, it’s also important to do this from a personnel perspective: While it’s easy to focus on what an exciting new hire will bring to the team, it’s also key to check in on your long-term employees to ensure they’re always positioned to succeed.

Tip #4: Embrace your team.

Rey: “I need to go alone.”

Finn: “Yeah, alone with friends.”

Lando Calrissian: “We had each other. That’s how we won.”

Rey was ready to head off to Exegol, the Sith homeworld, by herself—she feared for her friends’ safety, and she decided her ever-growing Jedi powers would be enough to go it alone. But her friends Finn, Poe, C-3PO, and BB-8 understood the importance of teamwork and insisted they would accompany her. Despite all its focus on lone-wolf Jedis, the biggest successes in the Star Wars universe were achieved through teamwork, as Lando recalled later in the film.

The lesson:

When you build a strong, loyal team, they want to have your back—whether they’re following you into battle against a Sith Emperor or just launching a new app. Acknowledge, accept and appreciate their support. A business success that every member of your team can feel ownership in encourages camaraderie and lays the path for a strong, cross-functioning team in the future.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be annoying on Slack.

Kylo Ren: “You can’t hide, Rey. Not from me.”

Kylo Ren spent two movies taking advantage of his Force-bond with Rey a little too much. Granted, they were usually on opposite sides of the playing field, but c’mon, take a hint and stop interrupting her at the worst times!

The lesson:

Try to respect your team’s “do not disturb” messages if you can; interruptions and distractions are a major cause of decreased productivity. You never know: They might be busy saving the galaxy.

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