Home » 126 – To Boldly Go with Leadership

126 – To Boldly Go with Leadership

by Jill

I discuss leadership in science fiction, specifically in Star Trek by highlighting the leadership qualities of Captain James T. Kirk, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Benjamin Sisko, and Captain Kathryn Janeway. The author emphasizes the importance of understanding the technology, keeping calm, trusting your team, staying true to your morals, and recognizing the humanity of those around you. I encourage readers to reflect on their favorite Star Trek leader and consider how their leadership skills can be applied in their own lives.



[MUSIC] Have you ever wondered how science fiction can help us be better leaders.

That’s what we’ll talk about today.

[MUSIC] Science fiction frees you to go any place and examine anything.

Octavia E Butler.

Today we’re gonna talk about science fiction and specifically leadership in science fiction.

There’s a book and it’s a good starting point for this conversation, but I think there’s a difference in ideas when it comes to leadership too.

There’s of course military leaders and then there’s leadership that’s outside of the military.

This book was interesting and it’s called “To Boldly Go, Leadership, Strategy, and Conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond.

” It is an anthology of science fiction articles about various leaders and how they reacted to certain things.

And the leadership is either good or bad, it’s evil or not evil.

And instead of doing this book directly, I’m going to talk about my own opinions of it and then take some quotes and some conversations inside this book and the directions they took it.

So it will be loosely based on this book, but not exactly.

I’ve been a fan of science fiction my entire life.

It was the one thing my dad and I always had in common.

He was a science fiction fan with books and with television and movies.

He took me to Star Wars for the first time.

And if you think I talk a lot now, you should have heard me on the drive home from the movie theater.

I don’t think I shut up about that movie for months.

So I love science fiction and I still read it, listen to it, watch it to this day.

The interesting thing about science fiction is it gives us this model of how we can look at things and almost experiment with them in a playground situation.

Almost like The Sims, right.

You set up the situation, you play it out.

In this case with science fiction, we can go anywhere, do anything, set up any scenario we want and play it out and see how it goes.

I know that some people write science fiction because they’re really good science fiction writers.

science fiction writers talk about how they just really enjoy setting up a scenario and playing it out and seeing how it goes.

There are a lot of different people who were science fiction writers who never really intended to be.

They just wanted to see how a scenario worked.

The interesting thing about science fiction also is that we can set up this situation that’s outlandish but still incredibly human.

The science fiction class I took in college, my professor, Fanny, and I’m sorry I can’t remember her last name, she said that at the heart of every science fiction is, “What does it mean to be human.

” It is exploring our humanity.

Fantasy can have technology, it can discuss what it means to be human, and often does, but it’s more centered around a trip instead of being centered around a technology or a situation.

For example, when you watch or read the book The Expanse, you’re dealing with a culture that is broken up apart, it’s no longer at peace with each other.

And then major pieces of technology introduce themselves into the story and then we see how it changes everything.

When it it comes to something like Lord of the Rings, it’s about the journey.

We started here, we have to go to Mount Doom.

And the whole process is in that journey, which is why a lot of people say that Star Trek is science fiction, Star Wars is fantasy, because it was a journey that the people had to go on in order to get the Empire.

Makes sense.

The other thing that’s interesting is that there’s a lot of mainstream science fiction, but there’s a lot of really good science fiction from names you’ve never even heard of.

I think about Kindred.

There was a short-lived TV series about it, unfortunately it just got cancelled, but it was good.

And the book is really good too.

Butler’s books are very hard.

They’re depressing.

But Kindred probably is the most accessible and easy to read and probably I think the more enjoyable one that I have read.

But then there’s other places like Ender’s Game, Battlestar Galactica.

I I mean, I can just list all the science fiction books I’ve loved.

There was a weird series out there called River World, where everyone who’s ever lived on planet Earth wakes up 22 years old on this planet that has a giant river that bisects the planet.

They have a food tube and it spits food and cigarettes and liquid out at them.

They never have to want for anything.

And they start rebuilding societies.

You see Mark Twain hanging out with a Neanderthal and other people that he never would have met in his time frame.

During the pandemic, I started doing some weird things.

I don’t know why, but I decided I was going to start doing these series of things.

So I started with Star Trek and watched every one of the series from beginning to end in chronological order.

So Star Trek Enterprise came first, and then I went through the whole thing.

When I think about the original Star Trek show, I always had this image of Captain Kirk being some, what, a cowboy, someone who goes off and just does what he wants, and someone who really likes to romance the ladies.

But, you know, when watching it again, I found out that he is a lot more thoughtful than I remember him to be.

There was always this image that Picard was always the thoughtful one, and Sisko the diplomatic one, and Janeway the leader who is a force of nature.

And then there’s Captain Kirk and he’s pretty wild.

But it’s not true.

He’s a fantastic leader.

So that’s why I thought this would be a great topic to talk about, leadership in science fiction.

Much like the culture series I did earlier last year, this will be kind of an ongoing series.

We won’t do them in order.

I’ll do them here and there, sprinkled throughout.

Not everyone loves science fiction, and so I understand that.

I noticed that when you look on the internet You even asked chat GPT about who makes awesome leaders in science fiction.

People bring up people who are like Yoda.

I think he was a great teacher, but was he a great leader.

I know that there were parts where he was General Yoda.

We never really see that.

But living in a cave in the middle of nowhere doesn’t really make you a leader.

It makes you someone who’s kind of hiding a bit.

Same thing with Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Great teacher, mentor.

was a general but eventually he goes lose on a desert planet by himself.

Not great leadership but there are some fantastic leaders in Star Wars 2.

Today what we’re going to talk about is Star Trek.

We’ll start off there I think that’s the one many people have seen and have some familiarity with it.

When we talk about leadership and Star Trek the first thought that comes to mind again is Captain James T.


He’s our first captain we got to meet him.

You might not know this but back in the day when Star Trek first came out it was owned by Desilu Productions.

That was Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

They bought RKO Studios and they produced Star Trek.

When it comes to Captain Kirk, one of the best things about him is that first of all he’s charismatic.

You like him.

He’s a nice guy and he has fun with his staff.

He tells good jokes.

He pokes fun at his people a few times.

He is really an interesting kind of leader.

The thing that makes him so interesting about him is the fact that first of all he knows his stuff.

He knows that ship backward and forward.

Not only that, he knows how the other ships work.

He is well versed in Starfleet commands.

He’s not a cowboy.

He follows the rules.

He goes by the rules and he just comes up with interesting quick-thinking ways that he can go about it.

He also likes to get punch to got you always notice that the shoulder in his shirt rips off quite often and he often loses his shirt quite a few times I’m not sure what it has to do with that but I thought that was kind of interesting how often the costume group in Star Trek productions probably had to give him that ripped shoulder shirt but he always thought of a way out when he was taken prisoner when he had to fight the Romulans.

It was very touchy.

There was a very tight, easily broken treaty in there with the Romulans.

And so he had to edge around that very carefully.

He was so creative and that’s what made him so interesting.

When he came up against robots, how did he get away from it.

He created logic problems so that the robots couldn’t think their way out of it and it eventually conked out because they couldn’t process what he was saying.

He had such a sharp mind.

And so that’s what I really appreciated was all the different ways that he was creative with it.

And even when you look at people that you would think would make great leaders, like Spock, would Spock make a great starship captain.

He had that opportunity to take command of the ship and almost got everyone killed because he was by the book.

Not that Kirk wasn’t, but he wasn’t creative about by the book.

It was strictly by the book.

He followed all the rule sets.

He processed everything logically, but what he didn’t realize is that his enemies often didn’t process things logically.

They were illogical.

And because he didn’t understand people the way Kirk does, he understood the ship and the technology better than anybody, the science better than anyone, but he did not make as good of a captain.

So I appreciated Kirk all over again just by watching the series again.

And when we had the episode “Mirror, Mirror,” which came out in October 6 of 1967, we got to see a different thing.

The interesting thing about alternate universe science fiction is it’s about taking the people we know and putting them into a situation that is completely unknown.

All their expectations go away.

They couldn’t count on their crew.

They couldn’t count on Federation because everything was broken.

In the Mirror Universe, most people who were evil were the opposites of what they were.

So in that particular episode, Spock and Kirk and some others were transferred into this Mirror Universe where the Federation was evil.

Kirk was an evil overlord who killed his enemies without thought.

And Spock was kind of mostly Spock with a beard, but he was methodical with an evil bent to him, but not quite the same way Kirk was.

Kirk had to go into what was called the Terran Empire and then take on those attributes of the other Kirk, who had no morals, was driven by power and lust for life and money and things.

He was an evil character.

He had to figure out how, in this framework of being evil, how could he get back to his own universe.

But at the same time, not becoming so evil, not killing so many people, that he loses who he is.

And so that was a really amazing episode because it showed us what another James Kirk would look like.

It showed us what Kirk in another situation would look like.

It gave us the “what if” kind of scenario, which is like a science fiction inside a science fiction.

he was able, with his charisma, his quick thinking, to figure a way out and to figure a way of getting back to his normal universe.

So then Kirk asks him when he does get back to his own universe, “Hey, how did you know that that wasn’t me.

” And the quote was, “What I don’t understand is how were you able to identify our counterparts so quickly.

” And Spock says back to him, “It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians.

than it was for the barbarians to behave like civilized men.

And he adds, “May I point out that I had the opportunity to observe your counterparts here quite closely.

They were brutal, savage, unprincipled, uncivilized, treacherous, in every way splendid examples of Homo sapiens, with the very flower of humanity.

” I found them quite refreshing.

Well, there’s Spock.

And the thing is, if you do watch the old Star Trek, there is a lot of humor in there.

Spock is not as straight-laced and serious as I remember him being either.

So Captain Kirk, what a great leader.

And of course, when we talk about Captain Kirk, we have to talk about the wrath of Khan and the TV series with the Khan episode in it.

Khan was Ricardo Montalban and he was this genetically engineered human being to be a superhuman being.

Very smart, very strong, and very capable.

And he had a team of people who were also genetically modified like him.

But because this genetic modification was a mistake, they were put into sustained sleeping and sent out to space.

The episode of Star Trek was called “Space Seed.

” The Enterprise comes across these sleeping genetic mutation people and thaws them out.

They quickly take over the situation and Kirk has to defeat him.

When we see in the movie Ratha Kahn, which came out, you know, 20 years later, they find Kahn again, who was sent to a planet that was supposed to be nice and it turned out the planet got destroyed by another planet exploding.

And now Kahn is even more maniacal.

He lost his wife and he looks to get vengeance against Kirk.

But Khan, while being a good leader technically, is a fascist, is crushing everyone, puts everyone down, and his anger and rage just causes him to make bad decisions.

When the Enterprise went into a nebula to get away from Khan, Khan went after him, even though there would be no type of tracking that could be done inside the nebula, and eventually Kirk got an advantage over him.

And even before that, Kirk knew all the ships very well and so when he was able to fight Khan one-on-one, he knew the commands, he knew how that ship operated, and he was able to take control and drop the shields of Khan’s ship.

Because Khan never spent any time learning about his ship, he doesn’t really know strategy, he doesn’t really know how things work or military training officially.

He just knows book and he just is a smart guy.

Kirk was able because he kept his cool, kept his knowledge for him and worked as a team with his bridge crew.

He was able to get to him and beat Khan.

But then when we think of leaders again, the next leader we think of is Captain Picard.

And of course, Picard is a really great leader.

For a long time, he was just one of my favorite captains.

I loved Star Trek The Next Generation.

The warmth among the crew was just amazing.

It took some time to gel, the first ones were kind of weird and silly, but it really built into a family feel to it.

I appreciated the way that Picard was thoughtful, calm, always said the right thing, he knew how to work with other people, and what my dad always said about him was that he knew how to rely on the opinions of other people, which was one of the most important things any leader could do.

You need a team.

You need to be able to trust the people around you and have them trust you as well.

When we see Picard get captured by the Borg and be a part of the hive for a while, then was removed from the Borg.

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it essentially is like think of a colony of ants, all thinking and ordering the same way based on what the queen wants.

No thought, no original ideas, just everything coming from a centralized location.

When Picard is removed from that and cured of the Borg pieces that were brought into him, it made him question himself.

It made him question his own humanity And his hate of the Borg collective just came through every once in a while.

He could be calm, cool, collected, diplomatic in almost every situation.

But when it came to the Borg, it made him lose that.

And so it was that ability to overcome and figure out who he still was, even in the face of the Borg, it made him a more flawed leader, but a better leader in so many ways.

He only saw himself as someone who was damaged, but instead he was able to do it.

He even had holodeck experiences where he tried to confront the Borg and confront who he was in the Borg, which was the name Locutus.

And it was even weirder because when he was part of the Borg, he learned what they were made of.

He heard their thought.

They heard his thoughts too.

So now it is an enemy who knows us all too well.

Eventually, we get two Borgs on the Enterprise.

One is called Seven of Nine, who was also rescued from the Borg.

And no one trusted her.

What if she goes back.

What if she’s just kidding.

Or what if whatever it is that made her a Borg takes over again.

So, because Picard had that opportunity to become part of the Borg Collective, we had a chance to see what he would do in those situations.

We have Benjamin Sisko who was on Deep Space Nine, which was a community which was on the edge of a war pole and it was an international community of different races, of different types of people and warring factions.

And so Benjamin Sisko was a great leader because he was diplomatic.

He was a funny guy, he was a warm guy, he had a son and was a great father, but he was able to try to bridge those battles between various fighting groups.

Another one that I really liked was Captain Janeway.

She was the first female captain in Star Trek.

And what happened on the USS Voyager is they were out flying around And they get thrown so many light years away that it was gonna take a long time to get back.

But they were dedicated to finding their way back to Earth so they could be with their families, their friends again.

And she did everything to keep scary situation, something where people would probably die and maybe never get home.

She kept them together, she kept their spirits up, and she was able to get people who were in a dire situation every day to stick together and work on this challenge, and they eventually did get back.

She also had a good sense of humor.

I noticed that about all the Star Trek captains.

All had pretty good senses of humor, but she was no nonsense.

I know she was afraid too, and you could tell that there were places where she questioned her leadership, but she knew the mental game of this, and so she was able to stick to her guns and win the day.

Someone joked about if you added up all the people who actually died on the USS Voyager, it had to be more people than actually ever shipped out.

But it’s a TV show, so that’s okay.

And this book brought up some other interesting episodes that talked about leadership inside a Star Trek.

This one article was called “The Dark Side of Leadership” by Steven Leonard, and it talked a lot about the original Star Trek, “Who Mourns for Adonis,” where Kirk and the team run into Apollo, who turns out to be an alien and went all over the different planets.

And this guy wanted ultimate control and worshippers.

And the way Kirk dealt with him was to make him angry.

It was outside the box again.

So in summary, what did we learn about leadership from Star Trek.

Is first of all, understand your technology.

Whatever tools you have available to you, if you can understand what they can do, it will make your leadership and your situation so much better.

Second thing is, keep calm and keep your leadership tactics strong.

Don’t break out of what it is you know you should do, and don’t start relying on emotion, anger, fear, but stick to what you know and keep acting.

Keep getting your way out of it.

Third thing is, make sure that not only do you trust your team to give you good advice, Kirk relied on Spock and McCoy and his entire team, and he listened to anyone who had an opinion to give him.

But the reverse side of it is everyone trusted Kirk as well.

They knew that he had their lives in his hands, and because of his proven track record, he was able to win their trust too.

The fourth advice.

Don’t break away from what makes you you.

Your morals, your core, your being.

Whether it was Picard in fighting the Borg, whether it was Captain Kirk in fighting in Mirror Mirror, or even Janeway, who was in an entire different area of the galaxy, they kept to their leadership skills and who they were, their moral center, the Federation rules, because that’s what made them human, that’s what made them good leaders, and those principles carried them as a backbone to their actions.

And I would say the last thing is to make sure that you understand that people are human.

Your crew is human and the people around you are human.

And so that means jokes, fun times, holodeck trips, times to get away on planets and have shore leave.

People, no matter who they are, whether they’re now or in the future, need some entertainment.

All right, so my challenge to you is think about your favorite leader on Star Trek.

What principles, values, actions, and leadership skills do they have that could be a part of your life.

If it’s Picard that’s your favorite, what do you appreciate about the ways he acts.

If it’s Kirk, how do you take his charisma and leadership and make him a part of your daily decisions or working with a team of people.

Alright everyone, thanks so much.

I hope you enjoyed this.

It’s a little bit different than what we usually do.

But if you have any questions, comments, you can find me on Twitter.

You can also get my email and email me directly if you send me an email and answer any questions or whatever comments you may have about who your favorite Star Trek leader is.

And remember that going boldly where no man has gone before starts with small steps.

(upbeat music) you [BLANK_AUDIO].

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