Home » 138 – Bickering Leaders of Star Wars

138 – Bickering Leaders of Star Wars

by Jill

The episode offers an analysis of leadership in the Star Wars franchise while providing valuable insights into effective leadership in real life. I explore the topic of leadership in the Star Wars franchise. I analyze the different leadership styles of various characters and focus on Princess Leia’s approach to leadership, which is caring, wise, and proactive. 

I emphasize the importance of empathy, collaboration, communication, and understanding different perspectives in effective leadership. I encourage listeners to learn from the mistakes and successes of the leaders in Star Wars to become better leaders in their own lives. 



Have you ever wondered about the leadership in Star Wars? Come on, I know you have. That’s what we’ll talk about today.


Who’s more the fool? The fool or the fool who follows him? Obi-Wan Kenobi. Okay, that right there is just one of my favorite quotes. But a good lesson in leadership, don’t follow fools.

Today we’re going to continue our conversation about leaders in science fiction, primarily because I’m a gigantic nerd and I love science fiction. Star Wars has such a fantastic collection of leaders. And I think the thing that makes Star Wars so interesting, maybe even compared to Star Trek, is that the leaders conflict each other. We will see in Star Trek a lot of the leaders kind of talk and discuss about the best way to go through things but in Star Wars you see people who are outright battling each other who are all on the same side and you’ll see different methods out there about how they led some you may even wonder who were they leaders at all?

I’m gonna start with my favorite leader who is Princess Leia. I love Princess Leia. I had a name that my grandmother called me, which was Leia, which I didn’t like. But as soon as Princess Leia came out, I was all in favor of this name. It became my new favorite name. I wish I could figure out a way that I could have gotten other people to call me that. But I loved everything about Princess Leia. So I was a big fan.

I just thought she just was such a good leader. She was a good listener. A friend of mine sent me a joke today about how she lost her entire planet. But a hour later, she was helping Luke because Luke lost his martial arts mentor who he barely knew. That’s Princess Leia. She loses everybody, but she still has room for everyone in her heart. And even Han Solo, who was rogue, that’s what made him so cute, but she was able to take his energy and divert it into a new location, either through inspiring him, now, he was never inspired, Luke was inspired, but by telling him and appealing to the core of his being, which happened to be greed, she was able to do that and reach him in ways that other people were not able to do that.

What I liked about her is she was caring. She was kind. She was smart. She was wise. And she was able to see things in people. I mean, honestly, when I saw “Star Wars” for the first time, I thought, “Just let Han Solo go. You don’t know what he’s going to do next. At least Luke tries real hard to do the right thing. He wants to do the right thing.” But she saw something in him. She saw strength. She saw something that the rebellion needed and she knew how again, like I said to channel that in.

But even throughout the course of the shows herself she grew. She started out as that rebel leader who was sending secret messages back and forth and got captured by the empire because of her diplomatic status being used for the purposes of the rebellion. Later on, she became a tactical leader, a training leader. She brought up leadership within her ranks who had skills and talents. She was able to inspire people to be better people. And while other people were being reactive, she was being proactive. She was thinking ahead. And she didn’t wait for other people’s approval. She didn’t wait for Han Solo to approve her plans. She just grabbed the gun and did what she needed to do, even in her own rescue. She took charge of that too.

But later on in other stories with Star Wars, we also find that she looked at other people too, like Poe Dameron, who other people within the Rebellion didn’t want to give him a chance. He was a hothead. He was also another Han Solo, fly by the seat of the pants kind of person. But she saw something in him that made it better. She believed in the Force. She used the force in different ways than Luke Skywalker did because she got her force powers from her father, who ended up also being Darth Vader. Luke went off kilter when they found out. When she found out, I’m not sure if we know what she did, but she was able then to keep that leadership.

We talked early on about this book and where I used a lot of these ideas to boldly go leadership, strategy, and conflict in the 21st Century and Beyond, edited by Jonathan Klug and Steven Leonard. And part of this book is just talking about various science fiction stories. And it’s a compilation with different authors talking about different topics. Many of the authors in this book are military leaders or West Point leaders. And when they talked about Princess Leia, there was an article by Heather S. Gregg talking about the metis, which is the opposite of fighting, brute force, overwhelming power. She had the strategic thinking. She thought about a plan. This word that metis, you know, relates to Athena in the Greek mythologies where she thought things out. And if you ever saw the story of Perseus, it was Athena that gave him the tactical advantage, knowledge to succeed. She also did that with Odysseus. She is the one who brings in the thinking parts of it. But Princess Leia never took a backseat to anybody. She got the rebel spies the plan to the Death Star, which allowed them to blow it up. She was able to get the fleet to escape when they were trying to get there. She built the rebellion forces and kept telling people we need to bring more people in. But when Ray asked Princess Leia, how do we build a rebellion from this? Leia says we have everything we need. She saw everything that she had and instead of having a brute force attack, using that intricate thinking, that wiliness that people talk about when they talk about Athena, and craft an idea that could actually work. The rebellion in every story of Star Wars was small, under-resourced, didn’t have what they need, didn’t have the power they need. They were always trying to do something and she was able to maximize what they used. And she was able to maximize the people, the resources, even though they didn’t have much. And even when Poe Dameron comes along in the last round of movies. Admiral Holdo hated him. She wanted him off the ship. She didn’t want to do anything with him. He was brash. Like I said, he was cocky. He was that fly by the seat of the pants on pilot and he doesn’t like leadership. He won’t shut up. He won’t stop giving his own ideas. And she eventually just said, get him off my ship. But they needed in the end Poe Dameron to help them with his luck, with his looking at the moment and seeing the thing that needs to happen. And so it was Princess Leia who brought him back into the fold because we knew how important Poe Dameron was going to be, Rey was going to be to the future. Like I said, Han Solo and Poe Dameron seem like similar characters to me, both very independent, not liking orders, not taking orders from anybody and he just was both of them were their own people. But sometimes you need that wild card. You need that out of the box thinking and I think it’s a good leader who recognizes that.

Many different talents and many different kinds of people make for a great team. It’s one of the things I’ve always admired about my company. I’ve been in other companies where the owner of the company was a hammer and everyone looked like a nail. She didn’t see strengths and weaknesses. She didn’t see people’s talents and ability. All she saw was who can I hammer on the head? But when you can work at a company a little bit like the rebellion where they look for your strengths and weaknesses and things that you could be great at, it makes you feel good and it makes you a part of whatever it is you’re doing.

We can even take a look at Padme Amidala. That’s going to be the mother of Luke and Leia. But that’s where we can see that Leia got her strength from. She was a teenage girl who ruled an entire planet, but she was fair. She was part of the voting republic and she had that ability to see crucial moments. She also had the ability to fall in love with really terrible men like Darth Vader. I remember when they were talking about creating the clone army and this is what’s funny in my brain what it said is this is how a republic dies with thunderous applause. And when I looked up the quote, it actually says this is how Liberty dies with thunderous applause. She was able to see those crucial moments and know that something important was about to happen and then look to see what needed to be done next. So you can see where Princess Leia got her strength from right there.

Luke was a different character. I think he was still a very good leader, but he did it more in styles of being trained although he left his training. He trained other people after the stories of Star Wars. He used his force to be able to negotiate, deal with situations and even though I think Leia was better at negotiation than he was he still had that leadership of compassion, that leadership of trying to do the right thing. It’s so funny sometimes when you see a whole world where people are not doing the right thing that when someone is earnest and someone just wants to do what’s right, how much of a difference it makes to have that done at any moment? He could have fallen away. He could have joined Darth Vader. He could have let his anger get the best of him, his sadness over Obi-Wan Kenobi, his horror at finding out that his father was Darth Vader, finding out that Obi-Wan Kenobi lied to him. It could have crushed him but Luke continued to be a good man and a good leader in his own right.

Then there were some very bad leaders obviously in Star Wars. There’s Grand Moff Tarkin who showed no mercy. He was good with strategy – he ruled with an iron fist. Everything he looked at was through this lens of cruelty. He was a tyrant. And so even though he was smart and his leadership came in through people being so frightened of him they could do nothing but the very things he said. Eventually that doesn’t work and what Princess Leia said, you know the tighter you squeeze these planets the more will slip through your fingers. She knew that all his cruelty could only last for so long. Darth Vader – we find that he ended up being conflicted, you know throughout the entire Star Wars movie. He was this force of evil. He looked very directed but at the very point of his death and at the very point when he became evil at the death of his mother, we see him falter, we see him questioning himself and that was the good part of him. He ended up doing good things when he questioned himself. But when he stopped allowing those questions when he stopped thinking about anything but power that’s when he became cruel. He killed the Padawans, the young Jedi’s and he started his terror among everybody and trying to kill Obi-Wan Kenobi. We even think about the Emperor – he led through fear and intimidation. You could see in all the various characters that he came in contact everyone from Rey to Luke he tried to scare them intimidate them make them feel like he was all-powerful and there was no escaping him. That is not really a good form of leadership. It doesn’t inspire anyone. It in the end makes it so that he loses everybody and that’s what eventually happens.

So my challenge to you is think of one character from Star Wars who best represents the kind of leader you would like to be and don’t pick the bad guys. And if you’ve never seen Star Wars, and so you don’t know even know what I’m talking about, now’s the time to go watch Star Wars. You can decide if you want to watch it in chronological order based on the timeline inside the movies or in chronological order based on when the movies were released to theaters. I’ll let you decide that. But what’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you seen Star Wars yet? But think of one of the pieces of leadership and how can that person help you be a better leader, do more bold things, and make your own rebellions in your life work better.

All right, everyone. Thanks so much. I appreciate you listening to the podcast. Please remember to tell a friend, leave a review, trying to grow the podcast. And it’s pretty hard to do that when you have a podcast that doesn’t have guests on it. Believe it or not, the whole idea of promoting your podcast is going on each other’s shows. It makes it very difficult to promote the podcast. So anything you could do to help out, I’d appreciate it. And just remember, the walk towards the new republic starts with small steps.

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