Leadership Lesson from Captain Picard
Picard who? Before I introduce him let me first tell you that most leadership case studies use examples of real people like Churchill, Lincoln, Steve Jobs, Peter Drucker, etc. As you are aware, tons of articles and books have been written on these people’s leadership styles along with case studies. But very rarely will you see leadership examples of fictional characters from a TV series.
Picard is one such fictional character from the popular TV series – Star Trek – The Next Generation. He is the captain of the spaceship, The USS Enterprise. As soon as the words Star Trek is mentioned most people only imagine aliens, interplanetary travel, great spaceships with fantastic technology, quirky acting by some characters, and so on. Very rarely will viewers observe or scrutinize the leadership styles of the characters in a TV series. But Star Trek - The Next Generation is a rare TV series. In addition to the usual aliens and space technology, nearly 50% of each episode is about examples of management and leadership demonstrated by Picard and his direct reports.
There is a wealth of leadership knowledge that you can gain from this series, not only from the captain but all the characters in the show. By studying his (and his team's) leadership style you also implement them in your own life or workplace. But in this article, I will describe only the leadership of the Captain, known as Jean Luc Picard, who is the head of the starship USS enterprise. Let us start.
Picard’s Leadership Skills
Picard is a firm and decisive leader who can successfully manage and lead a diverse set of humans and non-humans employed on his spaceship who vary widely in culture and behaviors. This can be compared to a lighter version of a business leader managing citizens of different nationalities on our planet who have different cultures, languages, customs, and behaviors. Though he can be stubborn sometimes, he won't hesitate to immediately switch off his stubbornness if he realizes his idea is wrong. Though he always appears tough and non-jovial, he is also a kind person and even exhibits a childlike innocence when required.
He varies his leadership intensity and tone of his voice depending on whom he is dealing with. For example, he will give a tough order to one of his team members to do an activity, and at the same time kindly request another member for some other activity. This is because he knows that one size or one tone doesn’t fit all his diverse team members.
He rarely hesitates to ask for help from anyone, including teenagers and young children, if necessary as shown in some episodes. All important decisions are taken only after discussing and debating with his team members.
He is fond of classical music and an avid reader of history and literature. Whenever he is faced with a difficult situation he tries to use examples of history or great quotes from historical figures to see if they can be applied to the current situation.
He doesn’t hesitate to throw his own ideas out of the window if there is a better suggestion from anyone. This means he doesn’t believe that he alone has the best ideas just because he has the topmost title.
Though he appears firm he does not insult or scold anyone openly for any mistakes. Even private rebukes are non-threatening or hostile. This makes him an approachable manager whose doors can be knocked on at any time by anyone.
Managing a gigantic spaceship is a complicated and dangerous task. So, he expects his team members to keep him apprised of every small issue, technical or non-technical, that may pose a threat to the ship or its crew later. He does not care if it's bad news and does not shoot the messenger.
He documents all minor to major activities and decisions taken on the spaceship. This information is constantly relayed to his superiors for them to know what's happening and it can also be used to analyze or solve some future problem.
Though he can be impatient during an emergency, he also has the skill to be extraordinarily patient if there is a necessity or there is no immediate solution at hand. Though he is a team player he also isolates himself in his room to do some quiet thinking for any tough decisions required. He also does not hesitate to take the entire blame on himself for any injury, loss of life, or damage to some equipment due to his wrong decisions. This means he does not look for a scapegoat to blame and escape.
He keeps a formal distance from the team and is not too chummy with anyone. This means he does not go out for a drink with them, indulge in idle chat or wild parties, get drunk, smoke, talk dirty, or put arms around his team members’ shoulders, etc. This ensures that his team members respect the hierarchy and don’t assume he is their beer pal who can be taken for granted.
Picard is ethical, honest, and can be trusted. He does not betray anyone or stab them in the back to get ahead. He does not hesitate to put his career on the line if he believes he is doing the right thing. He also has the ability to empathize and understand the people he works with.
He is a hands-on leader and does not do leadership at a high level or just via status reports. He also knows how to operate most of the features of the ship, and even the weapons, except for complicated engineering aspects where he accepts the suggestions of his engineering team. This means he gets involved to assist his team and also participates in dangerous missions with weapons if necessary.
He refuses to do the wrong thing even though that is the easiest to do in that situation. This means he sometimes refuses to do what his high command orders him to do if he believes it’s wrong, unethical, or criminal. He does not hesitate to take on or argue with the starship's top management to protect some person who has been wronged or unfairly targeted.
To summarize, Picard is an example of an ideal leader whose leadership has plenty of takeaways that you can implement in your own personal or corporate life.
Some Quotes on Leadership
A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way - John C. Maxwell
Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm - Publilius Syrus
When I give a minister an order, I leave it to him to find the means to carry it out - Napoleon Bonaparte
A good general not only sees the way to victory; he also knows when victory is impossible - Polybius
In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock - Thomas Jefferson
Leadership is not just about giving energy… it’s unleashing other people’s energy - Paul Polman
He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander —Aristotle
The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly - Jim Rohn
Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position - Brian Tracy
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~ 🤵 About the Author — Thejendra Sreenivas was a Technology Manager in the IT industry for nearly 30 years. He is now an Author and Book Publishing Coach and helps authors to Self-Publish their books Worldwide on Amazon and Non-Amazon retailers. He has written 30+ books on various topics. Visit his online cave — www.thejendra.com for more details.
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