Meet the accidental managers of Star Wars
17 January 2020 -
As The Rise of Skywalker brings the saga to a close, we celebrate the many characters that managed to fail upwards
Spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker ahead
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, it was extremely easy to get promoted. The Rebel Alliance progression policy is essentially ‘be in the right place at the right time’. The Empire/First Order certainly gives the illusion of having a clear progression plan for its staff, but the best way to be promoted is essentially the same as the rebels: you just need to stand next to your boss while he’s force-strangled to death for his incompetence (Admirals in the Empire must have dreaded their performance reviews).
With such a wealth of accidental managers in the Star Wars universe, and with The Rise of Skywalker currently celebrating accidental management in cinemas worldwide, let’s take a look at some of the saga’s accidental managers, and where they might be going wrong.
Lovable rogue Han Solo became a general because he shot three ships at the end of a battle he missed. He was a smuggler before that, spending his days sneaking around and looking out for himself.
As a result, he’s a pretty bad manager. His communication skills are pretty poor – he doesn’t listen to peers or subordinates before rushing in head-first. He could really do with developing his strategic management skills as well; he tends to act before he thinks.
(If only he’d read CMI’s article on how to boost his communication skills!)
Rey and Kylo Ren
Both Rey and Kylo (and their predecessors, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader) are proof that raw, natural talent doesn’t mean you’ll be good at management. Both are gifted, sure, but they also react rashly and emotionally when the chips are down. Neither have the experience to know how to respond to tricky situations, and they often leave their colleagues in the lurch while they spend time introspecting.
Star Wars also has an issue with nepotism, as these two demonstrate. Being the son or daughter of a rebel general or a disgraced evil emperor will get you places. (We know how well nepotism works here in our own galaxy, but lucky for you, you can access personal development planning tools on CMI’s Knowledge Bank.)
Obi Wan Kenobi
Obi Wan didn’t ask to mentor anyone, and yet here he is – trying to nurture Anakin Skywalker to become a great leader among the Jedi. But Kenobi’s not really ready for the responsibility when he takes on the task – he’s pretty inexperienced when he’s promoted and handed an apprentice – so he makes a right pig’s ear of it, and creates one of the galaxy’s greatest villains in the process.
Second time around, with a few years under his belt, he does a better job of it when he takes Anakin’s son Luke under his wing. And like all good managers, he knows when the time is right to intentionally lose a lightsaber fight and become a force ghost.
Palpatine is an old-school command and control manager. Perhaps it’s not fair to call him ‘accidental’ as he created the role for himself, but like many enterprising entrepreneurs, having a great idea doesn’t necessarily qualify you to lead.
His poor management skills and lack of self-awareness is evident in his recruitment decisions – he tends to hire people who are too much like him in terms of skills and traits (i.e. evil), which means that his organisation has a real lack of diversity in its thinking, which in turn means that innovation stalls. Why else would they build the same basic superweapon three times, even though it’s already been proved to be extremely prone to blowing up. Even the fleet of Star Destroyers in Rise of Skywalker is basically the same technology in a different shape. No wonder the Empire struggles to maintain its position in the market.
Any of this sounding familiar? If you know, or are, an accidental manager, CMI can help. We have hundreds of checklists and templates to help you upskill and own your new role. Take a look at our KnowledgeBank to find the tools you’ll need.
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