Princess Leia stencil with

A Lesson in Effective Leadership with Star Wars

Here at Lunar, we enjoy nerding out about many things; programming, data, writing, marketing, movies, books, etc. You name it, someone on the Lunar team can (and will) have a nerd-fest over it.

Star Wars is no exception.

We’re not saying Star Wars is the best (okay, we kinda are). Having said that, May the Fourth was this weekend, and in honor of the Star Wars saga, we’re celebrating our favorite General (and technically princess), Leia Organa and taking some pages out of her book on being a leader.

While not everyone could command rebel forces as they fight for freedom of the galaxy, Leia demonstrates that it can be done through inspiration, patience, and of course, her unmitigated wit. From politics to piloting the rebel forces through battle plans, Leia shows us what it means to be a great leader the importance of a strategically-built team.

That being said, the above qualities are not what made Leia into a good general.

Think back to what you’ve read about leaders throughout history, or in stories, or even in your favorite action movies. Each of those people are all united by one common thread. It wasn’t what they did - it was how they did it.

Below are the five key characteristics of what makes a great leader.

1. Anticipation

From her time on the imperial senate with her father, to joining the rebel army to finally leading them, Leia learned the importance of anticipation. Being able to predict the actions of the Galactic Empire, and then the First Order as she worked to bring them to their eventual demise. But it wasn’t just anticipating the actions of her enemies; it was also anticipating how her team would react, and how to plan for those situations.

2. Developing Relationships

We all know the phrase “it’s lonely at the top”. In reality, as a leader (or in this case, a general), developing relationships is one of the biggest parts to becoming an effective leader. The Resistance wouldn’t have the vast amount of support it has if Leia hadn’t utilized her skills as a politician and as a General to form alliances and relationships across the galaxy.

3. Willing to Learn & Trust

This goes hand-in-hand with developing relationships. Being at the top of any cause, you need to know how to trust your team to do the right thing when you’re not there, but you also need to be willing to step back and learn from them as well. This is best demonstrated by the relationship between Leia & the pilot Poe Dameron throughout the series. While Poe has an affinity for reckless actions, Leia knows he’s trying to do the right thing. That’s not to say he doesn’t face consequences later, but his actions help the Resistance when it counts.

4. Taking Risks

Joining the rebel army has its risks, but leading them is a whole other story. As General of the Resistance, Leia has to take many risks to ensure the safety and success of her team. From trusting Poe Dameron as explained above, to bringing on Finn, to allowing Vice Admiral Holdo to sacrifice herself so the Resistance can escape the New Order, but not telling anyone of the plan. Being willing to take risks is another important part of being a leader.

5. Know the “Why”

This is, without a doubt, what makes a true leader, and what made Leia so effective throughout her career from politician to general.

When it boils down to it, followers don’t care what the leader does. They care about Why.

Leia wasn’t leader of the rebel cause because she was a Skywalker. It wasn’t because she (and Luke, and Han) defeated Vader. It wasn’t even because she was working to defeat the New Order.

It was about her constant mission fighting for the freedom of the galaxy.

Think about it. Think about a cause you’re passionate about. Now ask yourself why you’re passionate about it. Is it because of what they’re doing? No. It’s why. It’s the end-goal.

Now, despite the fact that we are not at the helm of The Resistance, you’re still in charge of a team that looks to you for direction. We’re not saying you have to get kidnapped by Darth Vadars and Jabba the Hutts to demonstrate your dedication. In fact we advise against it. But what you can do is look to the likes of Leia Skywalker, or another influential leader the next time you’re looking for ways to be a great leader.
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