Five leadership lessons from James Tiberius Kirk

Two of my very good friends, Alex Rister, and Christin Upshaw, shared this article with me today. Alex Knapp is officially my new favorite person, and the only proper homage I can pay him (apart from making an amazing batch of salted caramel Nutella brownies in his honor, is to visualize the five lessons paired with my five favorite take aways from this article on my second favorite starship captain, James T. Kirk (yes, I love Picard more. I can’t help it. It’s generational.).

Never Stop Learning

Despite Kirk’s bravado attitude, he, like my favorite men in Starfleet, is knowledgeable, worldly, and wise. One reason I love Star Trek so much is that the show isn’t about violent imperialism. It’s about exploration, the expansion of knowledge, the use of logic, emotion, and empathy to solve a problem. It’s the nerd’s soap opera. Great leaders never stop learning. They seek out knowledge and experience as a means to better their organizations, themselves, their world.

Have Advisors with Different Worldviews

This is probably what I love the most about Star Trek: The Original Series–the interplay between Kirk, his first officer, and his chief medical officer. The three of them make an amazing team, and the writers of Star Trek work to develop an intricate relationship, interplay, and dynamic. Shatner, Nimoy, and Kelley work together as a seamless team. Kirk’s passion is tempered by Spock’s steely knowledge and Bones’ ethical barometer. Great leaders consider the perspectives of others. They seek out alternate views and perspectives before making decisions.

Be Part of the Away Team

A captain in Starfleet traditionally lets his first officer handle dangerous away missions. Kirk flies in the face of this convention. The only way to lead is by example–the only way to truly be a captain of the Enterprise is to understand that risk is an everyday part of the job.

Play Poker, Not Chess

Like Knapp, I love it when Kirk outwits his opponents through the use of an approach that is more poker than chess. Poker is all about psychology, something Knapp sees as valuable in business: “Playing that strategy with an eye to the psychology of our competitors, not just the rules and circumstances of the game can often lead to better outcomes than following the rigid lines of chess.”

Blow Up the Enterprise

Sometimes, leaders have to make tough decisions about what works and what doesn’t. Great leaders cannot be afraid to start anew, to throw out their reservations and go down a scary and uncertain road. Think of the great leaders of the world–each of them had to Blow Up the Enterprise and face loss in order to succeed.

We need to keep exploring and learning. We need to ensure that we encourage creativity and innovation by listening to the advice of people with vastly different opinions. We need to occasionally get down in the trenches with the members of our teams so we understand their needs and earn their trust and loyalty. We need to understand the psychology of our competitors and also learn to radically change course when circumstances dictate. –Alex Knapp, Forbes
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One thought on “Five leadership lessons from James Tiberius Kirk

  1. Thank you greatly for posting this beautiful tribute to Kirk’s Leadership.

    This brief visual synopsis of Kirk’s 5 Leadership Traits is a valuable addition.

    Thank again. 🙂

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