Jedi vs Sith: 5 Powerful Business Lessons

Yes, I'm a fan. A see-it-on-opening-day kind of fan (not a dress-up-like-Chewbacca-on-the-weekends kind of fan). But as so many fanboys and girls around the world prepare for the release of Episode VII, it is a good time to reflect on the powerful, albeit unintentional, business lessons from those protectors of the universe, and their dark, but powerful foes.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”-Yoda

Okay folks, there is no more quintessential Star Wars phrase that speaks to true motivation than this. In business, as in life, this is too true. A lot of people try, but true achievement is reserved for those people that DO. Giving it "the ol' college try", which I believe requires you to get drunk beforehand, is a waste of effort and will earn you a participation ribbon in life. Those who achieve great things DO great things. They don't write plans about great things. They don't talk about wanting to do great things. They DO great things.

Can you imagine how different life would be if Martin Luther King Jr. had an "I wish I had a dream" speech? Or Thomas Edison gave up after his 300th, 600th or 900th failure at inventing the light bulb and said "well, I gave it a good try. Time to pack it in." Go DO great things.

"When I left you I was but the learner. Now I am the master."-Darth Vader

This taunt from Darth Vader signals how corrupt his heart had become and how much his enmity had grown for his former mentor, but actually brings up an important lesson for any great leader. Training the next generation of leaders is incumbent upon us all. The goal of any great leader should be to impart his or her wisdom and skills to the next generation, and create a pipeline of greatness that outlasts him or herself. Our goal as leaders should be to train and impart wisdom (to the extent that we have it) to the next generation. It should be our hope that they could come back to us one day and say this same phrase; hopefully with sincere appreciation and no light saber in hand. In my career, mentoring others has been an important part of my contribution to the world, and I'm as proud of their accomplishments as I am my own. So if you haven't considered mentoring someone--start today.

“Judge me by my size, do you?” -Yoda

If we equate "size" to "position" in an organization, this lesson is a powerful one. The people who do the best and often the most work are not often those at the top, but are sprinkled throughout the organization. You know who they are. The people who DO. It is foolish to judge someone based on their "rank" in an organization, because so many times these "rank and file" people are the true emotional, social and psychological leaders. These people lift others up and accomplish great things. You can count on them.

When the leaders at the top of an organization are cut from this same cloth, you see organizations where culture is strong and accomplishment is common. If they are not at the top, find these people and mentor them by activating and supporting their passions, and watch amazing things happen. Do not judge them on where they are, but on where they can go. Then help them get there.

"Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started."-Kylo Ren 

Despite this being a quote from the newest evil entry in the franchise, this is one of the key lessons from Jim Collins book "Built to Last". Great organizations build cultures that transcend individuals. The organizational culture lives on beyond any one individual and creates sustained success for the business, because the organization is passionate about its culture. I mean, despite the Death Star being blown to smithereens and the emperor being destroyed, there is Kylo Ren, waiting in the wings to "finish" what these evil leaders started. In the context of an organization, be sure to consider how passion pervades your culture, and how your culture is being set up for success in the long run--beyond its current leaders.

"Use the Force, Luke."-Obi-Wan 

Use your strengths. We all have them. If you don't know what yours are, be sure to find out by using tests like StrengthsFinder or Emergenetics. Understanding what you are strong at, what is your "force", is key to being effective in any organization. Great leaders play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. So be sure to understand not only what you are strong at, but how to use it effectively.

And hopefully, with these great lessons from a galaxy far, far away, you can become a stronger leader, a better mentor, and build a culture that lasts.

May the force be with you.

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