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What ‘The Force’ (Star Wars) can teach us about leadership and power

As a fan of Star Wars I can’t but help see the lessons as it applies to leadership and power.


The central concept throughout the Star Wars series is the notion that there is a Force that flows through and around us. The Force can be powerfully destructive on the dark side and used for collective good on the light side.


Here are key ideas about the Force, applied to leadership and power.


It is everywhere, some with more, others with less.

The Force is all around us. Some have been given greater access (“the Force is strong in our family”), others have less. Some who are ‘sensitive to the Force’ go to the Jedi Academy to the ways of the Force. Many don’t.


Some people are given power, such as through status and hierarchy, intellect or physical presence (see People may be afraid of you – and why you should care as well as Power dynamics beyond hierarchy and positional power).

Many feel powerless in various situations, others feel powerless most of the time.


Some cultivate their inner power. Think of people like Malala Yousafzai, a 17 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner, a young woman from a country where women and girls are severely marginalised, with very limited power. Imagine the inner power required to do what she did and continues to do – standing up for what she believes in.


We can use it for good or for destruction.

The Force can be used for good or for destruction, depending on the intent and internal state of the user. Where fear, anger and hate are behind the Force, it leads to destruction – the dark side.


“The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.” Yoda


Unfortunately we see power being used for self-interest and protection (driven by underlying fear) more often than not, sometimes consciously, quite often unconsciously (see Power Blindness and Power Poisoning). There is an increased risk of using our power poorly as we gain power, especially when our inner power is weak. We get seduced by the dark side – to protect our interests, to gain something at the expense of others, to take revenge.


Power and the Force can be used to serve or to destruct.


We can learn to cultivate and use it well.

Sometimes we may not feel we have enough power to lead. We might hold ourselves back (see How much and how often do you hold yourself back?). There are times when we are called to reclaim the power within us. We need to dig deep. We need to find a way to access the Force.


“Judge me by my size, do you?” Yoda


It’s useful to remember Yoda, as external presence such as size, gender, race or even hierarchical position are not barriers to developing our inner power.


What enable us to use our power wisely are our inner power and ability to manage our mental and emotional states. Jedi trainees learn not only physical use of the Force but how to manage their mental and emotional states so the Force is used wisely.


No one has fun on the dark side.

Have you noticed how those on the dark side are all serious, aggressive and no one is smiling? There’s suffering – not much fun, connection, friendship or love.


“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” Yoda


When power is used for destruction, there’s suffering, no smiling, just evil laughs by those in power. The evil laughs do not signal happiness – they carry the fear of losing the power and status.


Do you have any other leadership and power lessons from Star Wars?

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