Friday, March 30, 2012

Lessons in leadership learned from Star Trek's Q

It may seem ridiculous to many non-trekkies, but I'll admit as a fan of most things put out by Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, I usually learned something from the writing on the original series as a child, and Next Generation when I was a young student.   The fictional stories of command responsibilities, adventure and danger inspired me to seek the life of adventure and danger as promised to those who volunteered to join the US Marines when I graduated high school.  I can easily say I was influenced by Star Trek's writers who dreamed big and created characters who lived with courage.  I found a way to adopt some of those fearless character traits into my leadership style.  

To me the heroic fictional character Captain Picard was the yard stick for a leader that people in real life would be held against somewhere in my mind.  I was fortunate in the life I was born into and there were real life examples of leaders shaping my thoughts who way exceeded any fictional character.  I learned more about leadership and life by the time I was 25 than most people probably do in a lifetime.  I had faced the unknown and deployed to war and returned unscathed, I had graduated college, and I was already married to a girl I met just six months prior to getting married.  I had watched my dad lose his wife and partner in life (my mom when I was 18) to cancer and be the foundational rock in my and my brothers' lives.  The man that raised us with exacting discipline, critical of our mistakes and demanding of excellence (seemingly) without mercy from us demonstrated the greatest example of love, compassion and stability that anyone could have ever shown us.

He inspired me whether he intended to or not to be more than what I was, and to dream bigger than what I thought was possible.  My leadership style was also influenced and shaped by my two older brothers who I'd looked up to my whole life that helped me through almost every difficult challenge in life and were the root source of strength that helped me to endure any hardship or pain encountered throughout life.   Those two guys were there my entire life and showed me examples of what to do as well as what not to do. 

I also witnessed and learned first hand from many friends (including girlfriends who can be very influential to a young man), colleagues, peers, teachers, professors, managers their real life leadership examples which shaped my leadership beliefs.  These are the every day people who inspire us to go to school (or stay in school or go back to school when I was choosing a path of full time active duty as an enlisted Marine with no use for finishing college).  These same people are the real life leaders who inspire us to learn an instrument, appreciate art, music, simplicity and culture.  They encourage kids to join or start a band, adults to be happy and get divorced or get married, or just learn new stuff about life as they get older.   If these real people were the mold for leaders, then the institution that is the Marine Corps and the non-commissioned officers would be the forge and fire needed to create the leader that shapes civilians into Marines.  They solidified that leadership belief system into me to simply accept nothing less from myself and from others who would lead people.  I came to expect a minimum competence from people in leadership or management roles and was often disappointed. I was often disappointed further when these individuals lacked even more basic leadership traits of employing justice, using good judgment in all things, being unselfish in their positions of leadership and authority, acting with decisiveness, demonstrating consistent dependability, showing initiative, having unwavering integrity, show bearing in tough times and during celebrations, demonstrating courage and job knowledge, having unwavering loyalty to subordinates (like willing to stick their neck out for subordinates and peers) and exercising tact when frustrated.  

If Warren Buffet can use the expression that he won the lottery in life being born to his great parents, which enabled him to be the genius of business and industrial capitalism, then I can say that I won the leadership lottery in exposure to great leadership by being surrounded by some of the best examples that ended up as my NCO instructors, roommates, company and battalion peers and commanders from great leadership schools like the Naval academy, ivy league colleges (Williams College in particular gets a shout out for their contribution), public and private universities, and from all walks of life where they all underwent the extraordinary transformation to become Marine commissioned officers sent out into the world to command in real life.  This was so much cooler than anything ever imagined in the fictional world of Star Trek.  

I am not sure, however, that I would have appreciated these people in real life as the leaders they were (and most still are) if I had not been influenced by Star Trek's fictional leaders and my imagined yardstick of what I should expect from leaders.   So laugh all you want at the Trekkies, those of you who were non-Trekkies, but you could learn something from the yardstick of leadership created in the fictional character Picard and expect some proximity of that guy when you compare his leadership traits with those of your company's executive leaders or your elected leaders who are more like Ferengi than Picard or like the leaders in your own life that helped shape your beliefs.  Don't have any idea what I'm talking about?  Ask a Trekkie. 


  1. Raj it takes a big man to admit he's an unabashed trekkie! Live long and prosper.

  2. Captain Jean-Luc PicardMay 10, 2012 at 4:38 AM

    Raj nicely put, never thought about how star trek influenced peoples lives that way but I guess your statement has merit.

    I still use the quote "beam me up scottie" whenever I need a little help at what life throws at you.

    thank you #1