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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Darth Vader: Micromanager

Having a bold personality does not guarantee management success.  History is littered with examples of great leaders who possessed a Type A personality:  Napoleon, Churchill, and Qin Shi Huang [first emperor of China] to name just a few.  Forceful, direct and unswerving in the drive to achieve their goals, even through adversity.  But those are leaders from the past.  What about the leaders of the future? How will their management styles stack up? Example: Darth Vader. [Spoiler Alert: do not read further if you have not seen Star Wars.]

Few would deny that Darth Vader is a goal-oriented, driven individual.  He sits atop a vast organization [aka Galactic Empire] and answers only to the CEO [Emperor Palpatine].  Clearly Vader is in a very envious position.  Capital improvement projects (Death Star) are underway, his organization is outfitted with the latest technology upgrades, and last but not least, he is surrounded by a highly trained team of commanders and lieutenants monitoring the progress of the entire organization [empire].  Seemingly Vader has it all under control. Not so fast. The first evidence of his failed management skills appears when he must travel across the Galactic Empire to check on the progress of the Death Star.  Curiously, he could have handled this in a Go To Meeting®.  Displeased with the actions of his subordinates he immediately terminates their employment.  Vader has developed a pattern of knee jerk reactions.  Never does he provide a PIP to the errant staff and thus they are not given the chance to correct their behavior.  Eventually it is evident that if Darth Vader wants something done right, he must do it himself.  eg. torture Princess Leia.  Impatient and with an inability to delegate even the simplest of tasks, Darth Vader would not be a suitable leader in most successful organizations.

Despite my son having warned me not to mix franchises: Vader is a management failure compared to Star Trek’s Captain Picard [also a Type A personality]. Picard empowers his staff to make the decisions in their respective departments. Picard has clearly outlined his expectations to his management team of Riker, Data, Worf, LaForge, and Crusher.  These staff are clearly aligned with the corporate mission statement: “Go boldly”, and they manage their individual staffs to those ends, fully understanding the extent of their decision boundaries and thus not burdening Picard to make trivial decisions.  Further, Picard understands that familiarity breeds contempt and thus does not mix with his direct reports by not inviting himself to their poker games.   

Management success by Type A personalities depends on their ability to listen, empower¸ and teach. Proof: Trek franchise= 12 movies; Star Wars franchise = 6 movies.

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