It’s time to get our geek on and talk about how Star Trek: The Next Generation relates to leadership! I love Star Trek – especially TNG because I grew up with it. Over the years, Captain Jean-Luc Picard provided a lot of great advice and examples on how to be an effective leader. So I’m excited to share the top 10 bits of leadership advice from Picard right here. Let’s start making it so!
1. Be Proud of Who You Are
“I’m Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise.” How many times did Picard say that during the course of the seven seasons and four feature films he appeared in? Quite a few. He always said it with conviction, even when – as captain – his life was at risk by some new, threatening life forms.
No matter what position you might hold, be proud of it. If you’re a bottom-rung programmer, be the very best programmer you can be so you can hold your head up high when asked what you do for a living.
2. Encourage Others to Improve
“You’re a Starfleet officer,” Picard has to remind his subordinates from time to time when they think they aren’t up to a difficult challenge. He even reminded Data once or twice, and Data is an android with perfect memory. He could tolerate some weakness, but he couldn’t stand idly by as his crew fell short of his expectations, especially when their lives depended on everyone performing their duties
Even if it’s not a life-or-death situation in your company, you should always expect the best from those who work for you. Encourage them to reach their potential. Be kind and considerate, and let them know that it’s in their best interest to improve their behavior.
3. Mellow with Time
“I don’t feel comfortable with children,” Picard tells his First Officer William T. Riker in the series premiere. Yet for some reason, he became captain of a starship full of families. That probably grated on him at first, but then something changed over the years. He started to be more comfortable around children. In the fifth-season episode “Disaster,” Picard had to work with three kids to survive a crippling power failure on the Enterprise. He did a great job at calming them and helping them work as a team.
It’s all right to be nervous about taking the lead. Some people respond to pressure by becoming defensive and cold. Try to recognize weaknesses that might be pushing people away and work on changing them. Life is so much better when you try to be kind to others.
4. Admit Your Mistakes, and Move Forward
Picard has an artificial heart because his real heart was impaled during a bar fight when he was a young cadet. He deeply regretted his youthful arrogance that led to that fight until he was given the chance to change the past in “Tapestry.” He discovered that his brush with death taught him to cherish life and take advantage of opportunities whenever they arose. Those qualities led him to the captain chair. He needed to go through his immature years to become a trusted leader.
How many times do we regret mistakes we’ve made, even though we have no way of changing them? It’s fruitless to dwell on the past with regret. You must accept that you’re imperfect and you’ll always be capable of messing up. That’s just part of life. Your mistakes can help you learn and grow, so you’ll be wiser than you would have been if you had never faced failure. Just keep moving forward and do your best to avoid regrets in the future by trying to be better.
5. Be Consistent
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” That’s Picard’s favorite drink. It’s like comfort food to him. He orders it in his office, his living quarters and anywhere else he might visit. It’s nice to see some consistency in a man who is constantly facing new challenges from one episode to another.
Even though some things in your personality and demeanor will change over time, you should try to keep certain things the same. For example, you should always try to be fair. As you set ground rules and stick to them day after day, your employees will learn to trust you and understand exactly what you expect of them.
6. Take the Initiative
Picard abruptly became a captain while serving aboard the USS Stargazer. During a fight, his captain was killed, so he leaped in to fill the void and managed to avert disaster through quick thinking and innovation. His stunning victory in the face of certain death is what propelled him to commanding the flagship a few years later.
Don’t wait for the “right” moment to jump in and try something new. Take advantage of every chance you get to show your creativity and flexibility. Even a seemingly small opportunity could lead to unexpected success.
7. Listen to Others’ Ideas
“Suggestions.” When facing a crisis, Picard would often ask for advice from his senior staff members, even Counselor Deanna Troi, although she would usually tell him the blatantly obvious. He would then select the idea that he thought was best and put it into action.
Don’t be afraid to work with people who are smarter than you. Some of the most creative solutions to big problems often come not from upper management, but from people in the trenches struggling with those problems every day. Take the time to listen to what your employees have to say, and you’ll likely wind up with some amazing ideas.
8. Take Breaks
After being rescued from assimilation into the Borg collective in “The Best of Both Worlds,” Picard took a much-needed vacation to visit his brother in France in the episode “Family.” He also wasn’t above spending time on the Holodeck with his Private Detective fantasy. Honestly, what kind of silly person spends time coming up with noir tales for fun. Oh wait.
It’s not healthy to always be on duty. The more stress you take on, the more stress-relieving activities you need to make room for. Set aside time to take care of your personal health. Many times, I come up with the most creative ideas when I’m not intensely trying to think of them. When I concentrate on something else, like a book, game or movie, that’s when inspiration often strikes.
9. Delegate Responsibilities
“Make it so.” Picard is great at giving orders. He doesn’t actually do much, if you think about it. He’s not allowed to go on dangerous away missions, he doesn’t work on the warp core, and he doesn’t hit the buttons to make the ship change direction or go to warp speed. He entrusts those assignments to others while he maintains the dignity of his office and works on strategy.
You can’t do everything at your company. You have to delegate certain responsibilities to employees. It can be hard to trust that others will do as good a job as you want them to, but that’s a risk you have to take. It gets easier with practice.
10. Engage Your Customers
“Engage!” Similar to his famous “Make it so” statement, this one is even more action-oriented. “Engage” implies activating something for a specific purpose. He often used that word in the context of going to warp speed, but he could just as easily use it to turn on any number of devices or set plans into motion.
Engaging can have many meanings for leaders. There are many ways to engage your customers, such as on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, and other social media. You can engage your employees by spending time with them, and helping them become invested in the company. The point is to take action and not just make plans. To quote Dark Helmet from another sci-fi work, “Why are you always preparing? Just go!”
Thank you for reading this fun list. I hope Picard’s advice helps you live long and prosper!
The photo of Captain Jean-Luc Picard is the property of Paramount.