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Leadership Lessons From Captain James T. Kirk

There is a saying that the best leaders are great followers. I’m not sure if Capt. James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise agreed with that philosophy or not.  Forbes staff writer Alex Knapp might say he did. Knapp believes that Capt. Kirk set a good example as a leader.

Being a leader isn’t easy, and not everyone is cut out for it. But for those who are intrepid enough to give it a try, Knapp listed five leadership skills that he observed in Capt. Kirk.

  1. Never stop learning. This is important for any leader in any industry. While it’s great to focus on learning as much as you can about your chosen industry, it’s also important to know other things, whether they are related to your business not. As Knapp pointed out, Kirk was an avid reader.
  2. Have advisors with different worldviews. Kirk had his Vulcan first mate Mr. Spock and his human companion Dr. Leonard McCoy. In your organization, you could have people on your leadership team of different races, sexes, socioeconomic backgrounds, and so on. Each one will have a different way of approaching the same idea. If you only surround yourself with people who think like you, innovation will stagnate, and your business could fail.
  3. Be part of the away team. Delegating responsibility is sometimes necessary, but you should never become so far removed from the day-to-day operations of your business that if a problem did arise, you wouldn’t have a clue how to solve it. The next time you eat lunch in McDonald’s or any other fast food restaurant, look around for the folks wearing dress shirts and slacks. Those are the managers. The good ones are always visible, helping out at the registers, bagging orders or even cooking French fries. This keeps them up-to-date with what’s going on. So, when a decision does have to be made on the fly, they won’t need to be filled in first.
  4. Play poker, not chess. I’ll have to defer to Knapp on this one. He says that poker is a better metaphor for leadership strategy that chess because chess follows a set of clearly defined rules. Poker does not. Poker is definitely about reading people, knowing when to bluff, when to call and when to fold. A good leader knows how to read both his employees and his clients. He knows his competitors and his market the way a poker player knows how to read his opponents and the cards well enough to make quick, accurate, game-winning decisions.
  5. Blow up the enterprise. Essentially, what Knapp is saying here is don’t get too attached to a product, an idea or even your business itself. If the original concept for her business isn’t working out, a small-business owner who is committed to her company’s success will change direction and follow what her customers and the marketplace indicate they want or need from her.

Leadership skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but they can be learned, even if they come from a fictional character like Capt. James T. Kirk.

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