Leadership Woes? Look to the Stars

           No matter what industry you are in; the type of department; number of employees or diverse goals, you will hear the same cry.  Leaders everywhere seem to cry out in one voice with the same complaint – “If it weren’t for my employees, I could get so much done!”

Obviously, that is not true.  What is true is that dealing with individuals is perhaps one of the hardest tasks faced by any manager or leader.  Businesses, like most organizations, revolve around people and if you are a leader, you have to deal with people.  That can mean customers, employees, bosses, contractors, co-workers and direct reports. 

Too often people mean problems.  Or, perhaps it would be better to say, challenges.  Any group of individuals will face those challenges at some point.  It could be differences of opinion, different ideas on how to meet common goals, personality conflicts or self interests.  Too often, managers spend a large chunk of time playing arbitrator, peace-keeper, decision-maker, hand-holder, encourager and the list goes on.  How do you get past that?

When faced with some thorny personnel issue, I wonder why you rarely see details on how other leaders resolve or deal with similar problems.  Business or leadership books often gloss over the details and this aspect of leadership doesn’t get a lot of praise.  It’s not as exciting as the snap decision in the boardroom or the quick and smooth change of a corporate direction.

So, I find that I turn to one example of leadership that I remember from my youth.  Probably the classic leader, he dealt with exciting and varying challenges every week and was a hero to many.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that his organization happened to be a starship – the USS Enterprise.  Yes, I am referring to Captain Kirk (which I saw in reruns lest you think I am older than I am).

When personnel challenges come along, I find myself thinking, “This never happened to Captain Kirk.”  For all the bickering between Dr. “Bones” McCoy and Mr. Spock, or Scotty’s worries about the Dilithium crystals, at the end of the day everyone came together and performed 100% to save the day.  One could say that they had to, as their lives depended on it.  But in modern business, everyone’s livelihood, if not life, is on the line.

The question then becomes how to coax that ‘starship’ level of performance out of each player in a modern workplace.  There are whiners and tattle-tales; those who complain and think that nothing is fair; jealousies and arguing, even backstabbing.  And of course, there are the stars who continually work and strive and the danger is that they will be forgotten, perhaps comparable to the Enterprise’s crew in the red shirts (you know how that always ended for them). 

Is it important how a leader or manager responds?  Can you ignore the human factors and barrel ahead towards your goals?  Spock might have done that as being only logical, ignoring human feelings and emotions.  On the other hand, Bones might go to the other extreme, focusing on the individuals.  Maybe Kirk is a good example after all.  At times, compassionate and human.  At other times, driven to achieve and protect his ship (read business) at all costs and complete his mission.

And that may be the real lesson and the ultimate answer.  Be mindful of the human factor, but don’t sway from your ultimate goals, whether saving the universe from Klingons or trying to turn a profit in tough times.  After all, as Spock said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”


Eric Smith, CPP is the leading authority on organizational self-defense.  He has extensive experience in law enforcement as well as security management.  Eric is available for staff education and security awareness training as well as business coaching to help organizations provide safe workplaces.  To learn more visit http://www.businesskarate.com/profile.html. 

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