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Do you recall the somewhat magical feeling when it first came out in 1977?  I was to young to know it then, but it was way ahead of its time.  Watching it recently with my son (and with the benefit of comparing it to CGI based counterparts), I better appreciate just how special and ahead of its time it was!

Of course with the pending release this week, I am talking about Star Wars. And yes, the geek inside of me is anxiously awaiting!  So what better topic to lend some leadership insights this week.

Of course there are many examples of perceived leaders in the iconic series of movies released over years, both good and bad.  I’m sure you have your own favorites … I am going to focus on mine.

For me, only one character comes to mind when I think about the prominent leadership traits I post about on a regular basis. Traits like purpose, focus, wisdom, humility, dealing with uncertainty.  Maybe not the most popular of heroes, but I am alluding to Yoda.

Purpose – that Yoda was committed to a cause bigger than himself, there could be no doubt.  Great leaders understand the bigger story, their part in it, and how to compel others towards it.

  • Purpose: Why am I here?
  • Vision: Where am I going?
  • Mission: How will I get there?
  • Values: What’s important along the way?

The hard reality of the matter is if you cannot lead yourself in the pursuit of vision, you cannot expect to lead others.

“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.”

“For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”

Humility – when you think of the movies, none of them were about Yoda.  And yet the impact he had throughout is undeniable. Think about it,

  • He led the Jedi council
  • He taught at the Jedi school
  • He mentored several Jedi, including Obi-wan and Luke
  • His work was not done until very late in life
  • When the going got tough, he took on the hard tasks himself (including fighting the Emperor).

He was small, quiet and spoke funny … but he was powerful despite those! Yet he never sought the spotlight.

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?”

“Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.”

Wisdom – following on the previous thought, Yoda was powerful but knew the dangers of power.  Yoda respected when to use the Force, and his light saber.  He passed on those teachings to his Padawans as warnings.  He knew the dangers access to power brought.  Once you have a taste of power, the fear of losing it can be very real. The focus should always be on the bigger story, not on self.

“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

“Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you.”

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Uncertainty – in our roles as product management leaders, nothing is easy, nothing is stagnant, nothing goes exactly as planned (generally), nothing is guaranteed.  It is dealing with this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (VUCA) where leaders make their mark.  Yoda understood this.

“Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.”

“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play.”

Regardless of the darkness that was being perceived, regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the darkness, Yoda continued to ask questions and seek answers.  Our roles are no different … the paths we traverse are ever-changing … and our roles are to navigate those paths.

“Do or do not, there is no try.”


Anxiously waiting to see who takes up the wise leader role in the new set of movies!