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7 Star Wars Leadership Lessons

Updated on June 2, 2022Professionals
7 Star Wars Leadership Lessons image

May the Fourth be with you!

Today may be a day dedicated to puns, fandom, and a galaxy far, far away, but it probably doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly learned a Jedi mind trick to keep your manager from asking for that project, presentation, or report. If you’re like me, you’re trapped at work, wishing you could be cosplaying The Force Awakens with your family or baking an R2-D2 cake.

Unfortunately, Star Wars Day has yet to be recognized as a national holiday. In better news, both the Dark Side and the Light Side have a lot to teach marketers about life, love, and the pursuit of the target demographic. Let’s see what the Jedi (and the Sith) have to say about marketing leadership.

Kylo Ren Is the Ultimate Counterexample of Disaster Response


What do you do when the rebel scum hits the fan? Let’s use Kylo Ren as a counterexample for marketing leadership: he’s impulsive, hot-tempered, and incapable of inspiring his team.

So whether your social team makes an epic blunder, or a key executive spouts politically incorrect things in an interview, take a deep breath. Your next move will define who you are as a leader. Don’t repeat Kylo’s mistake by responding without thinking. You can make a disaster recovery plan, check for vulnerabilities, and apologize afterward, but the most important PR response will always be internal, so take care with how you handle crises with your team. Others will look to you as a leader for the appropriate mode and tone of response, so set that tone from the moment you hear about your organization’s blunder. Unlike Kylo, you can’t just slash the controls and shut everything down.

Balanced, Yoda Is


Yoda may be an obvious choice when talking about any sort of leadership, since he has dispatched his fair share of sage leadership advice. But instead of focusing on “there is no try,” what if we looked at Yoda as a whole? Overall, this Jedi master emphasizes the psychological aspects of the Force, and marketers could stand to learn a few things. In our constant fight for eyes and ears, we sometimes forget what our target customer needs.

Does your customer really want another viral video, or are they trying to figure out how your product works? Do they need another tweet about National Pancake Day, or would they prefer a help article that answers their common questions? I believe Yoda would say, “Clear your mind, and ask them, you should.”

Admiral Ackbar Is Not a Trap(ped Leader)


We all know this meme-worthy line, but do you know the context in which it’s said? Admiral Ackbar is managing multiple moving parts of one initiative, and he’s strapped for resources, manpower, and the skill to bring about the results his team needs (sound familiar?). Trying to balance brute force with agility and speed, he discovers that his chances of success have been slashed by factors outside his control. When he utters this now-famous line, he’s expressing the shock we all feel when things don’t pan out. But does he throw in the towel, even though he has few resources and he’s facing impossible goals? No! Ackbar pulls his team back to regroup, concentrating their energy on achievable KPIs. Once the shields are down and the time is right, they strike–ultimately winning the war.

With decreasing budgets and increasing expectations, digital marketing can sometimes feel like a losing battle. When leading a team into a difficult, resource-strapped situation, it may be time for us all to take a lesson from Ackbar. We need to identify the areas of potentially sky-high ROI, without wasting our team’s time and energy on losing battles in the interim. Although it may occasionally seem like a trap, with expert guidance and focus on the right metrics, our teams can (and will) win.

Emperor Palpatine Has No Vision


Emperor Palpatine is ego personified for all the galaxy to see, and he’s also a great example of the overconfidence that has led to some pretty terrible marketing campaigns. Think of New Coke or the creepy Burger King mascot. You could also harken back to a number of poorly planned corporate social media blunders. When ideas like these fail so gloriously, occasionally I ask myself, “How could this have happened?” The answer: a Palpatine perspective on idea generation.

There’s a common phrase in journalism (and other highly edited writing) that you have to “kill your babies.” This infanticidal euphemism simply means that sometimes you have a great line of copy, idea, or wide shot that simply doesn’t fit in the larger piece and must be cut. Some marketers could stand to learn from this, lest our egos about having the best idea in the room become more important than the ideas themselves. It’s often prudent to take a step back; show someone else your killer campaign, press stunt, or even blog idea; and allow them to give brutal, honest feedback. After all, we don’t want our work compared to Empire.

Leia Has a High IQ–and a Great EQ


Leia’s famously improvised line is key to the love story of Star Wars. But it also shows that she has a significant amount of emotional intelligence (EQ), since she recognizes love in a hard-to-read paramour. Although Leia clearly has a very high IQ, her EQ helps the character-driven story to progress, and it’s something we could all improve in our customers’ experiences. Knowing what your customers want is the first step to creating a great experience, but really empathizing with their pain points is the next step in that journey. Marketers are now tasked with the entire customer experience, so we should focus on understanding the emotions our customers feel when they have a negative interaction with our brand. Do your customers love you? Do you know?

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