Star Trek taught me some bad management skills (and some good ones)

Star Trek taught me some bad management skills (and some good ones)

Why was Pike on that mission to the menagerie? Why was Kirk on the planet fighting the Gorn? Why did Picard dangle himself in front of the Borg?

enterpriseFor all its optimistic prose and preaching about moralistic cooperation, Star Trek’s captains didn’t always set a good example for future managers.

Sure, Picard and Janeway both stayed behind when teams beamed down on most away missions — but those teams were almost always made up of executive leaders from their crews. None of the officers really ever let the crew do the work.

As a new manager, this is an archetype I find myself needing to change.

It’s coming up on two years since I began to manage a real team across various shifts. I believe I’ve made progress since that time, but it remains hard to let go of the controls and let someone else pilot the ship.

Take a look at the opening scene of the latest J.J. Abrams Trek, “Into Darkness.” Kirk and McCoy are running for their lives while Sulu and Uhura crash trying to deliver Spock to his likely death inside a volcano. (For the uninitiated, that is the captain, chief doctor, primary pilot, chief communications officer and first officer of the Enterprise. Basically all of the leadership.)

Of course, this makes sense from the perspective of the series’ authors and producers. Their stories would be far too confusing (and expensive) if every member of the 1,014 person crew on the Enterprise-D had to be shown completing a role. (Don’t worry, I had to look that statistic up)

But for someone who grew up watching the show, it was originally a lesson about leading by example. But I see it in a different light now that I’m in a real leadership position.

I must continually remind myself to delegate tasks and make sure my team is ready to handle their assignments.

Still, I cannot maintain that all of Star Trek’s lessons on management were bad. Here six good lessons I can think of:

  1. The prime directive is non-interference, but sometimes you have to break it
  2. Humans are illogical
  3. Accept people’s differences
  4. Keep your phaser on stun
  5. A legacy and symbols are important to inspire the troops
  6. Never stop learning
  7. Always listen to suggestions

And I don’t yet know how this one will fit in, but apparently tachyons will be able to fix absolutely anything in about 200 years.