Building a Team to Defeat the Evil Empire

I was a junior in High School in 1977, when I waited in line for several hours to purchase two tickets to the premier of this new science fiction movie everyone was talking about. “The spaceships actually fly,” one of my friends had said.

I wasn’t disappointed. Like most of my friends, I think I saw it in the theater three or four times (something I had never done before and haven’t done since). While the special effects were mind-blowing for the time, I think the story captured many people’s attention—which has made it popular even with the generations of moviegoers who weren’t there in the very beginning.

There have been myriad metaphors taken from Star Wars over the last almost 40 years, and although the challenges most businesses face aren’t as life-and-death as facing the dark side of the force, how Luke, Han, Princess Leia, and Obi-wan-Kenobi pulled it off can help any organization build a powerful team to tackle just about any challenge.

Building an Effective Team—Lessons from the Rebellion

Obi-wan appreciated the value of a diverse team.

The heroes in Star Wars, racing across the void of space a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away, couldn’t be more different. They all had unique skills and made meaningful individual contributions that ultimately helped them defeat the formidable Darth Vader. This is much the same way successful business leaders build organizations to overcome market challenges and defeat the competition.

Of course building a Star Wars team is much easier said than done. It’s natural to be drawn to people who look at information and process it the same way you do. Divergent opinions and approaches certainly make decision-making and maintaining focus more challenging. However, those business owners who are able to allow the dialog and encourage people to consider different approaches often lead the companies that create the most innovation, develop new and exciting products, or do the best at keeping their customers happy.

What did Obi-wan do that you can do, to build a powerful team?

  1. He looked for potential: Luke wasn’t ready to face Vader when he first met Obi-wan, but Kenobi recognized, “The Force is strong with this one.” Pigeonholing employees based upon what they are today, instead of looking at what they could be tomorrow, not only hampers their professional development, but it may handicap their ability to make a meaningful impact within your business.
  2. Adversity makes strange bedfellows: In other words, overcoming a challenge can bring together people who otherwise have little in common. Han, Leia, and Luke couldn’t have been more different, but the need to defeat Vader brought them together. Successful business owners harness their team members’ individual perspectives and keep everyone focused and on the same page to overcome business challenges.
  3. The fight for democracy against the evil Empire: There was no question about what Luke and his friends were fighting for. Sharing the same goal helped them rely on their complementary strengths to work together. It’s hard for teams to work together when they don’t know what they’re working together for.
  4. “Trust the Force, Luke”: Obi-wan and Yoda taught Luke to use the Force as a tool to defeat Vader. As a business owner, it’s important to make sure your teams have the tools they need to do the best job.

May the Force be with you.