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Three management tips from Star Trek's coolest ever Captain: Jean-Luc Picard
Being a cool, authoritative and effective leader is not an easy thing to do, especially when it entails buzzing around the universe at warp speed. Moreover, being a success in this game is even harder when your predecessor was – and is – a bona-fide cultural icon and all-round legend.
But Jean-Luc Picard, commanding officer and stoically-cool Captain of the Federation Starship, Enterprise isn't a man to shirk a challenge.
Played with gravitas and gusto by the beautifully dulcet-toned and shiny bonced British classical actor, Patrick Stewart; Picard was an instant hit with audiences when Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987. While Star Trek's most famous Captain, James T Kirk (the inimitable William Shatner) accomplished missions by throwing punches, seducing hot female aliens and delivering his staccato lines with a cheeky grin; Picard used intellectual nous, dialectic reasoning and sometimes even good old-fashioned bloody-mindedness to get the job done.
And it has to be said, he did a darn good job of it too: The Next Generation became hugely popular, running for seven consecutive years and spawning four motion picture films, one of which saw him team up with Captain Kirk.
But what is it about Picard that makes him such a good captain exactly? What are the key attributes he possesses that enable him to be so successful? Well, aside from having every storyline written favourably for him by Hollywood scriptwriters, it could be argued that Picard's main strengths - those which captains (i.e. managers) back here on 21st century Earth can emulate – can be attributed to his ability to:
1. Keep cool, calm and collected at all times
Although Picard claims to have French ancestry, you wouldn't think so by the way he handles himself in a crisis. Not for him waving hands frantically in the air and screaming 'Zut alors' at everyone bar himself; Jean-Luc is the very essence of calm, regardless of whatever disaster or emergency is put before him. Hostile Romulan spaceships primed to fire off the starboard bow? “Let me finish my tea...”
Picard provides abject lessons in crisis management which any and all Earth-dwelling managers should take inspiration from: falling to pieces or becoming unnecessarily animated when things go wrong achieves nothing; keeping your wits about you and resonating a calmness which will help to inspire and reassure those around you is far more advantageous.
2. Keep work and personal issues separate
Despite the fact he lives and works with his crew 24/7, Picard never brings his personal problems or concerns to work. His ethos is that if he can avoid the temptation of talking about personal issues when 'on-shift' then members of his crew should be able to do the same, thereby encouraging everyone to remain 100 per cent focused on the task at hand. Although this is a very simplistic approach, it can be hugely beneficial. As well as engendering a more professional working culture, being stoic at work can help leaders to cultivate a more resolute persona. Put simply, workers are likely to put more stock in a boss who doesn't feel inclined to weigh them down with tales of personal woe.
3. Keep those in his charge uppermost in his thoughts
Like Kirk, Picard always puts his crew right at the top of his list of concerns. If he receives instructions which don't justify putting the welfare of his crew at risk then he will simply “Belay that order..!” Similarly, he operates an 'open door' policy whereby crewmembers always know they can come and speak to him (in his 'ready-room'; never on the bridge) if they have concerns or need advice. Suffice to say, all people in positions of authority can take heed of this approach as most employees are likely to perform better and go that little bit further for their employers if they believe their boss genuinely values them.
Whilst it is of course true to say that Captain Picard's 'management style' is not one that can be applied unilaterally to all leadership positions, adopting some facets of his management philosophy – most notably those listed above - could help managers in various industry sectors to develop significantly more resolute, robust and effective leadership skills.
The main thing to remember though is to avoid saying “Make it so” whenever an employee asks about undertaking a task. That's just not cool!