Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 28

When it comes to leadership, there's nobody like Captain James T. Kirk. He's the best. . . unless you happen to be wearing a red shirt.

Question: "What is Capt. James T. Kirk's best quality as a leader?"


Andrew's Answer: Kirk does the one thing all great leaders do. . . the one thing poor leaders are incapable of doing: he constantly re-assesses his beliefs. When confronted with a problem, most people dig through their existing beliefs, look for the solution that they settled upon long ago, and run with it. If it works, great. If not, they double down. Not Kirk. Kirk does what real leaders do, he constantly questions and tests his beliefs and if he finds that he is wrong, he's got the fortitude to change his beliefs. That makes him the ultimate decision maker because he is devoid of prejudice. That's impressive.

Scott's Answer: Kirk does something that I wish more people (cough, politicians) would do: he surrounds himself with people of different worldviews and didn't hesitate to consult with them, despite their often diametrically-opposed opinions. Allow me to quote Alex Knapp of Forbes: "Weak leaders surround themselves with yes men who are afraid to argue with them. That fosters an organizational culture that stifles creativity and innovation, and leaves members of the organization afraid to speak up. [...] Historically, this has led to some serious disasters, such as The Phantom Menace. Organizations that allow for differences of opinion are better at developing innovation, better at solving problems, and better at avoiding groupthink."

38 comments:

shawn said...

What you guys said. I would add that when Kirk makes an impassioned speech, he doesn't come off as a partronizing snob, but as someone who is willing to meet his opponent half-way and is able to see their better nature.

BIG MO said...

McCoy said it best in ST III right after Kirk destroys the Enterprise:

Kirk: My God, Bones. What have I done?

McCoy: What you had to do. What you always do. Turn death into a fighting chance to live.

darski said...

He is decisive. Obviously he is very clever and that feeds his decision making power but as a corollary he is ready to live with whatever decision he has made. I'll come back later to give this more consideration ... hmmmmmnnn...mutter, mutter, mutter

tryanmax said...

Wow, I think Andrew and Scott nailed it. Way to shut the debate down, guys! ;-) I like what Darski has to say about Kirk owning his decisions, too. The McCoy quote really sums Kirk up well. He's a great leader because he actually cares about the outcome, not just the intent.

Individualist said...

The difference between Leadership and Management according to my Strategic Theory professor is Vision. Leaders have an overall Vision and know how to plan to get there.

So given that what is the Vision of James T Kirk....

I'll have to get back to that after some thought

AndrewPrice said...

Shaw, very true. Kirk never comes across as condescending or like he thinks he's better than anyone -- Picard does. Kirk comes across as someone who genuinely wants to help people see their better natures.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, There is no doubt that Kirk does what needs to be done. He is not a man who will ever fail.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, He is definitely decisive, but I would say even further, he's right in his decisions. He's smart, not dogmatic and he does his best to be right, not to define what he's done as right.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, We do usually try to leave something for discussion, but this one was hard to leave something on the table. Kirk is just that awesome that he deserves a full and fair answer! :)

You can always take about other bits of his leadership process! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, That's an interesting point. I guess you could be a manager without vision. Maybe that's the difference between Kirk and Picard? Kirk has a vision of what the world should be like and Picard is more of a situation by situation manager.

Individualist said...

Andrew

Near as I can tell Kirk's Vision is the Federation's vision... and the shows

1) Find out what is going on
and
2)Keep the Universe Safe for the Federation (and Democracy)

I really don't get much more than that and Vision statements are supposed to be straightforward and easy to understand.

I still think Kirk has Vision but I guess I am having trouble enunciating it. Perhaps I should use something other to enunciate than a keyboard... could help

AndrewPrice said...

Indi, I think Kirk's vision is broader and not based on current events. Kirk's vision is a universe in which everyone follows the philosophy of classical liberalism and problems get solved in that manner. It's a larger vision than the Federation, it's more of a utopian vision and that's what he strives to achieve and why he's so intellectually consistent no matter what he runs into.

I don't think Picard has anything that consistent or that grandiose.

BIG MO said...

Another fine leadership quality: He sought wise counsel. He relied on the opinions of both Spock and McCoy, particularly because they approached problems differently. Neither was a “yes man”—especially because that was the last thing Kirk needed or wanted. But the decisions—and consequences—were Kirk’s.

Sisko had wise counsel as well: from Dax, the well-traveled, experienced “old man,” and Kira, the hotheaded “ready, fire, aim” first officer. Picard and Janeway, though, sometimes led by committee (but by no means always), and definitely had more “yes men” in their command staffs than either Kirk or Sisko. (Archer I think falls in the middle of the four.) But to their credit, they spread credit and assumed blame.

AndrewPrice said...

Big Mo, That was really a problem with Picard, he was surrounded by like-minded clones who were totally yes men. Even Worf, the supposed standout, typically thought like the rest only he wanted to be holding a phaser when he made peace instead of flowers. But if you look at their decisions, the only dissenter is the guest star who isn't enlightened yet.

Kirk, on the other hand, truly got opinions from people with polar opposite views. And that made his thought processes, so much more interesting.

DUQ said...

Nice work Andrew and Scott! Excellent!

I think we should also add that Kirk is amazingly well read and educated. He is a man who knows a lot about everything and is so well-verse in history and culture. He's a true Renaissance man!

darski said...

I do realize that the books are not canon but they did explore concepts, characters and situations that elicited new thought. In one of the books there was a test for Academy cadets. The group was before the instructor who explained the test; he told the group that "the purpose of the test/war game is for you to survive". The story was based on Checkov who was determined not to be one of the dead.
Turns out that when Kirk took the test he read the instructor in a broader view - he read the "You" to mean the group and not one person. he formed a coalition of the men and got them all to the end of the test alive.---

My point in mentioning this old book was that it shows how the fans viewed Kirk. He inspired that sort of back story.

Tennessee Jed said...

to me, the qualities of Kirk as a leader are exemplified in the episode titled "The Enemy Within." Kirk has a compassionate side and a strong side. Kept separated neither is worth warm spit as a leader.Put them together, and voila, J.T.K. a great leader.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks DUQ! That's a good point too. Kirk's leadership is more than instinct, he's incredibly well read and knowledgeable, which it vital if you want to lead people who are experts in their own fields and if you need to be able to make decisions on an array of broad issues.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, That's a good point and it exemplifies how Kirk is always going above and beyond. He's not a guy who will do the bare minimum to get buy, he is always looking for the perfect solution, and that pays off time and again with him.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, So true. Kirk needs his good and bad sides and he needs to be able to harness both. I've seen people who lack one side or the other and they just aren't capable of leading.

ScyFyterry said...

Very nicely done gentlemen! I think you've absolutely outlined exactly why Kirk is so awesome. I have nothing to add.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Terry. I think we've done a pretty good job all around outlining what makes Kirk such a great leader.

tryanmax said...

OK, so clearly Kirk is the archetype for exceptional leadership, but if he were a tree, what kind of a tree would he be? LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Tree of Wisdom

Or an Asskicking Elm.

ScottDS said...

Sorry I'm late to the party!

Hell, I don't have much to add either at this point. There's a reason many people (including myself) consider Captain Kirk a personal hero and it's all outlined nicely above.

I should also point out the influence of C.S. Forrester and Horatio Hornblower on Kirk's command style; always thinking one step ahead, respect for life and property (well, maybe not so much that one!), etc.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's true, there's a lot of "the classic Captain" in Kirk. But, I think there is more in Picard actually. I think Picard is based on this idea that Captains are "above it all," whereas Kirk was big on getting his hands dirty and being right there in the mix.

ScottDS said...

BIG MO - I love that quote! It's one of my favorite lines from any of the films (and even people who don't like Star Trek III love that moment).

And good call on Sisko counting on Dax for advice (which is done especially well in "In the Pale Moonlight" - one of my favorite episodes of any series). I wouldn't say Picard had a lot of yes-men per se... he had Worf, but of course, Picard frequently shot his suggestions down (a hilarious YouTube compilation was made of all these scenes).

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Let me say that there is something not genuine about the Worf/Picard relationship. Kirk genuinely listened to McCoy. He usually didn't take his advice, but he did listen and he did respect him. Picard almost mocks Worf every time he speaks. He basically acts like he's annoyed or incredulous at Worf's suggestions and pretty much blows him off with one word -- "no." Kirk doesn't do that to anyone.

So I don't see Worf as a genuine second opinion.

Jason said...

AndrewPrice, it's funny you mention Kirk getting his hands dirty, as Kirk almost always led the away missions, while Picard typically stayed on the bridge and let Riker or someone else go.

I think the TNG production staff claimed it was more realistic to not have Picard go, but the end result was that Riker or Data would always have to describe what was happening via communication channel to Picard, whereas Kirk generally knew what was going on as he was in the thick of things.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, I can understand why the captain wouldn't go down on just any mission, but I prefer the Kirk method to the Picard method. The Picard method felt like he was just too old to go along rather than it having some purpose. Plus, when they are beaming down to meet someone important rather than just spying on villagers, you would think the Captain would go or it would seem like an insult to me.

K said...

If you guys wanted to know the definitive characteristics of Capt. James T. Kirk, then you should find the script bible with it's character description. I'm sure it's out there on ebay or someplace.:)


AndrewPrice said...

K, That would be interesting to know, what they intended for him?

darski said...

Just a possible subject for discussion in the glorious world of next Tuesday... how about when Trek does funny?

ScottDS said...

darski -

Great idea! I'll pitch it to Andrew in my next e-mail (unless he sees this post first). :-)

rlaWTX said...

Missed this post earlier this week - which is OK 'cause y'all covered all the bases. I like darski's "funny" idea...

AndrewPrice said...

We will do the funny! :D

Alex said...

Obviously, its his ability to instantaneously seduce very female within a 5 light-year radius.

To me, other than the above, it's the fact that he does the right thing, all of the time. No moral equivalence in Kirk's world. In my opinion, all of his other great leadership qualities stem from this fundamental belief in right and wrong, and his unwavering belief in doing the right thing, even if it's not easy.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Nothing to add, other than, sometimes, Kirk went with his gut, doing neither the logical (Spock's advice) or emotional (McCoy's advice) thing, tempered of course with always wanting to do the right thing as a standing first principle.

When I say "gut" I don't mean some off the wall I saw this in a cartoon once and always wanted to try it thing but rather informed intuition.

Kirk's gut was always right because he was so grounded in pro-goodness, pro-liberty, and pro-truth, etc..

Not JUST good intentions, but rather good results (or at least the best results, if there are no good choices).

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