Daily Archives: April 9, 2010

Leadership Lessons from Galaxy Quest (Friday Afternoon edge-taker)

Friday afternoon…time to take the edge off the week.

I’ve written before that, as a veteran of many a leadership course–can’t you tell?, I grew quite tired of having to draw leadership lessons from required viewings of war movies. (Henry V is always a favorite here, although to be fair that is one of the more nuanced of the lot.) And I offered up that it would be great fun to work up a leadership seminar based on the movie Galaxy Quest, a sendup of the Star Trek genre. (For those of you who don’t know the movie, well first shame on you, but it features Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and several others. They play the actors of a Star Trek-like TV series who many years later make their living by attending fan shows. The problem occurs when the group of actors meet up with a distant alien population, the Thermians, who understood the old TV shows to be historic documents. When these pacific people are threatened by a belligerent enemy planet, they build out all the technology exhibited in Galaxy Quest for real but now need the experienced crew, i.e. the actors, to make it all work correctly. Here’s the trailer.) (It looks like the whole movie is currently available on YouTube, cut up into scenes, if you’ve never seen it.)

So the clips available (legally) are limited, but the clip below actually captures one of my favorite leadership moments. Tony Shalhoub, who plays the engineer “Scotty” character–Tech Sgt. Chen, has been asked to help the gentle Thermians with their engineering problems. The Shalhoub character’s only real expertise, however, is eating, but watch how he engages the Thermians with his questions to draw out the answers they don’t know they already have. So here you see the importance, as a leader, of listening, asking the right questions, and encouraging your colleagues to think for themselves. This has the extra benefit of being a scene cut from the movie, so even if you’re a Galaxy Quest fan you haven’t seen this scene before. (You only need to watch the first scene in this clip, but you may enjoy the others. The clip does seem to play slow most times, but usually plays better if you click through to YouTube itself.)

There are many other wonderful lessons in the movie about the importance of being corny and emotional as a leader and about how a group of selfish actors become a selfless team. Unfortunately, I’m not enough of a hacker to isolate the scenes. But maybe some day, when I’m a high-priced consultant and can afford the film rights…

Happy Weekend!!!

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