Thursday, 8 March 2012

The leadership of Captain Kirk

Forbes looks at the five leadership lessons of Captain James Tiberius Kirk.

Regrettably, flying leg kicks do not count among them.


eon said...

Two of Kirk's most important leadership principles are probably inapplicable to business, but they certainly apply in geopolitics.

6. Always Honor A Threat.

"Scotty! General Order 24, in two hours! In two hours!"

In "A Taste of Armageddon", Kirk was totally willing to destroy Eminiar 7 and, if necessary, Vendikar, to save his ship and crew, who had been ruled destroyed in the two worlds' computer-driven (but lethally interminable) "war game". Since the Eminians had already fired on Enterprise once, but Ambassador Fox refused to allow Scott to return fire, Kirk used his authority to override Fox (and, incidentally, the Non-Interference Directive). Kirk's view was that a threat must be taken seriously, and if necessary replied to in kind. (Somebody else in the Starfleet chain of command must have agreed, otherwise GO-24 wouldn't have been in the manual). In the end, the Eminians and Vendikans decided that negotiating an end to their slow-motion holocaust was preferable to being done in once and for all by Starfleet firepower. The war had to end, and if they wouldn't end it, Kirk would.

7. When force is needed, never hesitate.

"Lock phasers on target-FIRE!"

-Your choice of episode.

H. Beam Piper defined this (in "The Last Enemy") as "not getting trigger-cramp at the wrong moment". That is, when the time for talking is past and it's time to shoot, shoot, don't talk, as Tuco said. Nation-states which hold that (a) nothing is worth shooting and/or (b) don't realize that "the ball is in their court" when it is tend to not be nation-states for very long. After Kirk's time, the Federation received a sharp- and nearly fatal-lesson in this when the Dominion/Cardassian War blew up in their faces.

I will refrain from any comparisons to the present world situation.



Sergej said...

I would make all kinds of comparisons to the present day situation. After Star Trek (the real one), there was Next Generation. The captain was this olden man who I am informed is quite sexy, with a firm voice and I imagine, a framed certificate from some kind of conflict resolution course hanging in his (what is a captain's office called anyway?). There was a bridge officer whose only duties were getting touchy-feely with people's psychologies and wearing decolletage that extended to her knee-caps. When we were undergrads watching this stuff, we used to laugh at how easily a lot of the episodes' problems could be resolved by a well aimed phaser blast. On kill rather than "maximum stun". The series pretty much went in that direction from there, with all attempts to bring it back to its swash-buckling origins failing, perhaps because the writers had no idea how to write such characters or stories.

I think that rather than assigning certain oily, hairy Persian dwarfs and large-eared but incompetent American presidents (for instance) to Star Trek characters, one can learn much by comparing the old and new series, and their assumptions about what makes for admirable action.

(Of the animated series, I say nothing. Other than---man! there must have been just clouds of acrid smoke in the room where they were writing that stuff!)

eon said...


Gene Roddenberry once told me that the animated series was a great missed opportunity. Since it was done with cel animation, there was basically an unlimited SFX budget, so if the writers could imagine it, they could do it. Sometimes they actually realized this, as with the incredibly huge alien ship in "Beyond the Farthest Star", the first and IMHO best episode of the animated series.

But NBC wanted a Saturday morning kiddie show, which seriously limited what they would be allowed to do. The few episodes that involved actual fighting ("More Tribbles, More Troubles", etc.) brought Network Standards down on them like a ton of bricks. Sort of "No, we don't care if phasers can stun, we don't want you showing any shooting, period!"

Gene's idea was to have been similar to Jonny Quest. (The original, not the remake.) What NBC demanded, and got, was more like all the other Filmation efforts, like He-Man, Bravestarr, etc.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Filmation went out of business a decade later.

As for the difference between the original series and all the NG ones, They were launched when Hollywod was in full-on "enlightened progressive" mode, determined to show the world that they were more wonderful than grotty reactionaries like Reagan, Bush, etc. ST, showing a "perfect future", became Paramount's main platform for propagandizing their self-acclamation. I find it noteworthy that in the NG era, prior to the DC War, the only people the UFP allowed Starfleet to get heavy with were the Maquis- those unenlightened boors who left Earth and other UFP "crown worlds', and settled in the Badlands border region (with UFP permission), and then had the gall to protest when the UFP decided to hand the whole lot over to the Cardassians. Which reminds me of so many episodes in the MidEast I can't count them.

OH, PS- Picard's office was called a "Ready Room". No, I don't know why, as he was never actually "ready" for much of anything except a cup of Earl Grey.



David said...

eon; good assessment of the whole ST situation. One reason why I came to loathe NG was that the writers had so little interest in nautical terms and traditions that they came across as embarrassing. Did anyone every bother to look up what "flagship" actually meant or what an admiral actually did?

The most egregious of these was the infamous "ready room". Real ship's captains have their offices, too. They're "day cabins" and they're called that because real captains, unlike that 9 to 5 officer Picard, have bunks in them so they can sleep next to the bridge if the ship's on alert.

eon said...


Thanks. (Blushes, scrapes sneaker toe across gravel.) ;-)

If NCC-1701-Delta was supposed to be the fleet's flagship, Picard should have been an admiral, not a captain. Which would have made Riker his flag, not his XO.

And both Delta and Echo had that small auxiliary tucked under the saucer they called the "Captain's Yacht". SFX guru (and Navy veteran) Ronald D. Moore pointed out that the correct terminology would be the "captain's gig".

They were more interested in the fact that Patrick Stewart aka Picard informed them that it was named "Calypso" after Cousteau's ship- and the worst song John Denver ever wrote. (Gigs, of course, do not actually have names, anyway.)