More than 40 years ago, our world changed forever. On May 25, 1977, audiences first became enraptured with the stories of “long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” No one expected the Star Wars saga to still be expanding four decades later, but these stories have captured our minds and hearts.
What makes these tales so compelling?
Is it the action and adventure? The life-and-death stakes? The beauty and wonder of a “world” so different from our own?
The most successful stories latch into our minds, because the characters inspire us to improve our own lives, perform better, and spark action toward the first step.
The cast of colorful characters found in the Star Wars saga now span more than a dozen feature length films, multiple television shows, books, and various other supporting content and “extras.” They learn many lessons along the way, but perhaps the most valuable lessons they instill are examples of leadership prowess. We’ve combed through the hundreds of hours of Star Wars material to bring you these valuable leadership lessons from Star Wars.
In honor of May the 4th (be with you), we present to you 3 Great Coaches from the Star Wars Universe—and how you can coach like they do.
1. Encourage others to achieve more.
Yoda personifies the wisdom of a coach that has worked long and hard, and paid the price to attain knowledge. However, beyond possessing deep understanding, Yoda also stands apart as a guide that effectively encourages others to explore their own pursuit of knowledge. Yoda recognizes the value of experimentation and self-efficacy in progressing human performance.
In this example, note the care that Yoda takes proposing challenges and obstacles for Luke Skywalker. Each is slightly greater and more challenging than the one before as Luke increases his confidence in and exercise of the Force. Because Luke is a willing learner, Yoda’s experience lends him the patience to propose small actions Luke can take to expand beyond his current comfort and confidence levels.
For example: once Luke’s body is balanced, Yoda instructs Luke to extend his use of the force to arrange nearby stones. While the scene ends comically, the resulting expansion in Luke’s use of the Force is evidence of the efficacy of Yoda’s coaching. By the end of the film, we see the vast improvement in Luke’s skills, and more importantly, in his confidence (or Faith) in his abilities.
How you can be like Yoda: Encourage others to stretch just a little bit more. When possible, let your team members set their own “stretch goals,” but don’t be afraid to use your experience to suggest potential next steps that may widen your “coachees” mind.
2. Reinforce belief.
Shortly after Rey and Finn meet Han Solo and Chewbacca, Han helps the young duo understand a little more about the mysterious map housed by BB-8. Until that point, Rey and Finn had been simply scrambling to survive. In this scene, they are finally able to reflect on what to do next, and more importantly, their motivations for pressing on.
Moments like these can challenge a person’s belief, not just in themselves (their capacity to succeed), but also in the bigger picture—why what they’re trying to accomplish is important.
As you watch below, notice how Han Solo gives his perspective on the reality of their situation. He affirms to Rey and Finn that even he was once a skeptic, but his experience lends him the credibility to let them know they are on the right track. The scene ends with Han Solo offering his help.
How you can be like Han Solo: Be straight about belief, and offer continued help along the way.
3. Be a disciplined coach to help others discover their own answers.
This example involves a more obscure character from the Star Wars universe, but provides a powerful example of effective coaching. In the scene below, a Jedi Knight named Kanan has lost his sight, and is seeking help from a powerful being known as Bendu with intimate knowledge of the Force.
Bendu clearly knows what Kanan needs to do, but rather than provide outright answers, Bendu diligently asks questions that help explore and increase Kanan’s own knowledge and understanding. Bendu provides an opportunity for Kanan to voice his thoughts openly, and Bendu’s questions invite Kanan to delve deeper than his initial thoughts and reactions.
Bendu’s questions quickly remove interference Kanan experiences around his own fears, reveal that Kanan is much more perceptive than he had previously believed.
When Kanan asks Bendu what he should do, Bendu does not default to providing instruction. Rather, Bendu has the discipline to ask even more questions that increase Kanan’s focus and lead to Kanan’s own solution and course of action. A good leader recognizes that people are more committed to solutions when they had a hand in creating them.
How you can be like Bendu: Ask questions that invite others to explore their thinking. Provoke deeper discussion by asking “what else?” along the way. Be disciplined in encouraging people to process and solve their own problems.
Examples of great coaching are all around us, and certainly evident in the Star Wars universe. Many of the lessons from our fictional heroes serve to not just entertain, but educate. By taking the time and care to adapt these lessons to how to coach others, you too can help others along their journey to success.