Working on your leadership skills… by watching Star Wars? Q&A with Garcí Iñigo

We knew that Garcí Iñigo was a geek (he does have a GIGANTIC Lego robot on his desk), but what we didn’t know was that he draws inspiration from Star Wars in his professional life! When he first introduced his 9-year-old daughter to the Star Wars universe, our account services director realized that there were parallels between George Lucas’s films and the business world, particularly his own experiences working for various companies. Last week at Agile Tour Montréal, he gave a conference presentation called What Star Wars taught me about leadership. We spoke with him so he could tell us more.


01 — You can work on your leadership skills by watching Star Wars? Really? 
Don’t underestimate the films’ message on individual leadership. Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s character development shows us that we are responsible for the choices we make and that they have an impact on our destiny. The movies also teach us that leadership doesn’t come with a title: we are responsible for our leadership style, or for the style that we choose to have. We see this in Luke, Obi-Wan and even Han Solo.


02 — What can you learn about leadership from the Rebel Alliance?
The most important quote to me is uttered by Qui-Gon Jinn: “The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.” I’ve noticed that in the workplace, when you’re in a leadership position, your ability to speak is taken for granted, and being a leader can mean that people are more likely to defer to you and listen to you. But if you’re in this position, you need to listen, analyze and understand before you speak. In the past, I’ve landed in roles and spoken out without understanding my team and their situation, and that’s when people react negatively. We expect a leader to act when what they should really do is listen, question things, and provide support and guidance. That’s what Obi-Wan and Yoda do. On Dagoba, Yoda doesn’t make any decisions for Luke when it comes to what he should do. He asks him a hundred questions and challenges him, but he doesn’t force him into anything.


03 — Can you really learn about “leadership” from Darth Vader? 
Absolutely. Fear-based leadership is a style that you sometimes see in a workplace. And unfortunately, it’s extremely effective… In Return of the Jedi, when Darth Vader questions Commander Jerjerrod on the construction of the second Death Star, he is exercising dominant leadership. This style can sometimes be used in business, but it has its drawbacks, as it quickly creates demobilization and disengagement among employees. Luckily society is evolving, and people are speaking out against these practices… And bosses, like Darth Vader, can’t force-choke their employees from afar, either [laughs]. In any case, in our creative field of work, this approach doesn’t work.


04 — Many Star Wars fans are vocal about their disdain of the more recent trilogies. Are you one of them? 
[Laughs] We can debate for hours about the artistic choices in Episodes 1, 2 and 3, but the basic Star Wars philosophy is still there. I find that Anakin’s character development is really interesting, too. There are also unforgiveable elements like Jar Jar Binks, but that’s for another day. Episodes 7 and 8 have some interesting elements too, but in general, all of the movies in the saga explore the same basic topic of how we make our choices and being accountable for them. That’s the philosophical essence of Star Wars. And it still holds up, because everyone can relate.