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4 Star Wars Characters Teach Us Leadership and Customer Service

Updated: Aug 24, 2022



I'm one of the biggest Star Wars fans you'll ever meet.


In fact, it was the first movie I ever saw in a theatre when I was a kid. Back then, we just called it Star Wars, not A New Hope or Episode IV.


Lately, the Star Wars universe has exploded and that has inspired me to think about lessons of leadership and service from the Star Wars Universe.


I help small to medium sized businesses with their customer experience, training, and employee engagement - and I love examples in pop culture that illustrate key points.

You probably see where this is going right now - when I let my inner nerd take a crack at this week's blog, this is what you get. And we are going to stay focused on newer Star Wars properties, since they are absolutely dominating the streaming market right now on Disney +.


GRAND ADMIRAL THRAWN


This is a fan favorite and one of my favorite characters. He was wiped out of the Star Wars Universe when Disney bought Lucasfilm, removing The Thrawn Trilogy of novels from canon. These being some of my favorite books from my high school days, that was a bit of a bummer. But an appearance in Star Wars Rebels, a new series of books, and a brief mention in The Mandalorian brought him back to the continuity.


And the crowd cheered!


Why is he important? He is a master strategist - and so different from anyone else on the dark side. Although he is an imperial officer - in fact one of only a few Grand Admirals - he is someone who leads his team with efficiency and care. Thrawn sees everything - every detail, angle, and tool at his disposal to bring victory. He also helps his team see the answers (and how he arrived at his conclusions) to help them grow and become even more valuable team members.


As someone who is clearly on the "bad" side, it is odd to find yourself rooting for him. But the guy treats his team well, recognizes great work, and advances based on merit and accomplishment.

This is reminder that execution drives customer experience and helping teams become problem solvers is a path to empowerment and employee engagement.

LUKE SKYWALKER


We are seeing new side to Luke in these series. We have only seen him previously as a Jedi coming into his own at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi and the end of his journey in the abysmal new trilogy.


But The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett help us see Luke in a new way. We see not only his strength but his wisdom, and he has become a wise leader who asks questions and helps his team see the path.


That's a key attribute for developing teams in today's market. To allow them to see their choices, to understand their path to growth, and then help them forge their way. It is about allowing employees to take ownership in their leadership journey without abdicating ultimate responsibility.


Luke could have given Grogu (Baby Yoda) the answer, but he allowed him to understand his choices and then ultimately make it. Although he chose to leave, it is clear that they will end up together down the road.


This is much like leaders who know that their teams may not stick around forever, but still prioritize their development and skill building. They leave and take those skills to another organization in town, but they also become advocates and evangelists for your brand.


BEN KENOBI


We have just recently reconnected with Obi Wan (Ben) Kenobi in the new series named after the title character. Ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, we find Ben looking out for Luke on Tatooine and being pressed into service to rescue a kidnapped Princess Leia.


As their journey evolves, Ben must build trust with Leia if he is to return her safely home and must let her get to know him. Along the way he is chased by his old charge Darth Vader and struggling to regain use of the force. As previously one of the most powerful Jedis in the galaxy, this is both frustrating and dangerous.


As leaders we are challenged everyday with connections and relationships. There is still trepidation by leaders in the workplace about letting employees get to know them - and this represents an opportunity to be approachable, transparent, and relatable. People don't build bonds with things or companies (except iPhones and R2D2) - they build them with the people who brings things and companies to life. Real leaders with real passion who take the time to get to know their teams will cultivate far more engagement and loyalty than those who never let their teams get to know them.


Plus Ben will go on to say the famous line "In my experience there is no such thing as luck." This reminds us everyday that great service and business execution doesn't just happen - it is the product of intentional design and commitment.


DIN DJARIN (MANDO)


Bounty Hunters in the Star Wars universe trade on their reputation and their execution. Look at Boba Fett, IG88, and most recently The Mandalorian' s central character Din Djarin.


Now early in the series run, we see Mando's sterling reputation as a person who gets things done tarnished when he protects the cutest little green youngling you've ever seen.


But reputation is a funny thing. After Mando makes that decision he is chased across the galaxy, has his friends turn on him, and loses most of his business connections.


Sounds like a stark reminder that reputation is fickle and the cornerstone of your business growth. This is something that is particularly amplified at the small and medium local business level.

As a business, you are selling products and services that solve problems - but that is based on the reputation that the product is of high quality, delivers what it promises consistently, and is a value when compared to other like products. That sounds pretty rudimentary, but we can identify businesses who miss out all the time on sales because they have a reputation of not being able to deliver.


That drive through is always slow and I'm in a hurry.


That store never has enough check out lines open.


The hair salon never has enough stylists working on Fridays.


The chef is off on Mondays and the food isn't quite up to par when she is gone.


These are all assumptions that people make everyday based on reputation and experience with brands - and it costs those businesses money each time. You string together too many negatives about a company and you may not bother going back at all. And if too many people take that point of view, the business will be circling the drain in no time.


Strategy.


Employee Development.


Empathetic Leadership.


Company Brand.


Who knew that Star Wars could teach us so much about customer experience, leadership, and employee engagement? Probably Yoda knew but he spent decades hiding in a swamp, so we'll cut him some slack.

The key here is we can use these kinds of examples and analogies as ways to reinforce common sense business practices and teach them to our team. This is yet another way to use storytelling to drive emotional stickiness for fundamental behaviors that make a difference in the lives of people.


Put it another way, it helps keep your teams and your customers engaged and at the center of everything you do.



Tony



Tony Johnson, CCXP Customer Experience Expert | Employee Engagement Consultant | Local Business Consultant | Keynote Speaker 606.356.7447 FR