James T Kirk: The Leadership Profile
For those of you who are not Stark-Trek initiated; James T Kirk was the Captain of the star ship Enterprise. Although being a fictional character, Captain Kirk is a great example of courageous leadership and endeavor. Through his career he lead a team of individuals through the most creative and challenging circumstances ever created. He negotiated peace treaties with numerous races, lead a ship of men of women into the unknown and ultimately gave his life for what he believed in. What a great example of a courageous leader!
William Shatner (who played Kirk) was a sex symbol in the late 20th century due to his roll in Star Trek and other TV roles. As well as being an attractive man, women were drawn to his nature and character which were portrayed in these roles. He was reckless, funny and strong throughout his role as Kirk which were essential characteristics of an alpha male. I was personally bought up watching Star Trek and can appreciate his leading as I was amazed by his missions and what he stood for throughout.
What made James T Kirk an iconic leader?
OK let's move on from the hero worship into the true grit which made him an excellent example of a leader for our biographical section of this website. Kirk was admired and followed for the following reasons;
- He valued those around him and fought for them. Often leaders look out for themselves and are sometimes willing to shoot a hostage, but Kirk valued his crew and went to the end of the galaxy and back to help them.
- He commanded with power and allegiance. His crew needed to know he was strong enough and able enough to make hard choices under extreme pressure. Although this didn't always make him the most popular Commander, it was necessary for the Enterprises survival and mission.
- He was a learner and was known for being an intellectual. Most people are fooled by this charming practical captain, but he was known back in the star fleet academy as a bookworm who was always carrying around books. Through this leadership characteristic of learning he found the strategy and cunning to see a solution around impossible situations. A great reason to study situation leadership styles (just in case you find yourself in hand-to-hand combat with an alien on a baron planet.)
- He had a diverse and eclectic leadership team around him. This would scare most leaders but his command crew were as varied and diverse as they come, indeed Spock his No.2 had almost the exact oposite of personalty to James T Kirk. However, they got along famously eventually as it was worth pushing through their differences to have someones perspective on something so different from his.
Which Qualities can we extract from the Leadership of James T Kirk?
I think it's brilliant to study past leaders, iconic men and women, people of infamy and inspirational leaders but if you can't extract values from them to apply to your own leadership the point is lost. Below are a few of our suggestions of what you can learn from his leadership but please feel free to use the commenting facility to add your own observations - we'd love to hear them!
- Don't value Yes-men over someone who can challenge you. Obviously Kirk had Spock, but I've witnessed leaders continually choose a leadership team of people who will just say Yes and say that the leaders are amazing even when they make stupid mistakes and are not very amazing. The best leaders I know have their closest leadership team as a group of people diverse and willing to challenge (with respect) the leader on what they decide and do. Find these people of value who will follow you faithfully but also challenge you respectively.
- Make a decision to be a student of leadership. People still put little value on learning and being a student who actually studies and reads books but I think the amount you are willing to invest will show in the fruit of your leadership. Maybe reading copious amounts of books is too much for you, why not sign up for our Leadership Newsletter and receive simple but valuable resources straight to your e-mail inbox.
- Don't be afraid to be a little reckless sometimes. Playing it safe is a perfect way to 'maintain' leadership and slow down the degradation of your influence, I can't encourage (with cautiousness) enough that to lead effectively sometimes you need to be a little reckless. Kirk got his hands dirty and went on away missions which he shouldn't have and yet he was admired by everyone and saw significant breakthrough by doing so.
- Don't forget the simple lessons, like being likeable. Sometimes we get so deep and meaningful that we forget an absolute necessity of leading is having people actually like you. Kirk was funny and intriguing which lead people to come around him and actually follow. If you want to be an influential leader and struggle with your own personal characteristics, start there and build your personal structures to be someone that people are attracted to and want to be around.
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