Which Star Trek Character Best Represents Your PM Leadership Style?
written by: Jean Scheid
• edited by: Michele McDonough
• updated: 10/18/2011
Most people on the planet have seen at least one or two episodes of Star Trek, whether it’s the show from the 1960s, one of the newer TV series or a movie venue. Did you ever wonder how Star Trek characters stand up as far as leadership styles? Let’s take a look!
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Spock: He'd Take the Critical Path
Although Spock of the original TV show was fond of his planet’s motto, “Live long and prosper,” if we look at his project management style, he definitely would be using today’s tools such as PERT charts and live by the Critical Path Method (CPM).
I’d place Spock as a “pacesetter” as far as PM styles go. Why? Spock expects the best from those under him. Via his initial deciphering of the what ifs and what nows, his leadership would afford his team the ability to see a project from beginning to end—and the project would be completed in the shortest amount of time with minimal waste. He’d definitely use a Just-In-Time inventory method of gadgets and tools to get him to the finish line!
They say working with a pacesetter manager is stressful, but in the long run, who doesn’t want a logical plan with a guaranteed outcome?
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Captain Benjamin Sisko: Smooth, Jazzy and Strong
As soon as the first television spin-off began with Star Trek: The Next Generation and the subsequent ones that followed, debates from Trekkies all over the world argued over who was the very best captain. To me, it has to be Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine.
Sisko falls in the “team leader” style because he’s willing to hear everyone’s opinions. He would use focus groups and analyze feedback even if, in the end, the decision he makes on the project is totally his own.
The New Orleans’ born character brings a smooth and jazzy feel to his leadership style but knows when it’s time to get tough, albeit in a softer, less aggressive way. Captain Sisko would engage his team to keep them motivated and happy and above all, he knows there is no “I” in team.
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Ferengi Quark: Lying Is a Gift!
Also from Deep Space Nine comes the Ferengi barkeep Quark (although he prefers being called a host). Throughout Star Trek’s history, the Ferengi are noted for their obsessions with personal gain, theft and deceit to obtain just about anything for profit.
Teams working under Quark should expect a coercive leader in that his plan for action wouldn’t require input from anyone else—he’s got it covered, even if the plan doesn’t work. He will enlist the aid (even unwittingly) of just about anyone he can, even if he needs to use persuasive tools and tactics to get them on board.
Quark would do well to learn some interpersonal skills in his approach. As he told his nemesis character Odo on Deep Space Nine who once called him disgusting, Quark responded, “Till the day I die!” Project teams underneath him would have a hard time keeping up and remembering all those Ferengi rules as well!
Quark also believes lying is a gift. His leadership would definitely involve stabbing team members in the back and stealing the spot light—he’s got the ears for it!
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Captain James T. Kirk: Whatever It Takes
As he hails from Iowa, one might think James T. Kirk would fall in the all for one and one for all project management leadership style, but in retrospect, this man will do anything to win the battle, stop the war and keep his crew and the Enterprise safe (and I mean anything even if it involves breaking the rules).
There is no project management software or tools Captain Kirk would use in today’s PM world—he plays it by ear and his methods are often unconventional.
Teams scramble under his leadership but this “whatever works” method kind of did build a team of great assistants to aid him when it’s decision-making time, and his confidence level in them is bar none.
We’ve seen Kirk manage a lot of away teams, and the ones he lost, he took personally.
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Engineering Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott: It Can’t Be Done!
Scotty, as he was better known, was the chief engineer on the original Star Trek series. When the ship loomed near dreadful doom from lack of power, shields or anything else, he consistently offered concerns about the length of time he needed and there was never a quick fix.
But alas, the show was really less than an hour if one counts commercials so although his leadership style was always doubtful, he managed to reel in his team and find a solution despite his doubts.
While he’s famous for pulling off the greatest efforts with his handy Star Trek box of tools, teams under Scotty today would most likely be a little fearful and absolutely hate deadlines. But Scotty would pull them through!
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Captain Kathryn Janeway: Too Authoritative?
You can shoot me in the foot here, but Voyager’s Captain Janeway is one authoritative leader and her style reflects the same. Was this a forethought of Star Trek writers—strong women leaders?
Sure she’ll listen to ideas but you never get the feeling she’ll run with any of them. Expect some extended time off in your quarters if you disobey her.
Her teams do respect and trust her, but as far as liking her, I can imagine an employee gathering full of complaints about her leadership style. And nope, she’d skip the suggestion box. If she did allow one, she wouldn't read any of the comments dropped within.
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Q: Mix It Up a Little
The Star Trek character Q of the Q Continuum first appeared in The Next Generation in male form and likes to put his hand in everything, especially to test the waters or sway camaraderie.
Because of his supernatural powers to pretty much fix any dire situation, I look at him as being a prankster leader who likes to mix it up, make it messy and offer up impossible challenges.
If he gets too disruptive, the Q Continuum is always watching and he knows it, but he still manages to make those around him miserable even if it’s for a short time.
If Q were a leader today, his team would not trust him and would most likely fear where they’d be the following day or better yet, where Q would be.
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Captain Jonathan Archer: I Hate Vulcans!
This captain of the TV show Star Trek: Enterprise makes no bones about disliking Vulcans but does manage to have one as a science officer on his senior staff. As a kid, Archer dreamt of being an explorer and if he were studying for the PMP exam, he’d tell you exactly how he planned to pass it in one try.
Much like other captains in the series, he’s willing to break the prime directive if it is for the good of man or alien-kind. But, on his own terms, he’s out to make a mark for himself to achieve his dream of making a difference in the galactic world.
He comes from a family of Federation leaders so think of him as a military brat who will write his own story and life path. Those beneath him are simply along for the ride.
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The Doctor: Not One Bone in This Body
Also on Voyager is a hologram physician simply known as “The Doctor.” After years of technological development, who wouldn’t expect a hologram to perform a needed ship function?
I’d expect his leadership style (or bedside manner) would be too nice and his team would walk all over him. His desire to get the heck out of Deck 5 and sick bay is a dream that won’t happen (well maybe in a hologramic-type dream) and everyone is aware of this main goal.
Focusing on the smaller picture or one element of a project, The Doctor would most likely fail as a leader but he’d always be open to ideas to help him get off Deck 5 and join the crowd on the bridge. Who knows how he’d be then?
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Commander Data: An Android With a Heart
From The Next Generation, android Commander Data is a whiz because his brain is a computer. He can access any historical fact in milliseconds and read complex schematics quickly, offering an accurate analysis.
He reminds me a little of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz who sought a heart—Data seeks to feel human and ponders human emotions.
Data would use a win-win style of negotiating in project management because he is able to quickly analyze both sides and see the outcome before the argument is even over.
Because he wants to be part of the human world, he plays a few instruments and enjoys his pet cat (appropriately named Spot). He tries to fit in, but would be the weirdo leader even if his projects always were completed on time and under budget.
Think, “Do I really have to be on his team again? His skin is kind of weird!”
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Worf: A Klingon With the Human Touch
Commander Worf from the Klingon Empire is also from The Next Generation. As security officer, there’s no way the captain is going anywhere without him. He either won’t allow it or if overruled will protest it honorably—because that’s what Klingons do!
He does have a softer side (he was raised by human parents) but he’d be the first to throw a punch in a focus group. Worf would do things his way first. You know that old adage, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission?" That’s probably his motto.
He’d die before being embarrassed and in today’s PM world, he’d kill a team member before allowing them to disgrace the project. After all, he is a Klingon and honor is everything.
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Betazoid Lwaxana Troi: She’s Got a Chalice and Some Holy Rings
This recurring character has been on both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine and is the mother of ship counselor Deanna Troi. I wanted to end this look at project management styles of Star Trek’s leading characters with her, because the actress who portrays Lwaxana is Majel Barrett (the wife of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry).
As a project leader she’d breeze in like a cloud, remind you of her Betazed Fifth House status, how she holds the Chalice of Rixx and is heir to the Holy Rings, but you’d be so overwhelmed with her enthusiasm, you’d like her right away.
She may embarrass you from time to time, especially if you’re a female team member with a cute Dad who is single, but as far as guidance, who doesn’t want a Betazoid on their side?
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What's Your Take?
Star Trek is full of so many interesting characters who could offer up a lot when it comes to managing project teams. Which character do you think most resembles your style or your leader’s style? Drop me a comment, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, live long and prosper!