Leadership Lessons from Star Trek’s Captains


I have been a big fan of Star Trek since my earliest memories. I remember as a child, even at an early age that while watching Star Trek I was intrigued by every moment of every episode. I was especially intrigued and impacted by everything that Kirk, Spock and McCoy ever said and how they acted towards each other. Even at a young age the manner in which the characters treated each other and how new aliens were introduced and respectfully handled blew my mind. Drama without disrespect.

Even today at my age, I feel that there are many things that one can take from Star Trek. Each Star Trek series presents ideals such as tolerancekindnessempathyleadershipteamwork and science to its stories.

This is the first in a series of articles to demonstrate the story telling greatness of the Star Trek franchise and what each and every one of us can learn from it.

The series always and consistently presented a lesson on leadership.

It is surely not easy to be captain of Star Trek Enterprise. You are required to be physically fit, possess knowledge of federation rules and you must be an excellent commander, motivator and tactician. You have to perform under pressure and often under very stressful conditions. You have to gather your team around and inspire them to work together to determine solutions to almost unsolvable (and often unbelievable) situations.

Captain James Kirk is an example here, although every Star Trek captain from Kirk through Archer are stunning examples of the best in leadership models. Captain Kirk always leads from the front. You would say ‘of course’. He is the protagonist. He has to. I agree. That is the job of the leader. He has to command from the front. Many times, Kirk was involved himself in say rescuing people from a planet, fighting tyrannical lords and putting himself in harm’s way. Of course he is helped by Spock and McCoy but they cannot match the wit and creativity of their commander.

Captain Kirk keeps his cool in adverse circumstances.

In most of the episodes, Captain Kirk and his team found themselves in most difficult circumstances. Kirk is sometimes trapped in situations, where there is no chance to escape. But he keeps his cool all the time and manages to get out of difficult situations. In the ‘Corbomite Maneuver”, when faced with ultimate extinction, he plays a trick on the enemy and manages to avoid destruction.

Captain Kirk treats his people with respect.

Kirk understands that each and every team member is important. Be it Sulu, Uhura or heavy weights such as Spock or McCoy. He listens to everyone’s suggestion and then applies his intuition and skills to find a solution.

Captain Kirk always stands up for his people.

He never lets his people down. The ship and its crew come before anything else, even before himself. He is always worried about the safety of his crew and their wellbeing. He acts as a great leader because he is able to empathize with the crew members. Captain Kirk takes immediate steps and decisions with his crew in mind. Because of this his crew never lets him down and they all work together as a team with the same unified objective in mind.

In one of my favorite episode “Balance of Terror”, the enterprise assails a Romulan ship which has a cloaking device. Working with his team and taking immediate decisions, he is able to decimate a deadly enemy which is more powerful. He makes calculated decisions on firing the weapons and trailing the ship. He adjusts his decisions from time to time and takes action as quickly as possible.

I could just as easily write an article about these same leadership traits and more about each of the other captains in the Star Trek franchise. All of them, from Kirk to Picard to Sisko, Janeway and Archer each who bring their own specific leadership skills to their position. However all of them at their most basic level rely on each of the above examples in how they lead their crews.