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Old May 24th, 2005, 07:56 PM   #1
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WTF? Bad 'Star Wars' bosses

From the Sun Sentinel:

Bad 'Star Wars' bosses

By Maureen Ryan
Chicago Tribune staff reporter

Posted May 23, 2005, 2:49 PM EDT

I took a break from TV obssession this weekend to see "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." And despite all the whizzing lightsabers, dazzling space battles and political drama, it was clear what "Star Wars 3" really is.

It's case study of bad management.

Why does Anakin Skywalker turn bad? It sure seems like it's because he didn't get a promotion. He really wanted that title, Jedi Master (and the company car would have been nice).

But, you say, maybe Anakin wasn't ready for that promotion. Maybe he was still too immature, too easily angered, too likely to furrow his brow at the slightest provocation.

So why didn't his managers give him a clearly defined path to promotion? Not a bunch of Jedi mumbo-jumbo about using the Force and examining his feelings, but a concrete list of job skills he needed to improve (Using time more wisely? Prioritizing better? Keeping the Jedi break room cleaner? Thinking up better dialogue?)

The worst Jedi manager had to be Mace Windu, who, when things got hairy, essentially told Anakin to just stay put, don't worry, and by the way, we don't need your help right now.

That's not the way help an employee feel empowered and invested in the task at hand.

And it was disastrous for Yoda to tell a troubled Anakin to give up that which was most important to him. That sounded suspicously like "Don't expect a raise any time soon."

Obi Wan Kenobi wasn't much better. A boss should know enough about an employee's life to know what they're worried about. Obi Wan didn't realize his apprentice was having a child (well, twins, actually) with Padme until it was too late. Those sorts of personal issues worried Anakin to the point of obsession, yet Obi Wan was mostly oblivious.

And sure, Palpatine appealed to Anakin's ego. But what smart boss doesn't, from time to time? It's not enough to tell an employee that he's the chosen one, yada yada. Obi Wan should have realized that the constant "you've got more to learn, young apprentice" stuff gets old after a while.

If Obi Wan and the council had chosen Anakin for a few crucial solo missions, maybe he would have been too focused on Jedi business to be tempted by Palpatine's Sith pitch.

Still, Anakin must bear the responsibility for his eventual decision to join the staff of Dark Side, Inc. He was seduced by a boss who promised much, but actually withheld vital information that would have affected Anakin's most important decisions.

Those kinds of bosses -- the ones to hold on to information and use it like a weapon, all in an effort to manipulate employees into doing their bidding -- are usually very articulate and seem like your buddy at first. They seem like they're looking out for you.

Then, one day, you're cut off at the knees. Dependent on them for everything. And have nowhere to turn, especially if your old bosses kind of want you dead.

So the lessons for bosses and employees everywhere? Give your employees a stake in the enterprise, and if they want to move up, use constructive feedback to tell them how they can do so. Motivate their best qualities by giving incentives for good behavior, but be willing to accept criticism when it's warranted.

And don't become the kind of boss who rules through fear, intimidation, secrecy and appeals to greed and arrogance.

Unless you're really good with a lightsaber.

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