Leadership lessons From Star Wars

May 03, 2017 by Brandman University

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

“Fear leads to anger. Anger lead to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Whether the light or dark side, you can find some life-lesson value in quotes from the Star Wars’ characters, who are leaders in their own right. Sure, Yoda’s syntax may make you pause for a beat to fully grasp his message; and Darth Vader was more likely to eliminate a direct report who provided an alternative point of view than consider a different option.

But in celebration of May the Fourth – aka Star Wars Day – here are some characters Brandman University’s School of Business and Professional Studies educators could see transitioning from a galaxy far, far away to a boardroom close, close to your workplace.

Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker exhibits leadership qualities of commitment to a cause, tenacity toward moving actions in the right direction, and teamwork toward a common objective. These qualities offer a positive model for not only fictional leaders in the movies, but for leaders in any field in the real world.

Dr. Glenn Worthington, Dean


My favorite Star Wars character who exhibited leadership qualities is Chewbacca, the loyal and trusted friend of Han Solo and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon.  Chewbacca exhibited an adaptive leadership style.

As the name of the approach implies, adaptive leadership is about how leaders encourage people to adapt—“to face and deal with problems, challenges, and change.”[1] In each Star Wars movie, you notice Han Solo relying on Chewbacca for strength and support, especially as they endured dangerous journeys to complete missions.  Chewbacca and Han Solo were a team.  They saved Luke Skywalker from being killed in the first Star Wars, and were instrumental, as a team, in achieving significant milestones.

The adaptive leadership style is also related to followership, which is the role a person willingly takes to complement and support the leader.[2]  Chewbacca led and followed Han Solo, as leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin.  Leaders do not lead in a vacuum; they must have at least one follower.  As an effective follower, Chewbacca placed himself at risk to support the best interests of Han Solo and the mission at hand.  Even though Chewbacca could not speak English, his language was always refreshing, inspiring and timely.

The relationship of Chewbacca and Han Solo teaches us the importance and power of adaptive leadership and followership.  As an adaptive leader and follower, Chewbacca was Han’s closest friend and confidant.  Their integrity, trust and loyalty were absolute and never questioned.  Leaders are not super heroes; we are humans, and as humans, we have bad days, we become afraid, we fail.  Leaders need “Chewbaccas” in their lives to keep them grounded and safe.

Dr. Webster Nicholson, Jr. adjunct faculty


Even The Huffington Post thinks that he is the most important Star Wars character of all time. 

So Finn was originally a Stormtrooper. Finn was originally part of the bad guys, the first order, and when he saw them doing things that did not connect or agree with his own personal values and standards, he at first ran away and then switched to the other side, to the good guys – the resistance.

Finn does not try to draw attention to himself nor does he take all the credit. Finn is a get-it-done person, which is the number one criteria of leadership. He is driven by his conscience and internal standards and he works very well on a team. He is very relational, hard-working and uses the resources around him to succeed.

He is not a Jedi but in battle he sees a vacuum and he fills it by grabbing a lightsaber and fighting with it even though he is not trained. He doesn't always follow the rules but gets the job done. He's very concerned about outcomes and doing the right thing. The resistance movement is not trying to follow the old ways but to blaze anew.  Finn fits right in.

Finn learns and exemplifies the fact that leadership does not come with authority and position it comes with the right action, collaboration and hard work. Finn is Carter's number one favorite character in all of Star Wars and the 10-year old knows. 

He's an individual who steps up to fill the need.

Dr. Helen Eckmann, Associate Professor


The Star Wars Saga

While often thought of simply a science fiction form of entertainment, Stars Wars can teach us all more about technology that we may think. Many of the early “techie” features of Stars Wars are all things we often take for granted today. For example, C-3P0 and R2-D2 gave us a glimpse of where robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) might be today. Interestingly enough, many of us use such AI every day when we speak to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alex, IBM’s Watson, etc.

Dr. Timothy J. Perez, D.Sc., CISSP, MCSE, Assistant Professor of Information Systems Management

May the Force Fourth be with you!


[1] Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 


[2] Daft, R. L. (2015). The leadership experience (6th ed.). Mason, OH: South- Western.


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