Someone once told me that if you manage to complete three tasks before midday, you’re well on your way to having a productive day. Within the first few minutes of Ep IV: A New Hope, Vader has boarded a Rebel alliance spaceship, killed a guy and ordered his colleagues to “tear this ship apart until you’ve found these plans.” And all before his lunchtime suit feed... Vader doesn’t micro-manage as to how the job should be done. And his colleagues are all clear about Vader’s end goal. No memos. No voice notes. No flyers in the staff room. Darth gives clear instructions which are easy to understand. A great leader knows when to take care of something personally and when to delegate, so that he can focus his direction on more important matters.
Have strong communication skills
Although Vader forgave Admiral Ozzel for his first mistake, his second (and final) mistake resulted in Vader’s telekinetic strangulation as his Admiral paid the ultimate price for being “as clumsy as he is stupid”. Disagree with his plans? Force choke. Not performing to a high enough standard? Force choke. OK, so in keeping with his commitment to objectivity in performance and leadership, Vader picked his methodology of fear, manipulation and belligerence. But remember a great leader should be able to reprimand workers who are not performing well without having to always be that bad guy.
Be hands on
Although Vader had countless Storm Troopers at his disposal, he never asked anyone to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself. He made sure that he had a clear appreciation for the challenging things he asked his staff to execute. Vader also knew what was happening within his team at all times, constantly requesting progress reports on the Death Star and having a personal hand in carbon-freezing Han Solo. Whether he was engaged in dog fights in his own Tie Fighter, overseeing the building of the Death Star (twice!), boarding Rebel spaceships or even dealing with (killing off) his old master, Obi Wan, he was the half man/half machine for the job. A leader’s ability to jump in to the process at any point will be a crucial factor in earning your team’s approval.
Honesty is the best policy
The root of bad management is a lack of trust from your subordinates. When Vader inspects the progress on the construction of the new Death Star (Mark II), he warns his Commander to “dispense with the pleasantries”, that the Emperor “does not share your optimistic appraisal of the situation” and that the Emperor is “not as forgiving as I am.” The main virtue Vader sought in his team members was the ability to contribute to ongoing projects and to always expect a high quality of work. Employees would rather hear the difficult truths that surround them, even if the situation is difficult for them to digest – preferably without The Imperial Death March playing in their ears
Great leaders take the time to reflect on their decisions and remake that decision, if on reflection, that decision was wrong. Vader experiences a rare moment of humanity, right in his dying breath when he tells his son that he was wrong. Or rather, Vader tells him, “You were right. Tell your sister, you were right about me.” But the point is that even the most important leaders need to know when to admit to making a mistake.
So, there you have it. Although Vader killed younglings and mothers, ordered the death of the Jedi and was willing to destroy his own children if they did not follow him to the Dark Side, he did give us various valuable lessons in leadership.
Have a happy Halloween. But please remember that, if you breathe like Vader behind me, I might just scream…Simon Allison is an Employment Partner with Blackadders and tweets prolifically @EmpLawyerSimon