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Shireen Qudosi

The Jedi, the Mini-Me, and the Swordsmith’s Apprentice: Forging Tomorrow’s Leaders

Apr 17 2014, 06:00 AM by

The Jedi, the Mini-Me, and the Swordsmith’s Apprentice: Forging Tomorrow’s Leaders


In epic organizational mismanagement, the job of sourcing leaders has slipped to HR. Some HR departments are smart enough to outsource this task to professional recruitment and development firms. Others rely on hiring leaders externally, not excluding ruthless headhunting and poaching. Very few hire from within. Fewer still cultivate them.

The Jedi
Star Wars fans can rejoice in knowing that the Jedi are a great model for organizational development. In the series, the Jedi are a monastic, spiritual, and academic organization in a fictional Star Wars universe.” However, they have in place a vetted system for turning younglings into master Jedi – always and without fail. You could argue the point by saying some of them have gone to the “the dark side”, which while true doesn’t recount the fact that they still honed their expertise on the same track. No one ever just throws it all in to go be a spare parts trader in some outpost.

The well-branded Jedi offer a strong apprenticeship track, in which everyone at some point is under the guidance of Yoda. The modern day application involves developing a mentorship to draw attention to your company – and using it as a part of your branding element to make your entity attractive to potential recruits looking for long-term affiliation.

There’s also a question of what your company stands for, because in today’s world it has to stand for something. It used to be enough to have a charitable group you’d do a mud-run for or donate some billable hours to. If you want to be exceptional, then those shortcuts just don’t cut it anymore. Going back to the Star Wars lore, you have the Force – a “binding, metaphysical, ubiquitous power.” In this universe, I’d say our entrepreneurial equivalent would be innovative entrepreneurship. A resilient spirit to follow your dream and carve your own path.

You can take a page from the Jedi and apply the philosophy for your own training and development needs. Your goal is to serve the greater good in harmony with this force. This makes you a Jedi. On the polar opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got the Site who serve only themselves. Nobody wants to be a Sith, let alone work for one. No business truly achieves greatness by taking on the Sith philosophy.
The Mini-Me
For Dave Logan, writer of “The 3 Best Leadership ‘Hacks,’” creating your own mini-me would be about the opportunity to “to produce a new breed of leaders who, like Jedi, go beyond what seems possible by applying just the right hack at just the right time.” Going down the stream of great writers, Steve Cody wrote a fantastic article for Inc., titled “How to Find Your Mini-Me,” which inspires the reference here.

However, far from an affiliation with Dr. Evil’s miniature clone, Cody writes on “selecting employees that have the same strong entrepreneurial spirit” as us. The article interviews Gilt founder Kevin Ryan, who offers entrepreneurs sage advice on finding the best candidates. He counsels on looking beyond resumes by taking a “deep dive” during the interview process to see whether a candidate has what he calls the “Three Ps: passion, purpose, and perseverance,” not to mention demonstrated ability in being a self-starter.

However, you might face some challenges if you’re mini-me is a Millennial. In an Inc. article titled “Why It’s So Hard to Turn Fickle Millennials Into Leaders,” writer Adam Vaccaro shares his thoughts on why this is. Referencing a 2014 Deloitte Report on Global Human Capital Trends, on how “about two-thirds of companies around the world consider themselves weak in developing millennial leadership,” Vaccaro continues on to say that “The data comes on the heels of other reports showing trouble in leadership development programs. Among those findings: Companies are hurting themselves by failing to differentiate between high-performance and high-potential employees, and though they recognize the importance of talent development they're not putting their money where their mouth is by investing in development programs.” Clearly, the solution is a development program that factors in how Millennials approach careers, what they want, and what type of managers they respond best to – all of which Vaccaro details in his post.

Another solution would to have in place clear apprentice-ship programs.
The Apprentice
Maybe Donald Trump was onto something with his show The Apprentice. The same goes for Richard Branson’s short-lived apprentice-searching series called The Rebel Billionaire: Bransons’s Quest for the Best. For reach, the real story would have been in following the narrative of the victor as they became an apprentice. Are they simply in charge of a company or are they an apprentice in the genuine sense of the word?

While those shows either died out or took on new forms in spin-off series, the idea of an authentic apprentice was recently rekindled by Paul Macdonald, owner and master-at-arms of Macdonald Armouries – featured February in the Edinburgh Evening News. The company, which makes reproductions of edged weaponry for collectors, museums, theatre companies and historical fencers, put out a call for apprentices as they’d done in the past keeping with the tradition of their work. Paul would agree with Kevin Ryan on the qualities needed for an apprentice, stating that he was specifically looking for people with passion and perseverance – that skill was necessary but past experience was not necessarily going to trump the caliber of character.

The Jedi, Dr. Evil’s plan for a Mini-Me, and even the Swordsmith all have a common vein in how they view leadership and development. They don’t see a glass ceiling for younglings, choosing rather to groom them than to view them as easily replaceable peon workers. These leaders (even the master-mind villains and co-conspirators, depending on how you choose to look at it) invest in the growth and development of emerging leaders; they’re willing to work with them directly, to give them the benefit of time and resources in order to create an army of not-so-mini “me’s”. Since you can’t exactly do everything yourself, and can’t be in ten places at once, doesn’t it make sense to invest in people who can do just that?

Posted in Tips & Resources, Cool Stuff for Small Businesses

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