Friday Fun: Five Leadership Mistakes Of The Galactic Empire

Feb 24 2012 Published by under academia, friday fun, librarianship

The actual content of the post I'm highlighting isn't really all that amusing. It's actually quite pertinent in a real-world context.

But I really love how they've taken actually useful information that might be a bit dry and businessy and using a Star Wars / pop-cultural reference made it into something a little easier to wade through. A spoonful of sugar and all that.

Anyways, here's one of the five from: Five Leadership Mistakes Of The Galactic Empire:

Mistake #1: Building an organization around particular people, rather than institutions.

Perhaps the biggest mistake of the Galactic Empire made is its singular focus on the preservation of power for the Emperor and a few of his chosen lackeys. There is a constant through line we see starting with A New Hope and running through to the end of the Return of the Jedi of the Emperor consolidating more and more power into his own hands and that of his right-hand man, Darth Vader. In A New Hope, the Galactic Senate is disbanded in favor of regional governors hand-selected by the Emperor. By the time Return of the Jedi rolls around, the Emperor's only advisor is Darth Vader, and his distrust in his organization is so complete that his only plan for succession is a desperate attempt to poach Luke Skywalker from the Rebel Alliance and get him to join his organization. Anytime your future plans depend on getting a rising star from a rival organization to join your team, you know that you have some serious institutional issues.

As the events of the movie make clear, the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader pretty much eliminated any opportunity for succession. A galaxy-wide organization was defeated simply by taking out two key individuals. Despite his decades of scheming, Palpatine's organization barely lasted a day after he was gone.

Key Takeaway: Your organization needs to be structured so that talent is being developed on all levels of the organization, in order to ensure smooth functioning and ensure that it's easy for people to rise in the organization in the event that key individuals leave. Responsibility should be distributed on several fronts, so that chaos doesn't ensue if one person can't be reached. Realistic succession plans are vital to developing an enduring organization.


The Bottom Line: Ultimately, the Galactic Empire failed as an enduring organization because of incredibly flawed leadership at the very top. By building an organizational culture based on fear, lack of independence, and an unwillingness to adapt to changing circumstances, the Emperor set the stage for his own inevitable failure.

It's all good, so go on over and read the whole thing.

One response so far

  • Eric Lund says:

    Evidently Palpatine's plan was doomed from the start. As Yoda says following the defeat of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace: "Always two of them there are." So there is no alternative to recruiting a particular person to fill the gap when one of the Big Two dies. Palpatine then recruited Count Dooku, who was obviously a temporary fill-in while Palpatine worked on his real target, young Anakin Skywalker.

    Also, by Return of the Jedi, Palpatine and Vader were working at cross-purposes. Both wanted to recruit Luke, but for apparently different reasons: Palpatine wanted Luke to be the next Emperor (somehow getting Vader out of the way), but Vader wanted Luke to displace Palpatine so that Vader and Luke could rule as father and son. Note that at the end of RotJ it is Vader, not Luke, who kills the Emperor.

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