Tuesdays With Ryz- Lessons in Leadership from Darth Vader

Ruthless. Evil. Aggressive. Arrogant. Destructive. Sith Lord. And those are things I am called before lunch at my office!  (jk)


As the final installment of the Star Wars saga releases this week, much to the delight of Brady, Ryan, Bill, and me in our office, we all are trying to guess and figure out if we will see one character again.  No, he doesn’t have a beard that is long and white, suit that’s red and cap on head. He’s got a cape that’s long and black, part machine, and helmet on head.  


Darth Vader is not only the most complicated and ruthless character we have ever seen created, but, according to many online and written publications, he is the best villain to ever grace the silver screen in galaxies near and far, far away.  And while this title carries with it a burden few have the force to carry, he does so with confidence and an aura that continues to grow, even long after his untimely and unfortunate demise at the hands of his son (spoiler alert).


However, as we look more closely into Lord Vader’s rise to power, he teaches a thing or two about how we can become better leaders and just better people, both in our careers and our personal lives …sans that whole child abandonment, being a murderer and traitor…but other than those…he’s actually not that bad.  Trust your feelings and keep reading to see, in honor of the 9 chapters in the saga, the 9 quotes and ways Darth Vader showed that he is not only a total badass, but a great teacher in how to be successful as a person and a leader.


Mentoring: “What is Thy Bidding, My Master”

Vader was the most powerful Jedi and leader in the galaxy, but he didn’t get there alone.  He had great training along the way, both good and bad. He knew that to be the best, he had to learn from the best, so he sought out ONLY the best teachers who could provide him with skills and traits to be better.  All of us should seek out the people in our lives who can teach us, help us grow and, on the other side, be a mentor to people to lift them up. Not by the neck as Vader so likes to do, but in their careers and in our communities.


Forgiveness: “The Emperor is Not as Forgiving as I am”

Underneath all that leather, machine and brokenness was good.  Vader knew that, even though he was part machine, he was still human and humans make mistakes.  He gave people an opportunity to deliver and perform while also forgiving them for shortcomings.  One of the things I learned from him is to encourage a mistake, because that is how you learn. However, make the same mistake again, and….well…(keep reading)


Let People Go: “You Have Failed me for the Last Time…You are in Command Now, Admiral Piet.”

…this happens.  A good leader in life and in business must always know when it is time to cut your losses.  In the Empire Strikes Back, Vader was failed for the second and last time because of his Commanders lack of attention to detail and second guessing his leader.  While Vader forgave him before, this mistake was too costly to the entire team. When someone or something is negatively impacting your entire team or mission, it is time to part ways, which can be very difficult to do.  However, as a leader in the community and your career, it is your job to only get the best and give the best to those around you. Sometimes, it means letting those go in your life who are holding you back.


Accountability: “I Will See to it Personally”

Though he had countless Storm Troopers at his disposal, Vader didn’t just check out of the day-to-day activities of his team. He made sure he knew what was going on within his team at all times. He wanted progress reports on the Death Star, an update when they came out of hyperspace, where they were with finding the plans from the Rebels and, when needed, personally went to oversee the building of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi or the in carbon-freezing of Han Solo to ensure it went according to his plan.



Vision: “Join Me, and Together We Will Rule the World as Father and Son”

Darth Vader built an entire space station (twice) with the capability of destroying entire planets. What have you done in the last 20 years?  His focus and vision into how the entire picture and process would come together was amazing, in and of itself. His vision for the Death Star, for his son, and for the Republic was one of peace, though it was carried out maliciously and viciously.  Vader had a greater vision that even his team did not understand. He knew there was a greater calling for all of them and, while it is impressive that he carried it out, it is even more impressive that he knew how to communicate his vision to others, and motivate them to join him.


Planning and Delegation: “Tear this Ship Apart Until You’ve Found Those Plans”

One of the things I admired most about Vader is that, even though he was the most powerful person in the galaxy, he knew when to personally get involved and when to delegate.  Whether it is capturing Luke in the Empire Strikes Back or delegating Storm Troopers to find the plans in A New Hope, a great leader knows when to take care of something personally and when to delegate it so he can focus on what he does best.  To that point, he also knows that it is always important to have a strategy and a plan. From the Death Star, to hunting down Han Solo in Cloud City, he always had a strategy and a plan.  As we like to say, “It takes just as much time wish as it does to plan.”


Faith: “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing”

One of the traits I admire most of Vader is this one: faith.  He had faith and demanded faith from others. He made sure that people trusted one another and knew that the people around him were all in agreement in the belief of what they were doing together.  Most importantly, he believed in himself. He knew he could do whatever he needed to do and trusted those around him.  


Empathy: “You Seem Unsettled”

The Force is strong.  It binds us and ties us together.  It is, at its core, feelings. As leaders, we get caught up in the minute details and vision we have that we forget we are dealing with human emotions.  Even though he ruled with an iron…well…choking fist, Vader used his abilities to sense how people were feeling. He connected with them at a human and intimate level rather than just asking, “How are you doing,” he really cared to know how they were feeling.  Taking into account your team members’, family, and friends’ feelings allows you to connect and help them in a totally different way. Plus, they know you care!  


Praise: “You Were Right”

In the end of Return of the Jedi, again another spoiler alert, at the end of his journey, he experiences a moment of humanity when the Emperor tries to kill his son.  While Vader saves his son, the real lesson is in what he tells Luke with his dying breath. He tells him, “You were right. Tell your sister, you were right about me.”  We are so involved in our lives that we forget that others view us differently and can make us better than we already are. Your team members, family members, and friends are there to provide you with feedback to help you grow and change.  It is important to listen to them and to praise them for doing things well, even if you don’t see the benefit or truth up front. Now, let’s hope it doesn’t take your dying breath to tell your team member they were right and you were wrong about something, but the main thing is that Vader taught us to know when to admit they made a mistake.


Vader has been and always will be an unstoppable force as it relates to the best villains of all time in movies.  He is also a valuable example of what it takes to be a successful leader and person. While he is a better example of, “Do as I say, not as I do,” he had vision, character, empathy, and skills that made him great at his role in ruling the galaxy.  His tactics may have been questionable, but there is no doubt that his purpose and execution was sound. He is definitely someone you can learn a thing or two from when it comes to being a successful leader or person, just don’t go building Death Stars or blowing up planets.