Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Leadership Lessons from Luke Skywalker

About a year ago, I wrote a post called Leadership Lessons from Captain Kirk. In the post (and later presentation) I shared how educational leaders can learn necessary skills even when they are demonstrated by a fictional character. With the release of the new Star Wars movie, I was inspired to take another one of my childhood heroes and apply lessons to educational leadership. Luke Skywalker is a of course the hero of the saga, but throughout the films, he demonstrates skills and attitudes that educational leaders can apply to their own school settings. I've focused on five leadership lessons that the Jedi Master demonstrates.

1. Don't let your past define you: Luke comes from pretty humble beginnings growing up very poor, with limited resources and is raised by his aunt and uncle. While he experiences subsistence living he always dreams big and looks to the future. Later, he discovers that his father is the evil Darth Vader and is even told it is his destiny to follow in his tyrannical path. Luke of course rises above his past and his heritage and creates his own heroic destiny. Are we letting ourselves be defined by our past, our mistakes, or our family history? We need to follow Luke's example and learn we are defined by our actions and not our past.

2. Find a Mentor: Throughout the films, Luke has a mentor. It begins with Obi-Wan Kenobi and later with Jedi Master Yoda. Obi-Wan is more of a father figure and Yoda more of the teacher/coach. Both teach him the ways of the force and more importantly to focus. He learns to let go of his anger, his fear, and calm his mind. When he does this, he is able to use the Force for good. His power comes from having his inner peace. Do we seek out mentors as educators? Do we have someone who helps us sift through the day to day items and focus on what Covey calls the "Big Rocks"?  We all need mentors at every age and stage of our careers.

3. Learn from your mistakes: Throughout the films, Luke makes a lot of mistakes. He rushes in when he should be patient, he is hot tempered when he should be calm, he dreams of the future when he should be focused on the present. Part of his appeal is that he is fallible like the rest of us. Yes, he has great powers and yes he is victorious in the end, but we see his struggles, challenges, and mistakes and say, "Yes, I've been there too." Like Luke, we all make mistakes (even when we have good intentions), but we can also learn from them and grow. As a principal, some of my best learning moments have been from mistakes or snap decisions I have made. I've made plenty of mistakes, but I've tried to learn from each one of them. As educators, we need to make mistakes to learn, but we can always be sure to "fail forward".

4. A Little Help from my Friends: Like the Beatles' song, Luke often relies on a little help from his friends.  Actually, he needs a lot of help from his friends. Twice his life is saved by Han Solo and throughout the films, he gets through his toughest times with the support of his friends. It is their comaraderie and bond of friendship that makes us feel like we are part of that group as well. Do you have a support network as an educator? Are you connecting with your colleagues? Do you have an online PLN (professional learning network)? Do you have support from family or friends? This is a big job and we can't do it alone. Find your support network and be a support for someone else too. Educators need to stick together like a family. There's a reason our MEMSPA team sang "We are Family" during our annual conference. Together we can do more!

5. Have Faith: Luke's greatest ally throughout the movies is the Force. We see him grow in his power and his abilities, but it all started with a faith that it was real and that he could grow to master it. In the beginning, he is awkward and halfhearted in his attempts to use the Force. Others even laugh at it. But in the end, he has become a master and uses the Force as his ally and strength. Do we we have faith that things will work out in the end? Do we believe that we can make a difference every day and with every child? Do we believe ALL children can succeed? Others may scoff and some may say it's not worth the effort, but we need to have faith that what we do is the most important thing in the world for a child.

Star Wars was a big part of my life growing up and was actually the first film I ever saw in a movie theater. As an adult and an educator, I see many of the characteristics of the fictional Jedi master can be applied to my real-life job as an administrator. I hope these Leadership Lessons from Luke Skywalker were helpful to you and I will end this post with the most fitting words I could think of...May the Force be With You!

photo credit: LucasFilms

PEARLS OF WISDOM (From the Jedi Masters)

"Your focus determines your reality." - Qui Gon Jinn

"You've just taken your first step into a larger world." - Obi Wan Kanobi

"Do or do not. There is not try." - Yoda

"Judge me by my size do you?" Yoda teaches Luke (3 minutes)


Monday, January 11: 2nd Grade CogAT begins (mornings in the computer lab)
                                 Principal Advisory Committee 2:00 pm
Tuesday, January 12: PBS Committee 8:05 am
                                 Bartnick Observation 10:40 am
                                 Berrelez Observation 1:45 pm
Wednesday, January 13: IEP Limberg 8:20 am
                                      Fuller Observation 10:30 am
Thursday, January 14: Staff Meeting with Chris Pinta (Genius Hour) 8:00 am
                                  Sports Science Assembly Pre-2 9:30 am / 3rd &4th 10:30 am
                                  Larabell Observation 2:00 pm

Monday, January 18: No School for MLK Day
Tuesday, January 19: Elementary Principal Group at Wayne-RESA 7:30-10:00 am
                                 Boggs Observation 1:00 pm
Wednesday, January 20: Achievement Team Meeting 8:15 am
                                      Casucci Observation 9:30 am
                                      Benson Observation 10:30 am
Thursday, January 21: Staff Meeting with Bridget Regan (Instructional Rounds) 8:00 am
                                   Weakley Observation 10:30 am
                                    Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
Friday, January 22: Limberg Observation 9:30 am

Monday, January, 25: DATA DIVE in the LMC (same schedule as fall)
                                  Window opens for iReady Testing 
Tuesday, January 26: Robertson Observation 1:00 pm
Wednesday, January 27: Youth Making a Difference Assembly (Star Wars theme) 3:00 pm
Thursday, January 28: Staff Meeting with Ben Hillard (Math Coordinator) 8:00 am
                                   Merchant Observation 9:30 am
                                   Nadon Observation 10:30 am
Friday, January 29: Teacher Work Day (Optional Report Day)


  1. Thanks for helping us all make the connections between a favorite movie and life as an educator. You made so many valid points that are on point! May the force be with you!

  2. Influence many, you will! Education can find peals of wisdom everywhere we look.

  3. Love it!! I now have a better understanding of the movie!! Yes, I will be part of the 1% of the population that will not be going to see the new movie!! :-)