Leadership lessons from Luke Skywalker
By Matt Ehresman
I have to admit: I’m a very casual Star Wars fan. I can’t really tell you anything about Count Dooku, but I am pretty sure I’m supposed to hate Jar Jar Binks.
With that said, I did enjoy the latest Star Wars movie. Even if you don’t typically enjoy science fiction and might not totally understand Chewbacca, very few film franchises have impacted our culture as much as Star Wars. Fun special effects aside, there is something innately compelling and awe-inspiring about epic heroes fighting a dark and evil enemy.
I think there’s an important lesson we can all learn from The Force Awakens. As cool as the Jedi are, I believe everyone’s favorite light saber-yielder made a mistake that we should avoid.
When we last saw Luke Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi, he was the hero of the universe. The evil Darth Vader was defeated, and at least some sort of balance was reestablished in the Force. Around 30 years have passed, and in the classic scrolling text that kicks off the new sequel we learn that Luke has vanished.
The bad guys have new leadership and are determined to destroy him. Princess Leia is still in the picture, and she too is looking for her brother, Luke.
This new movie is basically a galactic search for one man who clearly doesn’t want to be found. He scatters a few clues embedded in his favorite droid, but he makes it very difficult for a new generation of leaders to find their beloved hero. The galaxy needs Luke, and for reasons that aren’t yet clear, he’s hiding (with a really cool beard).
There are numerous theories circulating on the Web about why Luke went into seclusion. Maybe he’s afraid of his own power and doesn’t trust himself to resist the temptation of the dark side. Maybe he’s embarrassed about the chaos his family is responsible for. Or it could be that he’s just a tired old man who would rather read the newspaper with a cup of coffee in a bathrobe and slippers.
Does that sound like Luke Skywalker to you? He’s a film icon—one of the coolest heroes to ever grace our screens. When the galaxy is in trouble, who you gonna’ call? If the Ghostbusters aren’t available, the obvious answer is Luke Skywalker!
The next movie may reveal a good reason for Luke’s absence, and his reputation may be restored. But with what we currently know, I’m disappointed in Luke. Heroes don’t hide. Even when they’re scared, leaders act and inspire.
If you’re in a place of leadership at work, at church, in your family or in any other context, a time will come when people look to you for direction, training and encouragement. Maybe you have a stellar leadership track record like Luke, or maybe you’re more like Finn or Rey—the new generation of leaders with passion and potential but little experience.
Don’t shrink away from the big moment. There are at least 100 verses in the Bible where God commands us not to fear. Romans 13:1 tells us, “There is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Emerging young leaders in my generation need guidance from people who are a few “episodes” ahead of us. Whatever age and stage of life you find yourself in, don’t let your past or fears about the future keep you from being the hero we need you to be. Don’t underestimate your experience or the value you can provide.
Of course, unlike Leia, our “only hope” comes from One greater than Obi Wan. But we all still need guides that are brave enough to step up and lead the next charge—even if you don’t have a cool beard or amazing light saber skills. Prayerfully and boldly move forward as the leader God has called you to be.
Matt Ehresman and his wife, Tillie, live in Wichita, Kan., where he is the creative media director at First MB Church.
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