Everything I Needed to Know about Leadership I Learned from Sci-Fi

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By Nick Guarracino Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a hardcore Sci-Fi geek. The genre's films, books, and comics have informed and inspired every corner of my life.  Aside from filling my overactive imagination, I’ve realized recently that this obsession of mine has also taught me some valuable lessons in creative leadership.

Here are ten leadership lessons I learned from Sci-Fi.

 1. Go with your gut.

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Spock once said of Kirk, “He is a man of deep feelings.” Those feelings always served James T. Kirk in helping guide his decisions for his crew. He made some errors along the way, but he never doubted his instincts. Strong leaders trust their instincts and always hold themselves accountable when they’ve made errors in judgment, trying to learn from their mistakes and then correct their course of action.

2. Take a logical approach.

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While trusting your gut is something that comes with time and effort, having a solid plan to start with is key. Kirk relied on Spock to have a logical plan for any course the crew might have to face in its mission. A solid leader thinks things through and is prepared for multiple possible outcomes.

3. Find a reliable first officer.

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I can't stress enough the value of having a reliable second-in-command to challenge you, align with on plans, execute orders, and report back from the crew. Picard had Riker to keep him honest and challenge him. The combination of the two leaders made for a better experience for the entire team. I’m fortunate in having two "first officers" at Likeable, and they make leading our creative team a positive experience for everyone involved.

4. "Never tell me the odds."

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Nothing kills creative thinking faster than negativity. It’s a bummer. A positive outlook from leadership is key to any creative success. Letting fear smother experimentation is the death knell for any creative endeavor, and a good leader knows how to account for that while remaining true to the vision.

 5. The right team can accomplish anything.

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I’ve assembled some incredible creative teams in my career, and it’s truly a beautiful thing to witness a group  build something that never existed before. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. Putting the right team together is always a challenge, but an insightful leader knows when its working -- and isn’t afraid to make changes when it’s not.

6. Pick your battles.

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Ideas are subjective.  Sometimes your vision may not translate which means you'll have to learn to compromise and incorporate foreign concepts into your creative to ensure that all of your client’s goals are met. Leaders learn to pick the right battles and know when to let go so that everyone can live together harmoniously.

 7. Unlearn what you have learned.

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The key to my longevity as a creative leader has been my ability to adapt in the face of change. Any good leader knows that he/she can apply lessons learned in the past to new situations as they arise. Everything you’ve done in the past has prepared you for today, and today will prepare you for tomorrow if you learn to be flexible.

8. There is no spoon.

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To follow up on the last statement, sometimes we let our notions of how things should be done get in the way -- and that stubborn viewpoint can then keep you from achieving your goals. Creatives can be their own worst enemies. An experienced leader learns how to see beyond his/her own perspective to find new, original ways to solve problems.

9. Walking the path vs. knowing the path.

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There’s something to be said for experience. You can only prepare for a situation so much, but once you’ve been through it, it becomes part of you and you can then use your knowledge of that experience to inform future decisions. I often tell my team members (who tend to be much younger than me) that I’m not smarter than they are; I’ve just seen more. Good leaders know how to bring calm to a stressful situation, calling on past experience to help guide them.

10. Pass along your knowledge.

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A good leader is always ready to be a mentor. There’s no point in attaining knowledge if you’re not going to share it. I love guiding younger creatives and sharing my experiences. I’m still learning from my mentors and don’t plan on stopping any time soon. An inspirational leader knows how to impart knowledge in exciting ways that open minds up to new ideas and original ways of thinking.

What lessons have you learned about how to be a good leader?