In response to the great article on forbes.com detailing the 5 mistakes of the Empire in Star Wars, I present the top 3 reasons that the rebels were able to take advantage of these mistakes, and achieve victory over the Emperor.
Because this Blog spends a good deal of time looking at Social Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprises, and in honor of Alex Knapp’s article on the Five Leadership Mistakes of the Galactic Empire, post yesterday on www.forbes.com, (also due to the fact that I’m a giant and unabashed Star Wars nerd), I decided to look at one of the most successful social enterprises of all time – “The Alliance to Restore the Republic,” aka the Rebel Alliance. The Alliance was a social enterprise aimed at restoring democracy, the “ideals of the old republic,” and freeing the galaxy from the grasp of the Empire.
In overthrowing the Emperor and defeating the Galactic Empire, the rebels overcame an organization that was vastly superior in size, strength, and resources. The rebels surmounted these obstacles through a dedicated and resourceful management team, one that utilized creativity, perseverance, and hard work to implement their plan, and ultimately, achieve their goals. Let’s look at the top 3 reasons the rebels were able to be successful.
1. Strong, Effective Leadership.
The unquestioned rock of the rebellion was Princess Leia. Throughout her captivity, the destruction of the first Death Star, the rebels exile on Hoth, the ordeal with Jabba the Hut on Tattooine, and then ultimately the breakthrough victory on Endor, Leia never wavered in her belief or her commitment to the rebellion and its principles. Along the way numerous lieutenants, including Obiwan Kanobe, Yoda, a maturing Luke Skywalker, and even the mercurial Han Solo, assist Leah. It was Leia’s leadership, however, and (1) willingness to face death at the hands of Governor Tarkin without betraying her friends; (2) ability to deal with the loss of her romantic interest, Han Solo, to Carbon freezing at the hands of Vader; and (3) faith in her companions while dealing with capture at the hands of Jabba the Hut (remember her line to him, “you’re going to regret this”) that ultimately propelled the rebels to victory. Throughout the ordeal, Leia refused to give up or despair in her quest to defeat the Emperor.
Further, Leia’s handling of the various personalities on her management team was masterful. She corralled the incorrigible Han Solo, winning over his allegiance and his heart. She nurtured a fragile Luke Skywalker, never challenging Luke as she did Han, who already had the brashness and confidence that Luke was seeking.
Whether she was organizing and monitoring the assault on the original Death Star (Episode IV), staying at the Echo Base until the last possible second to assist in the evacuation of all rebel personnel in the face of invasion (Episode V), or joining the invasion party charged with destroying the energy field on Endor (Episode VI), Leia consistently displayed the cool leadership skills necessary to take a small enterprise and overcome the odds to reach success.
The Emperor never took Leia’s leadership seriously. He did not believe that she had the strength or willpower to overthrow his rule. This lack of belief in the strength of leadership in the rebellion would cost him. Leia, on the other hand, believed in her mission and that belief was rewarded.
The lesson is twofold – (1) Strong and effective Leadership goes a long ways; and (2) never underestimate the power of believing in yourself. As Luke watched Yoda resurrect his X Wing from a swamp in the Dagobah system he exclaimed, “I don’t believe it.” Yoda turned to him calmly and said, “That – is why you fail.”
2. Enduring the Tough Times – Overcoming Long Odds
The rebels had some real lows in their journey to victory over the Empire. They lost good friends, dealt with numerous setbacks, and endured some very difficult conditions as they eluded capture and fought to win freedom for the Galaxy. Throughout it all, however, the Rebels never questioned their mission and ultimately their hardship was rewarded with victory.
The lesson to learn from the Alliance is that things don’t always go your way. You may not always have the best office space (the Death Star was clearly the Class A real estate in town), may have to deal with some tough weather conditions (Echo Base located on the ice planet Hoth), and might have to stick together when the odds seemed stacked against you (cloud city – Han Frozen; C3PO dismantled; Luke, handless with father issues).
Throughout the rebellion however, whenever their chips were down, the Alliance stayed committed its mission and displayed a willingness to take the extra step to accomplish its goals. Luke travelled to the Dagobah swamp system, crashing his X Wing in order to find Yoda; Leah risked her life and suffered servitude under Jabba the Hut to free Han Solo from his Carbonite tomb; and Lando Calrissian turned his attack on a fleet of Star Destroyers in order to prolong the assault on the Death Star and give Han Solo and his crew on Endor more time to destroy the shield generator. No matter what obstacle fate placed in their path – the rebels endured, took it head on and ultimately defeated a much larger organization who was not faced with nearly the hardship they were.
The rebels’ success was a testament to every small business, social or otherwise, that grits its teeth when times get tough, and refuses to give in to long odds and dim hope. In refusing to accept defeat, the rebels put themselves in a position for victory, and ultimately prevailed.
In the end, it is as Yoda says: “Try not. Do, or Do Not. There is no Try.”
3. Creativity – Utilizing your Resources
What’s the old saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, when life gives you two-and-a-half foot miniature bears wearing medieval leather outfits, you make yourself a miniature bear army and you regulate. (“Short help is better than no help at all Chewy.” – Han Solo)
Throughout episodes IV, V, and VI the rebels were constantly adapting to their surroundings, utilizing the resources at their disposal, and seeking creative measures to fight back against the Empire. The rebels fought the Death Star with single man X-Wing fighters to take advantage of an oversight in the Empire’s Design; The rebels hid from the Empire at their Echo Base in the ice caves of Planet Hoth (thought to be uninhabited by the Empire); and ultimately, the rebels succeeded on Endor when fate brought them the Ewoks and their adorable brand of vigilante justice. The Empire’s speeders and metal At-St’s were no match for some well placed ropes and the crushing embrace of the Ewok log vice.
The ability of the Alliance to find ways to move forward with the tools that presented themselves cannot be overstated. Ultimately, it was this creativity and adaptability that put the Alliance in a position to succeed, and led to their ultimate victory. The lesson for any small business is clear – take what resources are available to you, and put them to work.
1. Building an organization around particular people, rather than institutions.
2. Depriving people of the chance to have a stake in the organization.
3. Having no tolerance for failure.
4. Focusing all of the organization’s efforts into a single goal and failing to consider alternatives.
5. Failing to learn from mistakes.
Many of these mistakes were instrumental in costing the Emperor his hold on the Galaxy and allowing the rebel Alliance to swoop in and claim victory. What cannot be overlooked, however, is that these mistakes in-and-of-themselves did not lead to the downfall of the Empire. They only became catastrophic when the Empire was forced to face the small but motivated Rebel Alliance, whose combination of leadership, toughness, and creativity allowed them to exploit these mistakes and bring down the Emperor.
For any small business, social entrepreneur, or social enterprise, breaking into business world can be a daunting task. The market can be a forbidding place, especially in a tough economic climate. But fear not. Utilize strong leadership and bring the best out of yourself and your management team. Endure the hard times. Recognize that most businesses that are successful have faced down significant obstacles to their existence and come out stronger for having done so. Utilize the resources around you, and when the path you envisioned is blocked, take the tools at your disposal and create a different path. By doing these things, you will be able to adapt your business to maximize your success and social impact, much as the Rebel Alliance was able to against the Empire.
And on that note, I close with another quote from Master Yoda, teaching a valuable lesson for any small business or social enterprise attempting to overcome long odds in today’s tough business world.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”
May the force be with you.
The article provided above is for general information purposes only and should not be relied on as specific legal advice (especially since it’s about Star Wars). This article does not form an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions about this article, or wish to discuss Social Entrepreneurship, Social Enterprises, or Star Wars further, please feel free to contact me at Eric@apexlg.com