Those of a certain age will recall the original “Star Trek” television series with William Shatner as Captain Kirk, which was the genesis of the movie franchise and the second generation TV series featuring Patrick Stewart as Kirk as well.
If you work on Capitol Hill these days, odds are Star Trek is not the first place you would think of for valuable lessons on leadership, but Christian philosopher and Reasons to Believe scholar Kenneth Samples, writing on his excellent “Reflections” blog, offers a thought-provoking case to the contrary.
Samples notes that Kirk relies mainly on two subordinates, Dr. Spock, the ship’s science officer, and Dr. McCoy, the ship’s medical doctor, for advice when tough decisions are called for:
“Spock and McCoy are clear counterpoints in personality and in what ultimately drives them in life. Mr. Spock is half human and half Vulcan with a stoic, pensive personality and a relentless devotion to logic.
“Dr. McCoy, on the other hand, is passionate, cantankerous, and emotional. Both are men of science but they often clash with one another. You might say that Kirk appeals to Spock’s razor sharp mind and to McCoy’s compassionate and developed conscience.”
Such a setup among one’s closest advisers sounds like a prescription for a lot of contradictory advice, precious time and mental energy lost to needless competition and lower quality decision-making.
But Samples cites a particular episode, “The Galileo Seven,” that involves a failed mission led by Spock, as suggesting a different outcome, thanks to Kirk’s leadership. How the mission crew is saved after a potentially lethal crash-landing on an alien planet points to how that can be.
“Good leaders possess strong intellectual qualities and virtues,” Samples writes. “They are critical thinkers who are learned and committed to the cogent ways of reason. They are also people of moral conscience evidenced by genuine compassion toward others.”
With the prospect that all of us who look to the Hill as the principal scene for our daily labors will be returning to a more normal routine in a few weeks, now is a good time to think about the role of critical thinking and compassion toward others in our work.