Celebrating Picard as part of Strange New Pod's Captain Picard Week
On this special episode, Jeff Akin shares his contribution to Strange New Pod's Captain Picard Week Podcast Festival! This was a full week of podcasts celebrating Jean-Luc Picard as we prepare for the premier of season 2 of Picard. You can check out the entire festival here: https://www.strangenewpod.com/blog/captain-picard-week-schedule/
Jeff talks about the 5 things Picard does, at a galaxy-class level of expertise, that make him stand out as a leader. Those are:
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Welcome! Happy Captain Picard Week! I have a very special episode for you today as part of Captain Picard Week from Strange New Pod. If you’re hearing this on their feed, it is great to meet you! If you’re hearing this on the Starfleet Leadership Academy feed, take a minute and go check out Strange New Pod! Not only will find a fantastic Star Trek podcast, but you’ll get to hear from the other 13 podcasts involved in this epic event! And I’m even a part of one of them! Hawk, from Strange New Pod and I were able to join Matthew with Trek Untold to talk about trauma and Picard’s experience with the Borg. Check it out!
Here on the Starfleet Leadership Academy, we’re going to talk about, yep! Picard as a leader! I’m going to dive into some great episodes that highlight five of the qualities that make Picard one of, if not the definitive leader and Captain in Star Trek. Now, let’s make it so!
The Original Series has been off the air for 53 years and The Next Generation for 28, yet the debate rages on – Kirk or Picard. People have really strong feelings on this and there isn’t a clear winner. But I disagree with the debate itself. You see, leadership can look a lot of different ways, and with the exception of Captain Lorca and Captain Archer, Star Trek is full of amazing example of leadership!
Ok, that wasn’t fair. Archer takes some time to ramp up, but he gets there too.
But, still, if I asked most anyone who the best leader in Star Trek is, a whole bunch of them are going to say our man of the week, Jean-Luc Picard. But why? What makes him stand out? I mean, Kirk is responsible for a bunch of successful diplomatic missions, Janeway mostly adhered to Federation ideals even when it would have been easier to forego them. Sisko brought a team of people from different governments and societies together and helped them achieve impossible things. So, why Picard?
Let’s look at five specific things he did that answer that question. Now, all of the captains did most of these things, to one degree or another, but Picard did them consistently, and at a galaxy-class level!
He met people where they were at; he leaned on others and asked for help; he stood up for his team, he helped his team to grow and develop; and he seized the moment.
So let’s look at each of these.
When I say he meets people where they’re at, or he can speak to people in ways they can understand, I’ll bet we all immediately think the same thing: Darmok – Tamarians
But that’s not all he does. Another great example of this is in an episode a lot of Star Trek fans tend to forget, which is really a travesty! This isn’t the only time I’m going to reference the Ensigns of Command in this episode, it has a lot of good to it. It’s also a deeply special episode to me. Before my Mom passed away in May of 2020, the last thing we did together was watch this episode. Ensigns of Command – Sheliak
What he’s doing in these examples is using knowledge, empathy and patience to understand the person he’s communicating with. This is absolutely critical for leaders. Understanding the cultures and experiences of the people you are leading, or working with, or even living with is what you need to be able to communicate effectively.
Q Who - Q
What a nightmare of a situation. From this moment, Star Trek changed forever. In fact, check out the Trek Untold podcast contribution to Captain Picard week for a deep dive on what happens to Picard, ultimately, as a result of this episode.
But what’s awesome here is Picard didn’t think he could save the day himself; he didn’t try to be the hero. I’ll bet you have worked or lived with people that did not act this way; they thought they could do it all themselves. And if your experience is like mine, yeah, they weren’t able to and they caused a lot more damage by trying when they could have just asked someone else for help.
Leaders understand that teams are better with everyone. This is the magic of diversity. Bringing together a group of people with different life experiences, cultures, education and interests always creates better ideas and plans of action. Picard knows this. He gets it. And even in an embarrassment of an episode, he does this: Code of Honor – Asking for options.
Picard shows his skill and, honestly, his power, by leaning on others. He is not afraid to ask for help and to accept that help. And it might seem counter-intuitive, but in asking for help, and letting other people shine – even save the day, he is the one that benefits and looks like the amazing leader.
And a real measure of that is how you help your team grow. And, holy crud, is there anyone that has invested more in his team members than Picard? I mean, let’s look at all the people that worked with him that went on to Captain their own ships. Now some of these were alternate timelines, but even those are based on the prime timeline, so I’m going to count them!
Of course there’s Riker, who went on to Command the Titan, but also Beverly Crusher! In All Good Things she was captain of the USS Pasteur. LaForge had the Challenger in Voyager Timeless. In the Picard novel, The Last Best Hope, Worf took command of the Enterprise after Picard was promoted. And, most recently, Sonya Gomez took command of the USS Archimedes which we was in Lower Decks First First Contact.
I mean, Kirk was great – I love Kirk. But he had Spock that commanded the Enterprise for a hot minute and Sulu that was Captain of the Excelsior. Others, like Chekov, had success in the novels, but back in the TOS and TNG books, it was the wild west as far as continuity went. But Picard did a thing that every great leader does – he created more leaders!
But I love how he did it. Part of it was trusting them and relying on them, like we talked about a few minutes ago, but it was also by allowing them to fail. Peak Performance – Quote: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness, that is life.”
Back to Ensigns of Command, Data is really in over his head. Picard allows him space to mess up and to learn from his mistakes. Ensigns of Command – Data moving illegal colonists
TNG really dove into the personal lives of a lot of the characters, really, that’s a thing I miss in the Trek we’re getting today. It’s all so focused on the overarching story we don’t get to spend a lot of time with the crew. Now some of this was kinda filler stuff that was maybe fun but didn’t influence much, while some of it <cough-cough> sub-rosa <cough-cough> was just bad. But sometimes, they went way deep.
Take Worf. He wanted to grow up more than anything else, he was not a Toys R Us Kid….no, all he wanted to be was a Klingon. And even that got taken away from him. If you remember, in Sins of the Father, he received a discommendation. For someone that wants nothing more than to belong…this was almost worse than death. Sins of the Father – Worf’s discommendation. In his lowest moment, Picard stands with him. And as the series continues, Picard stands right at his side to help him learn from this and to grow from it. Honestly, if it weren’t for Picard mentoring and supporting Worf through his discommendation, it’s doubtful he would have been in a position to command the Defiant or the Enterprise.
This is a perfect segue to the 4th thing. When you lead a large team, or you’re leading a politically challenging project or task, you are going to be faced with people on your teams being questioned or even outright attacked. I remember a team mate of mine, not too long ago, that was a victim of harassment by a valuable customer of ours. She, frankly, wasn’t safe being left alone with them. Now, the easy thing to do would have been to either remove her from the role and put someone else in it, or to have sided with the customer because their business was important to us. But the right thing to do, which is what we did do, was the hold the customer accountable, risking our business with them. I stood up for her even though it was the more difficult and riskier thing to do. And where do you think I learned how to do that? Yep. Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Measure of a Man – defending Data
Now, we could do a whole deep-dive into what Riker did here and the turmoil and conflict he experienced. Maybe we’ll do that when he gets his own show and it’s Will Riker week! But, like I said, it would have been so easy to have just agreed with Maddox and handed Data over. But instead, he took that more difficult and riskier route. And, what we know from here is Data and Maddox formed a great relationship and Data went on to do the amazing things he accomplished. Maddox…well, go back and watch Season 1 of Picard for that one.
There’s another incredible example of him doing the same for someone else that it would have been so much easier to leave to themselves: The Drumhead – not allowing a witch hunt
Finally, he showed that it’s important to make the most of every moment we have. Now he had the benefit of living an entire, second lifetime to come by some of this wisdom, but it still applies.
And in all of this he shows a lesson that I remind myself of a lot. I like who I am. I like what I get to do with my life. And that means, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my life. All of that came together to make me, right now. It takes Q to help Picard see this. Tapestry – had to get stabbed to become who he is
I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this look at Picard as a leader as part of Strange New Pod’s Captain Picard week than seeing Picard and Q together. Much more of that to come!
Thank you so much to Strange New Pod for inviting me and the Starfleet Leadership Academy to be a part of Captain Picard Week! The new season is set to premier, tomorrow, I think!
Be sure to check out all the podcasts that participated in Captain Picard Week. Go subscribe to Strange New Pod to catch all of them!
And if you’re listening to this on the Strange New Pod feed, subscribe to the Starfleet Leadership Academy wherever you listen to podcasts.
Thank you all, and Ex Astris Scientia!