Leaders must be dealers in Hope, and Janeway shows us how.
On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek Voyager, Basics Parts 1 and 2 (Season 2, Episode 26 and Season 3, Episode 1). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Janeway.
Article on Hope from Psychology Today
Hope is often the one thing that can help people get through tough situations. When the Voyager crew faces the unimaginable, Janeway is crystal clear that they will be positive and hopeful, and this helps them be successful.
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Just wanted to let you know, before we start, that this episode of Star Trek Voyager discusses rape. I won’t be talking about it in this episode, but wanted you to be aware of the content in the show.
Hello, and welcome! Thanks for joining me today. Have you ever gone camping before? But not like, tent and sleeping bag camping, more like, dumped in the middle of the woods with nothing but the clothes on your back kind of camping? That’s what happens to the Voyager crew in this one, and Janeway absolutely shines. She’ll demonstrate how to keep people motivated and positive, and how to lead them through survival. All this in the epic two-parter that closes the second season and kicks of the third season of Voyager, Basics parts 1 and 2.
We’re doing some botany! With Piter de Vries??
Ok, some really important table setting here. The Voyager crew is made up of Starfleet and Maquis, remember? One of the Maquis is this person, Lon Suder. We first meet Suder earlier in the second season of Voyager. He’s betazoid, and he has long suffered from nearly uncontrollable, violent urges. “I used to this the only talent I had was for killing.” And is portrayed by the wildly talented Brad Dourif.
His violent urges made him a threat to the Voyager crew which ultimately led to Tuvok performing a mind-meld with him, and then coaching him to help keep those urges at bay.
There’s a lot more to dive into, but we’ll save that for the episode where it all happens.
In this scene, we’re seeing Suder working one of his new hobbies, botany. He expresses that he wants to do more to help around the ship. He and Tuvok talk through some ideas and he commits to advocating for him to Janeway.
On the bridge, they receive a communication from Seska. Oh, there is a lot of table setting on this one too! I don’t want to give a lot away, because there are a number of episodes leading to this, so I’ll keep it brief.
Seska was another member of the Maquis group that joined Voyager. She left and joined up with the Kazon; the Kazon are the aliens Voyager fought with back in Caretaker. She also, at one point, stole some of Chakotay’s DNA and impregnated herself.
Ok, I think that’s all you need on Seska to understand this episode.
In the communication, she shows the baby, a son, and shares that she’s been kicked out of Kazon care because the Maje, Cullah, the leader of the Kazon, saw the baby wasn’t his. She says she and the baby are in danger and is begging Chakotay for help.
Chakotay is not cool with this. He’s venting to Janeway. He feels compelled to do something but doesn’t want to put the ship in danger. Janeway says, “If we do this, we do it together.” But she also acknowledges that Seska knows how they operate, knows that Janeway wouldn’t put an individual from her team in harm’s way. And then Chakotay makes me question every positive thought I’ve ever had about him, “Do you think it’s a trap?” Um, is water wet?? Wow, come on Chakotay.
He’s still conflicted after they talk and Janeway tells him to take some time to think it over, they’re not in a hurry. In his quarters, he gets his medicine bundle out and goes on a vision quest. We’ve already talked about how poorly Voyager handled Native American culture, I’ll just say that these two episodes don’t help out there at all. This next scene even sprinkles in some pretty harmful, ableist language to top it all off. But, this is what moves the episode forward.
In his vision, he talks with his father. He offers some valuable wisdom, “He is innocent. And he is a child of our people.” He calls the senior staff together and they meet to discuss plans to go after Seska.
There’s a nearby, Talaxian mining colony that Neelix has reached out to that are willing to help while they’re nearby. Then they start talking strategy, the Kazon will attack, it’s all but guaranteed. Harry Kim and The Doctor collaborate and come up with a cool idea. They propose creating an illusion, combining sensor echoes and holograms that make it look like they have a small group of ships flying with them. The only concerns are that it will be a drain on power, and will only last as long as it takes the Kazon to scan the holograms. They agree, and get to work. But not before Chakotay expresses his gratitude. “Thank you.”
They reach the coordinates and find a shuttle with one Kazon on board. They beam his directly to sickbay. He’s seriously injured. Chakotay recognizes him and he shares that Seska…Seska is dead. He says Maje Cullah had her killed and took the child to be raised as a servant. From what scans to the shuttle and the Doctor’s examination shows, what can be confirmed from his story is confirmed. That is, it’s clear there was an attack on his shuttle and that there was violence inside of it. Chakotay doesn’t quite believe him, though.
After he recovers, the Kazon helps them plot a safe path to where they believe the child has been taken to. He even gives them the Kazon command codes; those are like the master passwords that show all the defenses and all the ship positions. The Voyager crew know exactly where to go and exactly what to prepare for. Their path takes them out of range for the Talaxian colony, though.
While on their way, Tuvok and Suder meet with Janeway to hear his proposal. He’s a very generous host when she joins him and shows her what he’d like to do to help improve agricultural output on the ship. She’s impressed and asks for time to consider it. He gets frustrated with her non-answer, and starts getting verbally aggressive. Tuvok cuts him off, he takes a moment to breathe, and regains his composure. Now this may not sound like a big deal, but it is. It not only plays later in the episode, but it also shows how much progress he’s made since we first met him. Suder before Tuvok would have attacked Janeway. So, good on him!
On their way to the place the kid is supposed to be they decide to confine the Kazon to his quarters. They end up surrounded by 8 Kazon Predator-class ships. Time to put their hologram distraction idea to the test. And it works!! The ships split up, 4 going after the holograms and 4 left for Voyager. And the fight is on! As the bridge crew handles the battle, Torres manages the holograms. Totally effective until something gets crossed and she projects The Doctor out into the middle of the firefight! She fixes it and he says, “I told you, we should have run one more test.”
In his quarters, the Kazon takes his toe nail off and injects it into his arm – hmm, flashbacks to our last episode, Lethe. He has a rough bodily reaction and he blows up! He’s taken out a primary plasma conduit and blown a hole right into Suder’s wall! The plasma conduit being down causes power failures, and the holograms all disappear. All the Kazon ships are focused on Voyager. They are taking a serious beating. Warp drive is down; they’re sitting ducks. Tom Paris offers to get onto a shuttle and says, “I can go back and bring the Talaxians to help us.” Janeway agrees and he’s on his way.
The shuttle is taking a lot of fire and they lose communications with it! It looks like Paris went down!
Kazon begin boarding the ship. “Begin evacuation. Computer set self-destruct sequence.” Janeway’s going to try and save what she can and scrap the ship but the damage to the ship is too severe and the Computer can’t start the sequence. Janeway just stops. She looks completely lost. And then the Kazon are on the bridge! “Hold your fire.” Janeway surrenders and they herd the crew together as the Kazon ships surround Voyager.
Not gonna lie, this is where I thought they were going to end the episode; what a great cliffhanger! But it continues.
The turbolift to the bridge opens as the crew is huddled together, on their knees and surrounded by armed Kazon. Maje Cullah and Seska come barreling out of the turbolift. “Hello, everyone.” She has Chakotay’s son. “May he grow up never knowing the contempt his father has for his mother.” Cullah says he’ll take the child as his own.
Janeway stands up and tries to talk with Cullah. He smacks her across the face and then leans in waaay hard to some serious misogyny “What is it about the women from your quadrant?” They’re sent to a cargo bay and the sweep the ship for the rest of the crew, locking them all up together.
On their way out, we get a cool moment where Seska starts breastfeeding the baby on the bridge. Despite their gang-like mentality and aggressive misogynist tendencies the Kazon are a lot more forward thinking than a lot of employers and major corporations, at least in the United States.
As they sweep into sickbay, The Doctor hides away “Activate medical holographic recall set for 12 hours.” They report back that they’ve accounted for all but two of the crew and note that a shuttle is missing. Cullah says they destroyed the shuttle. I guess that really is it for Tom Paris. Wow. Seska doesn’t buy it, though, and insists they send out search parties to confirm the shuttle was destroyed.
Good. Because I don’t really buy it either.
So we can assume that one of the two unaccounted for people is Paris and we can assume the Kazon think that both he and the other person were on the shuttle. Gotta keep track of all this stuff.
The ship arrives at a planet and they land Voyager. That’s a cool thing about Voyager that we haven’t talked about on the Starfleet Leadership Academy but, it’s set up to land on planets! It’s got landing gear and everything. They don’t use it a lot, but it’s kinda cool, visually, to see the ship down on the surface.
They unload all the crew and take all their technology, comm badges and everything. All they’re left with are their uniforms. Janeway leads them all away saying they need to find water and shelter. She pulls a small group of people together and tells them they’ll each lead a team. And then she reminds us why she’s amazing. “Make it clear to everyone that we expect to be rescued.” Neelix, of course, is the naysayer here and questions if this is a good idea. And Janeway shuts him right up! “You’re the morale officer, Neelix. You give me an answer.”
Seriously!! I mean, yeah, it’s good for people to question their leaders, especially when it seems like they might be encouraging you to lie, but Neelix is the morale officer!! Keeping people’s spirits high is literally his job! Ugh. Have I told you how much I can’t stand this guy??
Janeway keeps on it. “It’s very important this crew be given a sense of hope. That’s our most important job right now.” Then they start breaking out jobs. Food, fuel, tools, weapons and shelter. Somehow, for some reason, oh, I just don’t understand, but somehow, Neelix leads one of the teams “Delta team with me.” Ugh…what is that? The redshirt team??
As they search, there are some minor earthquake trembles. They guess the planet is young and the landmasses are still forming. And then they hear more rumbling. It’s Voyager powering up for takeoff. As they watch the ship take off, they see the native inhabitants of the planet. Very primitive looking humanoids. Cullah and Seska are leaving them there to die.
The Doctor reactivates and assesses the situation. Lon Suder climbs out from a ventilation shaft. They’re all that’s left on Voyager. Will they be able to take the ship back? Will the crew survive the unstable, primitive planet? Is Tom Paris even alive? Tune in after 3 and a half months to find ou…<<RECORD SCRATCH>> Oh, nevermind! We’re diving right into it now!!
We rejoin the stranded crew. Janeway’s team is looking for shelter. One of the crewmembers, Samantha Wildman recently had a baby, Naomi, who we met in our episode on Voyager Homestead. Well, here, Naomi is an infant, and Samantha is struggling with her. Chakotay dives in to help and immediately implements fremen water discipline, “perspiring wastes water.” They find a cave that has a good space for them to settle into.
We join up with Delta team…Neelix’s team. They find a cave with humanoid bones outside the opening. Neelix thinks the bones can be used as tools or weapons and tells Hogan, a regular on the series, to collect them. As he’s picking them up, a creature launches out of the cave and “ahhhh!” Hogan’s gone! Way to go, Neelix…
Tom Paris is repairing the shuttle. He’s alive!! The Kazon search parties have found him but he’s in bad shape. “I don’t have time for this.” He outmaneuvers them and is able to destroy the raider. He’s working to get back on course to the Talaxians.
On the planet, Neelix is beating himself up and Janeway steps in. “Stop it. There’s no time to worry about blame.” She says the tunnels are off limits and asks for clear safety protocols to be established. Tuvok reports they have rudimentary weapons and Chakotay is setting up stills to collect water. Wow, man. This dude is a true fremen at heart.
Neelix continues to disappoint, though. He couldn’t find anything of nutritional value so Janeway flips over a rock, finds a mess of worms and says this is what’s on the menu from here on out.
Seska calls for the Doctor and has him examine the baby. She also lets him know the Kazon are in control of the ship and wonders if that will be a problem for him. “I’m programmed to provide medical care to anyone who needs it.” And then he drops a bomb. “Your child has Cardassian DNA and Kazon DNA.” The kid IS Cullah’s!! Not Chakotay! Seska is not ok with this. Disturbed, she rushes out of sickbay. He starts panicking, he doesn’t know what to do. “I’m a doctor, not a counter-insurgent.” He starts digging through records and finds that Suder is still on board! He contacts him and directs him to come to sickbay. He then pulls a top-notch counter-insurgent move and has the Computer delete any trace or signature of Suder so the Kazon can’t find him like he did. Smooth!
In the cave, Kim and Torres come back having found eggs and a bunch of vegetables. You know, it’s honestly like Neelix isn’t even trying. The crew are all working to try and start fires, find water and keep warm. This sequence reminded me of my early training in the Navy. Back in the day, they had used these correspondence like courses for required training for promotions and stuff. They had a fantastic music theory series, actually. But, what’s important was there was a lot of survival stuff in there; the exact stuff they’re doing in this scene. Anytime you’re at sea, or in space, there’s a chance for disaster and needing to live off the land. Cool to see that aspect of the military survived into the 24th century.
Neelix decides the buddy system doesn’t apply to him and goes off, in the middle of the night, looking for firewood. Once Kes notices he’s gone, she chases off after him. Anyone want to guess what happens next? Hmm? Anyone?
If you guessed that the native inhabitants kidnapped both of them, you’re the big winner!! We see Kes get nabbed and dragged away from the camp the crew has set up.
Paris is within comm range of the Talaxians. He convinces them to help him out but they’re apprehensive. With Voyager, the Kazon have a dramatically superior force. Paris assures him he has a plan, that he can use his knowledge of Voyager to their advantage and level the playing field. After they hang up he says, “One hour. I should be able to come up with some kind of plan in one hour.”
Suder and The Doctor meet up. The Doctor’s whole plan is basically for Suder to start killing Kazon. But Suder isn’t ok with that. He’s so conflicted, he’s worked so hard. “I’m almost at peace with myself.” The Doctor sticks to it, though, even says Tuvok would recommend it too. Suder remains silent as The Doctor explains why this is the best plan and that they are the only hope Voyager has.
Chakotay leads a small group to go after Neelix and Kes. They’re armed with Tuvok’s wooden spears and basic bows and arrows. We see the native people arguing and trying to decide what to do with Neelix and Kes. Chakotay walks into the middle of it, unarmed, and attempts to communicate with the one that looks like the elder. He does a great job. “Listen to the sound of my voice.” He’s calm, he keeps his arms down, he’s the picture of non-threatening. The elder offers a trade of one of their people for Kes. Chakotay refuses and has Kes join him as they walk away. Neelix keeps it up though… “No! This is unacceptable!”
They get a few steps away and the native people charge them! Chakotay’s group was hiding and the pop up and go into defense mode and the chase is on! They find one of the tunnels, like the one Hogan was killed outside of, and they rush in. It’s their only safe haven!
On Voyager, the Kazon are struggling to keep up repairs. It’s almost as if someone is running around the ship sabotaging systems. Seska calls for a deck-by-deck sweep of Jeffries tubes, conduits and ventilation shafts. Suder asks The Doctor for a Thoron Generator. It’s an old Maquis trick they used to hide from Federation scanners. He grabs the scanner and goes in search of some weapons and bust up some more systems.
Baby Naomi Wildman isn’t doing well; she has a fever. There isn’t much they can do, so Janeway just recommends being sure she was water. She notes that Chakotay’s team should have returned by now so she puts another team together to go looking for them.
The natives may be primitive, but they are not stupid. They know these tunnels well. They start a fire and fan the smoke into the tunnels, trying to smoke the crew out so they head deeper into the tunnels. Shockingly, they stumble into the nest of one of the monsters that killed Hogan. It’s asleep, so they slowly start sneaking past it. One of the team slips, though, and wakes the creature. They have no choice but to turn back and head towards the entrance.
Janeway and her team come upon the natives. She asks for the fastest runners in the team and they start taunting them. Once again, the chase is on! While they run back towards the camp, Janeway and the remaining team take care of the fire and start hollering into the tunnels. “Chakotay! Tuvok!”
The creature is chasing after them as they make their exit. Tuvok stops. He and Chakotay cause a cave-in to block the creature from getting to them. Everyone makes it out and they had back to camp.
The Kazon are searching every nook and cranny of the ship. One comes across Suder, who just stares at the Kazon, coldly. A quick cut to sickbay and Paris is reaching out to The Doctor on the Emergency Medical channel, which is a thing I just learned exists on a starship. He’s come up with a plan. He says he and the Talaxians will be attacking, but he needs The Doctor to take out part of the backup phaser system. As The Doctor considers his strategy, Suder returns to sickbay. Dragging the dead Kazon with him. He collapses to the floor, huddled in a fetal like position. The Doctor calls up some medication to help him. “No, no drugs.” Brad Dourif beautifully portrays a broken man. Breaking even more.
Seska learns that there are Thoron particles blocking the scans and immediately sniffs out the Maquis strategy. “That’s an old Maquis trick!”
The crew on the planet are working through their first diplomatic strategy session. Tuvok recommends arming everyone and training them to handle the handmade weapons. But Janeway says, “We may be living with them for a long time,” and wants to find a peaceful resolution. Chakotay agrees. As they’re debating, the seismic activity increases and a nearby volcano begins erupting. They evacuate the area but time is short.
The attack on Voyager has begun! Seska blasted the holoemitters in sickbay so The Doctor can’t materialize. She also shut off all Starfleet voice commands. The Doctor was able to leave a message for Suder, though. “The fate of Voyager depends solely on you.” He’s hesitant, he’s worried, but the Doctor tells him that he’s supremely confident in him, that he trusts him. He even says he has recorded separate log, in case the worst happens, that details Suder’s heroism. This pep talk from The Doctor gives him the resolve he needs.
Janeway and crew run into the native people as they’re evacuating. One of their group is stranded on a rock, in the middle of the lava flow. She’s trapped! Without hesitation, Chakotay leaps across the lava to the rock, picks her up in a fireman’s carry and brings her to safety, back to her people. This was the olive branch! This changes everything! The two groups join together and continue fleeing the lava.
Paris’s plan works! He keeps the shuttle in the sensor blindspots of Voyager and focuses on the phaser arrays. Suder heads into Engineering and blasts everyone; just a mess of dead Kazon when he’s dead. Brad Dourif again showing how amazing and perfect for this role he is! He looks over the carnage and a look of disappointment so heavy, so deep comes across his face. It’s so perfect I can feel it in my soul. He climbs over the bodies and is about to takeout the phaser backup when one of the Kazon, in their dying moment, blasts him with a phaser! As he crumples to the ground he completes his mission. And then he dies.
Paris allows himself to be targeted. They switch to backup systems, “Fire!” And it overloads all Voyager’s systems!! The Talaxians begin beaming over to take the ship back. Seska tries to make it the baby, but dies as she makes her way to him. Cullah rescues the baby and orders “abandon ship.” Paris and the Talaxians retake Voyager and start on the critical system repairs.
The elder of the native people checks out Samantha Wildman’s baby, Naomi. He puts a poultice of some kind on her chest and she starts breathing more regularly. In the moment it appears these two very different groups of people can co-exist, Voyager lands on the planet’s surface. “Welcome back, Captain.”
Janeway is impressed with all that happened and praises Tom Paris, but he shares the wealth. “I had a lot of help.” In sickbay, The Doctor and Tuvok stand over Suder’s body and mourn him.
They set a course “destination, alpha quadrant!” and are back on their way home.
I really enjoyed this two-parter! It had a huge cliff-hanger and took us through some fun journeys. From a real world perspective, this was a significant moment for Voyager because long time executive producer Michael Piller was leaving the series after this.
From an in universe perspective, a lot of people died, and this is the last we see of the actual Kazon in the series.
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I gotta start with something I just think is too much. Voyager is the only Starfleet ship out here. In earlier episodes we learn the Kazon, while warp capable, are barely even playing the same game when it comes to technology. But, somehow, they board the ship and Maje Cullah just knows how to land it? Like, he goes through all the orders, in sequence, like he’s been running simulations for weeks. And, they spent like, a lot of time on it! They made a very intentional point of showing us that he knew what he was doing. Why?!? Like, just show them take the ship and then show it landing.
Oh well, I’m probably nit-picking way too much.
Before I dive into Neelix, I want to ask for you to hold me accountable. My friend, John, with the Trek Profiles podcast – I recommend you check it out, specifically episode 51 – but John has challenged my views on Neelix and I’ve actively watched Voyager differently. And I have absolutely seen him through a different light. So if I’m being unfair here, please, please call me out!
But he is terrible in this episode. Well, that’s not totally fair. In his defense he connects Voyager with the Talaxian mining colony early on, and he does a good job trying to see if the Kazon they rescued from the shuttle is being honest or not.
But outside of that, even as morale officer, he’s all doom and gloom. As the chef, he can’t find any food but others are able to. He doesn’t follow basic security protocols and he escalates relations with the native people to the point Tuvok is considering open warfare with them! Just…just terrible.
One last gripe. What about the people that are native to that planet? Like, a ship comes out of the sky, dumps some weirdos off, they try to kill each other and then find common ground, and then the fly off.
You know what would be really cool? As of the time of this recording, Discovery is in its 4th season and they’re in the, the what…the 32nd century. It would be so cool if they somehow ran into these people again, but now, the entire civilization is based on a religion where the main symbols are Voyager and Chakotay’s face tattoo! Like, how could this interaction not have long-lasting effects?!?
Ok, done griping.
I’ve said this already, but Brad Dourif was perfect in this! So good! Seska is a great character with a fun arc, it’s always good to see him. And, I don’t really care much for the Kazon, but Maje Cullah is pretty cool. And what makes him so cool is totally Anthony De Longis – hope I’m saying that right. Either way, this guy is great! He is just slathered in gross makeup for this role, but oozes personality. He’s comfortable in the role and is really having fun. We don’t get to see it in this episode but his background is in stunts and fight choreography. Which is probably why you’d likely recognize him for his iconic role as Blade in Masters of the Universe, opposite Dolph Lundgren or as Ketchum in Roadhouse. But these guest stars are so good and add so much to the show!!
In the scope of Voyager, this really communicated that we were moving forward, leaving some things behind, and progressing through the quadrant. I think was important at the time but it also feels very natural in watching through the series now.
Last thing I want to touch on is Suder and his portrayal of someone experiencing trauma and struggling with his mental health. This was really well done. I also appreciated The Doctor’s nearly gross misunderstanding of what he was experiencing. I thought that was a pretty accurate picture of how a doctor, like a general physician or maybe even a primary care physician might treat someone like Suder. “Clips of Doctor pressuring him with platitudes.” Despite that, Suder was able to use the tools and interventions that Tuvok had provided to help him cope. And, that moment when he unleashes hell on the Kazon, when he really understands what just happened. Oh, what a powerful piece of film! So good.
We are going to spend some time talking through one little line Janeway delivers near the end of the first part of this. She says that offering hope is their top priority. Well, guess what. If you’re in a leadership position, the same goes for you!
We’re also going to talk about Tom Paris and how he helps others receive the recognition they deserve, along with Chakotay’s attempts to connect with the people native to the planet they were stranded on.
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“It’s very important this crew be given a sense of hope. That’s our most important job right now.” Polly Campbell wrote a great article for Psychology Today in 2019 called Why Hope Matters. I’ll link it in the show notes. She writes that hope shows the possibility of something better and that it helps to keep us going.
She references the work of researcher CR Snyder who says that hope implies that there is the possibility of a better future. Now, what do you think that means to a bunch of contemporaries that were just stranded on a primitive planet with none of the technology they depend on to meet their most basic needs? Yeah, pretty important.
If I’m a part of that team and I fully believe that this is my life now, I’m probably going to be really upset. I mean, not only am I on the other side of the galaxy, but now there is zero chance I’ll ever get home. I’m alone, I’m cold and I’m hungry. Oh, and that CGI monster over there? Totally going to eat me.
Or, I can have hope. I can have hope that Voyager, or someone, will rescue me which will let me get back to work moving back towards home. No, not move along home…that’s an entirely different episode!
But where does hope come from? I think hope can come from a lot of places. Our hearts, our spirits, our imaginations. But often, hope is formed by the leaders in our lives. Faith, religious leaders, political leaders, leaders in the media and others. We look to them and listen to them as they share their thoughts and their visions. Often, even their reactions or general statements about a thing can influence our hope.
In March of 2020, when the world began responding to COVID-19, I know my job changed. It’s almost like Janeway was in my ear guiding me along. I thought of myself and the leaders I worked with as becoming dealers in hope.
Regardless of where you land on the political spectrum of COVID, we can all agree that the world looked very bleak, especially in the middle of 2020, right? For a lot of us, we had to keep working, we had to stay on it. And that was really hard to do when every other tweet had more bad news, not just about COVID, but about restrictions and responses. The news did little more than to squash hope for even a moment of relief. So that fell to us.
Now, please don’t hear me say that leaders should lie, or make light of situations. No, in fact, I’m saying just the opposite. Leaders must be painfully honest. And we saw this with Janeway. She didn’t gloss over any of the hardships. No, she was ready to start eating worms!!
In fact, side note, you know what would have made that scene absolutely incredible? If it ended with her eating a mouthful of the worms. Just getting in Neelix’s face and chowing down on a bunch of wriggly worms! ‘This is our new normal, Neelix!! Get on board!’
But when things aren’t good, it’s important for leaders to create that vision of hope. That’s often a vision of a better future, like, you know, things will get better. So let’s break down what she did here.
First, she, very quickly, made an objective assessment of the situation. Yeah, they’re stranded with nothing more than the jumpsuits on their backs, but she knows The Doctor is still a factor and believes that, maybe, possibly Tom Paris is out there too. So there is a chance of rescue, even if it’s not likely.
Second, she relied on her survival training from the Academy and in Starfleet, to identify the tasks that needed to be done. She found and identified value-added work that had to be done, by everyone, that would also give people purpose.
Finally, she spoke with the leaders she works with and gave them crystal clear instructions to create hope for people.
This is a model you can follow too. It’s not hard, but it does require that you have both a realistic and an optimistic view point. Some people are pragmatically optimistic, focusing on the reality of the situation in front of them but also being optimistic about the outcomes; I feel like that’s Janeway. And then other people are optimistically pragmatic. That’s me! I start with the belief that everything is cool and will be ok, and then I pepper reality in there. Either approach is fine, but both aspects are needed.
But, like Janeway, when you find yourself in a difficult situation – hopefully not as bad as being stranded on a planet – you can step up your leadership game by following this model.
Make an objective assessment of the situation. What’s important here is to be objective, do not let emotion influence you here. Don’t panic or start letting your mind run down rabbit holes. Just observe and assess what is happening.
Then identify what needs to be done. Are there critical, immediate needs? Like, do you need to evacuate to a safe place? Take care of those things immediately. But then, like Janeway, identify meaningful tasks that the people around you can start doing. In a crisis, people need purpose. Well, really, we always need purpose, but especially in a crisis. When you’re left to just exist, you know, just sit and wait, or do something that is clearly useless, that’s when your mind starts making stuff up and going through worst case scenarios. Give people purpose and value-added tasks that will help with the situation.
Finally, work with your other leaders and develop a shared message. You can’t be saying one thing and then having another leader on your team buying into the negativity. Right, like, think of the people you work with as a continuum…no, not the Q continuum. But, generally, based on concepts like the pareto principle and standard bell curve distribution, people will fall into a 10, 80, 10 distribution.
Ooh, listen to me getting all mathematical.
What that means is that in a crisis situation like this, 10% of the people will be panicking and playing out doomsday scenarios in their heads, 10% will be looking at the bright side of life, and 80% are going to go whichever way the wind blows. If you and your leaders focus on the doomsday dreams and all that, the 80% will skew that way. But, and here’s the real power in being a dealer in hope, if you focus on the good things, the possibilities – if you build and communicate hope, the 80% will skew that way too.
So what would you rather have? 90% of the people around you believing the ship’s going to sink, or 90% believing lifeboats are on their way?
We get a chance to see Janeway manage some situations where the naysayers start doing their thing. The first is early on after they’re stranded when Neelix doesn’t think they should work to keep people’s spirits up.
Just for my own edification, let me say that again, a little differently. Neelix, the morale officer, doesn’t see the value in keeping people’s spirits up. Yeah. Ugh. “Is that a good idea, Captain? You’re the morale officer, Neelix. You give me an answer.”
Another time is after Hogan is killed by the creature. Another naysayer is trying to make this tragedy all about them. And that naysayer is…yep, you guessed it! Neelix, once again! She tells him it’s a waste of time to assign blame. They just need to get some security protocols in place and move forward.
In both instances, she just shuts him down. No room to sow doubt. In a crisis, that’s important.
But Neelix does provide us some value here. He shows some of the behaviors you’ll see from the 10% that are living out a doomsday situation. He actively questions efforts to build up hope. He moves around a lot and looks like he’s working but isn’t actually doing his job. He couldn’t find any food, for example, but Janeway, Kim and Torres were all able to. And then he tries to make the situations about him. Hogan, a friend to a lot of people on the crew, has just died, and Neelix is making a big deal about himself and what she should or shouldn’t have done. Without Janeway’s strong leadership here, re-focusing everyone on the important tasks at hand, Neelix would have start spinning more and more and would have pulled those 80% that just go the way the wind blows along with him.
There’s a lot in this episode that we could talk about when it comes to Chakotay. And most of it not good. But, that’s all character stuff and some really bad advice the writers got around Native American culture. So we’ll focus on the amazing things he did here. He, maybe more than anyone, saw the need to co-exist peacefully with the native people on the planet. When he went to rescue Neelix and Kes, for example, he could have come in, arrows blazing, and tried to take them by force, but instead, instead he was smooth and fantastic.
Knowing they couldn’t communicate verbally, he used body language and tone to set everyone at ease. His posture was non-threatening, he didn’t get into the elder’s space and he kept his voice tone low, quiet and soothing. If it weren’t for, haha, once again, Neelix, blowing things out of promotion, I’ve got to believe they would have come to a decent outcome here.
Later in the episode, when they’re running from the volcano, he risks his life, leaping over lava, to save one of the people that are stuck. What is remarkable in both of these examples, is that he risks his personal safety. He gives something up. He was unarmed when he first interacted with them. They could have killed him without a second thought, but he knew he had to take that risk. That risk was Chakotay starting with trust. And because he started with trust, and put himself in danger by doing so, he had a path to a peaceful outcome.
Then, when he selflessly flew over hot lava to save one person, he cemented what he laid down before. They were able to see that he cared enough about a relationship with the, that he would risk himself to achieve that.
Again, like everything on the Starfleet Leadership Academy, you can apply this too. Hopefully you won’t have to carry someone over flowing lava, but, hey, anything’s possible. But in the workplace and in our relationships, we can apply these lessons too. Don’t assume an outcome to an interaction. Start with trust. And don’t be afraid to risk yourself.
A friend of mine calls this idea ego surrender. I love that. When we walk into an interaction and we’re worried about our ego, we’ll do whatever we need to to protect it. But if we’re not, if we surrender our ego, then we can be open to listening and really communicating. Be open to really connecting.
The last point I want to touch on is at the end of the episodes. They’ve successfully retaken the ship and are about to head on their way. Janeway praises Paris for really doing the impossible. Now, it would have been super easy, and even kind of in-character, for him to accept that praise and feel good about it. But he doesn’t. He immediately acknowledges the efforts, and sacrifice, of others. “I had a lot of help.”
There’s this really weird, psychological thing that happens with praise. I don’t want to pretend I really understand it, but I do have a grasp on what it means.
When it comes to praise, there are many kinds, but I’m going to hit on two of them. The kind that is directed at you and only you, and the kind that is directed at you but is really meant for a group effort.
So, the directed just at you kind of praise. I’m a drummer, right? Sometimes, after playing a gig or something, someone in the band will tell me I did a great job or something like that. Sometimes, I said…not too often. If you’re anything like me, you immediately deflect that praise and either say something self-deprecating, like, “Oh, thanks. I guess I got lucky,” or will pass it on to someone else, “I couldn’t have done it without these great musicians.” I do this with the intention of being humble, right? I don’t want to be like, “yeah, I did do great!” But when you do those things, it diminishes the praise and makes the person feel bad for offering it.
Instead of that, just say, “thank you.” That’s it. Nothing more! Thank you and shut your mouth!
The other kind of praise is directed at the group. That’s what we see with Tom Paris. In those situations, you do exactly what Paris did. You accept the praise but immediately spread it through the group. And here’s the weird psychological part of that. Everyone benefits, even the person offering the praise. You take that one piece of praise and you turn it into countless pieces! It’s a total loaves and fishes situation! But the person offering it feels really good because they see the impact they’ve made, and the people you work with feel good because they’ve been acknowledged for their contribution.
The art comes in discerning which type of praise you’re receiving. My advice there is to think of the thing you’re being praised for. Is it your performance, like the drums, or maybe a report you did or a presentation you made? Or is it something bigger? Janeway praising Tom for evading the Kazon in the shuttle, for example, is a ‘thank you’ situation. Janeway praising him for retaking Voyager…that’s everyone.
Whew! That was a long one! I really enjoyed it, though and am glad I got to watch it with you.
I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to rate and review the Starfleet Leadership Academy in the podcast app you’re listening to right now. It really helps other people discover the podcast.
And you can follow me on all the social media, @jefftakin Jeff, t as in Thoron particles, a k i n. And I’d like to invite you to join the Starfleet Leadership Academy podcast group on Facebook.
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
Oh, cool!! We hit a Lower Decks episode!! When I added Lower Decks to the random episode generator, I really need to think of a name for that thing. Hey! What ideas do you have for it? Let me know? Let’s name the random episode generator!
But when I added this, I said when it came up, we’d do the pilot first and then we’ll take them randomly from there. So our next episode is the first episode of the first season, Second Contact. This will be fun! I enjoy this series and am excited to share the many, many great takeaways and lessons it offers.
Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!
Article Link: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/imperfect-spirituality/201902/why-hope-matters Twitter: @PLCampbell