Byron's Babbles

Open Your Mind To The Past & All Of This May Mean Something

Posted in Community, Educational Leadership, Global Education, Global Leadership, Leadership, Star Trek by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 4, 2020

Late last night I found myself flipping through the television channels. Actually, using the term channels probably really ages me – are they even called channels anymore? Anyway, I came across an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TV Series). This was my favorite of the Star Treks because I love the character Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart). My favorite line of his that is in almost every episode is “Make it so.” I practice “Make it so!” leadership and just realized I haven’t really blogged specifically about that. Maybe tomorrow.

As I surfed and found Star Trek, the episode was just beginning. The episode was Season 2, Episode 17 and was titled Samaritan Snare. There were two throughlines established early: Captain Picard needed heart replacement surgery (routine in the 24th Century) so was traveling with Wesley Crusher in a small craft to far away Starbase 515. The Enterprise was on a rescue mission to a Pakled vessel that turned into an attempt to steal computer knowledge.

On their journey to the medical facility and surgery Picard and Crusher had a deep and revealing conversation where Picard shared how his heart had been damaged in a fight with Nausicaans as a young ensign. While at the base Crusher will be taking Starfleet exams. Here is the conversation:

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: There’s no greater challenge than the study of philosophy.

Wesley Crusher: But William James won’t be on my Starfleet Exams.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The important things never will be. Anyone can be trained in the mechanics of piloting a starship.

Wesley Crusher: And Starfleet Academy…

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Takes more. Open your mind to the past – art, history, philosophy. And this all may mean something.

Star Trek has taught generations of us how great humanity could be if we study and learn from our past, learn to deal with our biases, and work together (I bolded that for emphasis) to create a better future. People have always faced difficult times and situations, and Star Trek always reminds us that when smart people come together they can come up with smart answers. It would be interesting to know just how many have been inspired to leadership, science, engineering, medicine, or many other careers because of Star Trek. As Edmund Burke taught us, “People will not looking forward to posterity, who never look backward to their ancestors.” Thus, pretty good advice from Captain Picard to open our minds to the past so that all this does mean something. Pretty good advice indeed in the 21st Century year of 2020!

I hadn’t thought about philosopher William James for a long time. William James, the father of psychology and a leading thinker of the 19th Century, actually laid the groundwork for the study and research that continues on leadership. James asserted that individuals do make a difference in history, and that the study of influential people an important pursuit. Interestingly, as I studied more and more on this I came back across the work of Thomas Carlyle and the “great man” theories I talked about in Leaders Crashing and Flying Higher. It also had me looking at studies on “hero-worship.”

According to James (1880, 1884, 1890/1956) any change that happens can be attributed to an individual or multiple individuals. The potential of a group, organization, business/industry, community, or country will be brought out not by just one individual leader, but by a collective of leaders. Thus why I believe everyone is a leader. I really believe James believed this too. No one leader has the power to determine change. No one has that kind of power. Instead a leader must work within the context she is given. Leadership then brings together individuals with circumstances.

And, I really got to thinking that this theory was modeled by the entire Enterprise crew. It took leadership from all to solve the issue with the Pakled vessel and Picard’s surgery that ended up having complications. The head surgeon said that the complication was out of his realm of knowledge and that Picard was dying. He then said that he knew someone who could solve the issue – she was summoned and did. Nothing happens in a vacuum. This is why the context matters and everyone’s expertise matters and must be brought to the “table.” This is why everyone must be a leader.