Nonprofit Leadership Lessons from STAR TREK

Nonprofit Leadership Lessons from STAR TREK

Books on nonprofit leadership often run the gamut from very high-level treatises to more down-to-earth entries like The Mission Myth and Who Says It’s A Man’s World? However, in an increasingly complex field, transitioning into nonprofit leadership (as well as social enterprise and other mission-driven leadership) can be a challenge. In fact, for many, it’s a challenge to boldly go where they have not gone before.

Thankfully, there is such a book….and it uses Star Trek (celebrating its 50th anniversary) as a metaphor.  Although written around general business leadership, Star Trek – Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts, Ph.D and Bill Ross (available in softcover and Kindle) provides some excellent insights and practical guidance for mission-driven and nonprofit leadership.

(As many long-time readers of this blog know, I’m more than willing to use television and pop culture – especially Star Trek – to discuss issues around social change. In addition, I recently participated in DePaul University’s Celebration of Star Trek in May, and I’ll be on WBEZ’s Morning Edition on Friday, July 8th to discuss the franchise…NOTE: You can click here to listen/download the segment.)

Written from the perspective of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Make It So provides scenarios taken directly from episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation. For each scenario, there’s a description of the issues, followed by a list of “Observations” then “Lessons”. By placing these Star Trek episodes within the context of leadership lessons, Make It So provides the reader an opportunity to explore critical issues with greater perspective. (After all, isn’t Star Trek noted for its ability to handle stories that “reflect on the human condition”? It’s a rather easy-to-read book that provides a simple point-of-entry for exploring the key responsibilities and values behind professional leadership).Picard

(For those interested in nonprofit leadership, the humanistic tone of Make It So will be especially appealing with its less aggressive, more humanistic tone. Unlike other books on leadership, such as perennial classic The Art of War or Roberts’ own Leadership Secrets of Attila the HunMake It So makes the most of its Star Trek framework, presenting high-minded ideas in a much more realistic context. Rather than make the reader feel less than capable, Make It So makes the case that leadership – especially mission-driven and nonprofit leadership – are lofty goals for anyone to strive towards. This more positive tone, as well as its use of Star Trek as metaphor, is that gives Make It So particular resonance for mission-driven and nonprofit leaders).

To be fair, I’ve not only read Make It So, but I’ve also used the book for guidance in my own efforts in nonprofit leadership.  Having grown up with Star Trek, I find many of the show’s values and morals very compatible with my own. I’ve used Make It So as a leadership touchstone – a way for me to think differently about various situations. Although other books about leadership take on a more formal tone,  the tone of Make It So provides greater resonance for those entering leadership positions. (For nonprofit leadership, navigating new responsibilities can be challenging, and Make It So makes the process much easier).

With Star Trek celebrating its 50th anniversary, it is easy to focus on television and movie content. But one of the remarkable aspects of Star Trek is how it tells stories that reflect a multitude of human experiences.  Star Trek – Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts, Ph.D and Bill Ross provides an excellent example of how Star Trek philosophy can be applied towards other endeavors – most notably mission-driven and nonprofit leadership.

It’s definitely a book worth reading.

Do you have any thoughts about Star Trek‘s impact on nonprofit work and social change? Do you have any great book recommendations that impact the Chicago area social change community? Please feel free to let us know via the comments section below, or join us in further conversation via our Facebook page.  If you want to reach me privately, simply use this “Contact Me” form or any other method listed on this blog’s About page)

And as always, thanks for reading!

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