The rebel princess could inspire, listen, and dive head-first into a garbage chute.
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Leadership is not as easy as Princess Leia Organa makes it look. The senator from Alderaan frequently finds herself in situations that would overwhelm just about anyone, but Leia has an uncanny blend of inner strength, tenacity, and compassion that make her someone you want on your side. Whether she’s escaping from the Death Star, encouraging a reluctant hero, or helping to get the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, Princess Leia gets the job done like no other.
Among the many challenges of leadership is the fact that there is no “one size fits all” approach. What motivates one person will not work for the next. Leia gets that, probably better than anybody. And what sets her apart is her ability to discover how to bring out each respective person’s best, while also furthering her mission of peace and justice in the galaxy.
Leia showcases distinct examples of leadership in Star Wars: A New Hope that beautifully encapsulate this. With Han Solo, for example, Leia has to push him along in the right direction. For all of his bravado, Han initially relies on luck and happenstance more than brains or planning. Once Luke Skywalker gets her out of her cell in the detention block, and the heroes are pinned down, it is Leia who takes a blaster and fires at a grate, enabling the discombobulated heroes to escape. In this instance, Leia is leading by example, and is being proactive, rather than reactive. She is not waiting for Han’s approval, but rather, doing what is best for the whole.
With Luke, Leia points the way forward when his emotions get the better of him. Following their escape from the Death Star and return to the rebel base, Luke becomes saddened to learn that Han is going to leave the Rebellion when they need him the most. Leia wisely tells Luke, in an empathetic tone, that Han has to follow his own path. Because of this, Luke understands that he has to snap out of his doldrums, get into his own X-wing, and stop feeling sorry for himself. There is work to do that may ensure a major victory for the rebels against the evil Galactic Empire. Leia’s willingness to pull Luke along with tact and grace help to make that happen.
Maybe the hardest part of leadership is not to micromanage. Leia is certainly more than capable of taking care of business, and shows this on multiple occasions. But sometimes it is best to sit back and trust the process. She does not try to convince Han to join the cause and chooses to stay with the rebel leaders as the Death Star attack commences. She could chase after him, and could easily pilot her own X-wing, but she is needed elsewhere. Leia trusts that the right people are in the right place, believes in the Force, and supports Luke and her friends.
All of these examples build trust, community, and unity, which make Leia an excellent leader. What examples of leadership has your Padawan seen at his or her school, on the athletic field, or elsewhere? Ask your child to think of examples of when they needed to be encouraged, empowered, or were trusted to do what they needed to do in order to accomplish their goals. These examples become contagious and, like Princess Leia did for others, help us to become our best.
Dan Zehr is the host and brand director of Coffee With Kenobi, a podcast that examines the mythology of Star Wars from a place of intelligence and humor. He is also a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning.
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