Darth Vader’s People Management Skills Get Results


When I first managed a team, I had big ideas of the kind of manager I wanted to be. I wanted to be fair, just, trustworthy, and approachable. My goal was to be a kinder, gentler boss that my team thought of more as a friend than a manager.

I quickly learned that this approach has some drawbacks, not the least of which was that I wasn’t getting the results I needed. Where had I gone wrong? I was practically puking fairy dust and butterflies at my team, but it wasn’t working. I was beside myself with disappointment.

In my despair, I turned to my comfort movies one weekend and discovered the mentor that I had been lacking up to this point in my career: Darth Vader.

Now he isn’t for everybody—just the managers who really need results.

Here are just a few lessons we can learn from Darth Vader’s people management skills in action:

Read your management books. A few years ago, a popular book “The One Minute Manager” made the rounds on every manager’s reading list. Author Ken Blanchard suggested that managing people should never take more than a minute, whether it was negative or positive. He informed us all that even a reprimand should take no longer than one minute.

Darth Vader takes no more than one minute to whip this underperforming commander into shape when his efforts to build the second Death Star are falling short of expectations:

Don’t waste time with disappointing performances from your team. All managers will face a hard decision when someone on the team whose routine poor performance foretells their future dismissal. Since most people don’t relish being the bad guy, however, many managers drag it out longer than they should, which can result in lower morale for the rest of the team.

Darth Vader embraces being a bad guy and acts quickly:

Also Darth Vader gets bonus points for the immediate and crystal-clear communication of his expectations and the consequences of not meeting them to the ill-fated team member’s replacement: Coming out of hyperdrive close enough to the remote ice planet Hoth alerting the rebel alliance of your presence, bad; not disappointing Darth Vader, good.

Consistency is key. As a manager, treating all your team members the same is essential to building a team with a foundation in trust.

Darth Vader is consistent—disappointing news is always met with a gasp:

Want to pursue a questionable pet project? Don’t forget to manage up. Middle managers need to manage both down and up. Be sure that you are giving your boss the information he or she needs so you can get the green light to pursue your pet project—like converting the last hope of the Jedi to the dark side of the force.

Everyone has a boss, even the Sith Lord:

Embrace technology. These days, it’s important for managers to make sure that they are able to use technology to make their jobs easier and earn the respect of their team. It doesn’t instill much confidence for your team about your ability to lead effectively if you are constantly asking them how to sync your phone to your tablet or “What Instantgram is?”

Darth Vader loves technology, and he uses vintage stuff! Just look at what he is able to accomplish using technology from the late 1970s:


Use a recruiter when you are too emotionally invested in the candidate. If there is someone that you really, really want to join the team (a long lost son perhaps?), be sure that you can disguise your intensity. If you can’t, however, use a recruiter, otherwise your negotiation with the candidate can end in maiming, screaming, and his or her leap to certain death.


Darth Vader won’t ever be on the speaking circuit. After all he died a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. His lessons live on, however, for all middle managers to use in their daily struggles to manage the team to the best of their ability.

Are his methods extreme? Sure. Did he have any friends at work? Not so much. But what he did have was results, particularly in project management. Before you decide Darth Vader’s style is not for you, remember that his methods resulted in the completion of two fully operational Death Stars.

Who is your managing mentor? Please share what they taught you in the comments below.

Terri Lively is a career marketing professional that has unique experience in the areas of messaging and client relations. Terri helps her clients break through the clutter by injecting a bit of humor into the business world. For the past 15 years, she helps her clients create marketing materials that effectively communicate their message and get results, across all types of media. More about Terri can be discovered at www.terrilively.com or email me at terri@terrilively.com.

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