Interview: Starfleet Leadership Academy (Jeff Akin)

If you had to change to a different show, what shows could step in to serve as good leadership instruction?

There really are so many. Staying on the sci-fi trail, Battlestar Galactica is one that I think one could really dive into. You have “boots on the ground” leadership with the Viper squadrons, macro-style leadership with Adama, and the political leadership and machinations of the presidents. 

I also think there is a lot to learn from shows like The Office and Parks and Rec. Then there are more obvious ones, like West Wing or Designated Survivor; maybe even House of Cards. There is a real wealth of lessons out there!

I love that statement about leaders knowing they aren’t the important ones, that really speaks to me, and I’ve always felt similarly about great leaders. What are the qualities of a bad leader? What are the signs to beware of?

Sadly, these are fairly easy to identify. We have all worked for really bad managers and leaders at some point; many of us have only worked for them! But some of the red flags you can identify right away are: 

Always inserting themselves into the spotlight. They have an almost compulsive need to always be the one delivering the message – but only the positive ones. Many people have worked in environments where that one manager is the one that always delivers bad news, while their manager is the one that delivers the good news. That is no good!

Approaches situations from a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. The reality is that one-size-fits-all doesn’t fit anyone. But when a leader feels the need to approach every person the same way, every situation the same way, that is a red flag! A strong leader will adjust their messaging and approach to the person and the situation.

Do as I say, not as I do. When you find yourself losing privileges or things are being scaled back, but the leader is still enjoying life, as usual, that’s a problem. Even though it’s a misquote, it’s the “Let them eat cake,” mentality. If pay cuts are happening, leaders should be hit equally, if not worse, than the people doing the work. To shift into the political realm, if taxes are raised or pensions are being cut, these should also impact the politicians – the leaders – just as much if not more.

Kirk or Picard? They’re the two iconic Captains, so if you had to choose between them? Which one? Or throw someone else at me!

I should have expected this one! First off, each captain really brings a different set of skills for their unique situations. They’re all great (even Archer, even though he has a really rough start!); they’re just different. 

Between the two, I’d go with Kirk. Overall, I think the best long term captain is Janeway from Voyager. Picard suffers from a factor outside of this control – he’s leading the flagship of the Federation during its peak. He has support from Starfleet, his crew are (generally) the cream of the crop, and the Federation is a beacon of hope across much of the galaxy.

Contrast that with Kirk. He leads one of the top ships in Starfleet, but at the time there was not a flagship that they’ve mentioned. He actively develops his staff and can rely on any of them to assume command as needed. He was very hands-on and didn’t expect anything from his crew he wouldn’t do himself. And he did much of this without direct support from Starfleet; they were on the fringes of the galaxy they could reasonably reach. He did it with the Federation being an unknown entity on many of his missions. 

The time and the place really influence each captain. Janeway is my favorite because she literally has nothing. It’s her and a broken crew on Voyager. But she uses the core values and the principles of Starfleet and the Federation to guide her decisions. There were a couple of times she could have compromised those and gotten everyone home earlier, but she didn’t. She demonstrated that the values were supremely important. 

Now, if you want to see the pinnacle of a Starfleet Captain, watch the first two episodes of Discovery. I won’t give anything away here other than Captain Philippa Georgiou is near perfection!

Are there any podcasts you modeled yours on? Or that served as inspiration?

In the world of Star Trek, there were two: The Greatest Generation/Greatest Discovery and Meta Treks. From a “how to do a solo podcast” and how to talk about teachable moments I really drew inspiration from Philosophize This! and The Soundtrack Show.

And that’s it everyone, thank you to Jeff for lending us a minute to talk about his awesome podcast. The links are at the top of the article if you want to check any of his stuff out. I’ll be doing more podcasting interviews in the coming days, but you can also check out my interview with Cole Weavers of The Town Whispers podcast, in case you missed it.

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