The Last Jedi: Leadership in the Jedi Ashes

Warning: Spoilers below….

There’s been no greater pop culture milestone than the Star Wars franchise. Starting in 1977, Star Wars has revolutionized filmmaking and genre, creating avenues of licensing and merchandising that has never been rivalled (Star Wars lipstick is a thing).

The most recent installation, The Last Jedi, has gone a step further than just inspiring people to fight with broomsticks or squawking like a Porg from Ahch-To. It has done something that the previous eight films, animated TV Oseries and countless books and comics have failed to do. It has made fans re-evaluate the characters that have lived in their hearts and imaginations since the first crawl appeared on screen.

I know what you’re thinking. There have already been a million articles dissecting The Last Jedi so why write another. Well, like most, The Last Jedi got me thinking but not about plot or character arcs. My fandom has been consumed by how this movie reconceptualised the idea of leadership.

Redefining a Leader

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, when we are re-introduced to Luke Skywalker in the last scene of The Force Awakens, we find a broken leader in hiding. What’s interesting about this is that instead of just continuing to fight the good fight, he pivots and removes himself from the side that once viewed him as a savior. For Luke to see the Jedi as a class that existed during—and possibly aided—the rise of evil is profound.

In defeat, a new strategy (err hope) can emerge. It would have been easy to continue to tell Star Wars as the story of a plucky group of rebels, relentless in their pursuit of peace. The Last Jedi doesn’t do that. True leadership is knowing when it’s time to lead your charges in a different direction and the bravest leaders embrace change.

 

The Weight of Expectations

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Often, leaders are placed on a pedestal, creating unfair expectations. Luke in The Last Jedi has succumbed to the weight of expectations placed on him by both characters in the film and fans of the series. As Luke declares that “the Jedi must end” he thrusts a dagger into the hearts of viewers who expected that an older, wiser Luke would be the last piece of the Jedi puzzle. Instead, he is the opposite.

Leaders must step off the pedestal. Above all else, they must strategize and execute based on reality not expectations.

 

Inspiration Ripples

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Despite its polarizing reception, The Last Jedi aims to inspire. The film’s final scene is a fitting one. After telling the story of Luke’s last battle, a slave boy stands beneath the stars holding a broom. His silhouette paints an image of a future Jedi, lightsaber in hand.

Even though Luke dies (we said there would be spoilers) his legacy will live on and he finally recognizes that there are others waiting in the wings, eager to assume the call to duty.

The great message of the film is that inspiration transcends winning and losing. Failure in some capacity is inevitable. It is in these moments, where the best leaders shine and new leaders emerge. Make no mistake, this isn’t a plea for blind optimism. It’s about inspiring those around you so that they can eventually take your vision to even greater heights.

 

That is the true Jedi way.

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