Seven Habits of Highly Effective Spaceship CaptainsS

If you want to learn good organization skills, look no further than some of the best leaders in the universe: the captains of spaceships. They may be fictional, but they have skills that translate into the real world. After all, you'd follow Admiral Adama into battle, and trust Malcolm Reynolds to have your back. Now you can learn the seven greatest leadership lessons we gleaned from watching shows like Futurama and Firefly.

1. The Prime Directive is just a suggestion. Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise wasn't as swashbuckling as he predecessor Captain James T. Kirk, simply because he actually wrestled with breaking the Prime Directive instead of ignoring it entirely. The Prime Directive states that humans shouldn't involve themselves in the affairs of less developed planets, for fear of messing up their cultures with ultra-advanced tech. While Picard often considers the importance of the Prime Directive in his decision-making, he refuses to be bound by it. Lesson learned? Rules are made to be broken.

2. Always shoot first. Every good leader should be willing to do what he or she asks of her team. One of the reasons for the loyalty of the ragtag crew of Serenity, the ship Malcolm Reynolds captains in Firefly, is that Mal will throw himself into battle to protect his team. Whenever he has a crazy scheme or rescue mission in mind, he takes the first plunge. Lesson learned? Show your crew that you're willing to take a bullet for them, and they'll do the same for you.

3. Don't be afraid to hook up with a cute spaceman. We love Leela on Futurama not just because she's the only person on her ship with any kind of sense, but because she also lets her long, purple hair down once in a while. She's always tangling with spacemen and getting mixed up with strange alien pets. And that's one good reason why her goofy crew would follow her to the ends of the galaxy — well, if she had enough beer. Lesson learned? A good leader has to get laid once in a while, and she shouldn't be ashamed of it.

4. When you're about to go genocidal, get a second opinion. Admiral William Adama from the new Battlestar Galactica is one of the best leaders we've ever seen. He's gotten a group of a few thousand humans halfway across the galaxy, despite the fact that they're being pursuit by a group of homicidal, erotically obsessed cyborgs. He's had to deal with incredible loss and sheer terror, and he always keeps his head. He is also truly humane. How does he keep it together without going all Admiral Cain on everybody's ass? By sharing his power with President Roslyn as well as his circle of trusted officers and advisers. Without their guidance, the Galactica and its fleet might have turned into a bloodthirsty military fleet, instead of what it is: a mostly-civilian group with a (sort of) free press and even elections. Lesson learned? True leaders do not ever make decisions alone.

5. Just because you have a crappy ship doesn't mean you're a loser. Everyone knows that Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, is piloting a souped-up bucket. And yet his seemingly-crappy ship is probably the very best thing for helping out a group of covert resistance fighters like Obi Wan and Luke. Plus, he knows his ship so well that he can totally slam those Stormtroopers in their McFighters. Lesson learned? Every crappy PC is a lean, mean Linux box waiting to be born. Oh, and in case that didn't make sense: It's not the tools; it's what you do with them.

6. Freedom fighters make good teammates. Say what you will about Captain Janeway on Voyager, but she made a smart decision early on to integrate her Federation team with a group of subversive Maquis who got stuck with them out in the Delta Quadrant. Another captain might have kept the Maquis separate from the Federation types, but Janeway integrated them and gave them Federation ranks — much to her good fortune. She got a great Chief Engineer and First Officer out of the deal. Lesson learned? A little subversion goes a long way.



7. There is always somebody out there who can bend spacetime better than you can. In Iain M. Banks' novel Excession, the Ship Sleeper Service (which is an AI that captains itself, thank you very much) discovers that its amazing, human-dwarfing brain is nothing compared to the "excession," a phenomenon that none of the Ships can understand. The excession exists in subspace, and looks like a giant something that could be a gateway to another dimension, perhaps, or a ship from the edges of the universe. Meeting the excession, for the Ships, is a very humbling experience. They realize that they are not as omnipotent as they realized, that that there are intelligences out there far more profound than their own. Lesson learned? No matter how in control you are, always be ready for something for which you're completely unprepared.