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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs in health care settings.


~September 2012~

Leadership Lessons from Captain James T. Kirk


As a child, one of my favorite TV shows was Star Trek.  I was fascinated by the creative way the writers introduced societal concepts that still ring true today.  You don’t necessarily need to be a Trekkie to learn from some of the best.  Now, as an adult, if you take a look at his command, it is apparent that his success as a leader was no fluke.  His style demonstrates an understanding of leadership while maintaining a team in the face of adversity.  Some key lessons for anyone include:

1. Never Stop Learning“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown.  But there’s no such thing as the unknown – only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

CaptkirkWith a reputation as a ladies’ man, Captain Kirk was the quintessential walking encyclopedia with a thirst to learn.  The more knowledge you have, the more creatively you can face challenges.  Knowledge is the best key to overcoming whatever obstacles may lie in your path.

2. Have Advisors with Different Worldviews“One of the advantages of being a captain, Doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.”

It was by design that Captain Kirk’s two primary advisors were polar opposites:  Dr. Spock, the epitome of rational and logical thinking and Dr. Leonard McCoy, the physician driven by compassion and scientific curiosity.  Organizations that allow for differences of opinions are better at innovation and problem solving.

3. Be Part of the Away Team“Risk is our business.  That’s what this starship is all about.  That’s why we’re aboard her.”

Captain Kirk never shirked a challenge or danger.  He was quick to be a part of the Away Team, able to make quick assessments of the situation.  All too often, leaders become ensconced in the ivory tower of leadership and lose sight of what’s happening on the ground.

4. Play Poker, Not Chess“Not chess, Mr. Spock.  Poker.  Do you know the game?

Chess is often mistaken as a metaphor for leadership strategy, but is a game defined by rules that have their basis in mathematics.  Poker is a better analogy for strategy because life is a game of probabilities, not defined rules.

5. Blow up the Enterprise“’All I ask is a stall ship and a star to steer her by.’  You could feel the wind at your back in those days.  The sounds of the sea beneath you, and even if you take away the wind and the water it’s still the same.  The ship is yours.  You can feel her.  And the stars are still there, Bones.”

Captain Kirk’s love of the Enterprise is a recurring theme throughout.  His purpose and very existence was driven by a passion and love of the Enterprise and crew.  Sometimes, the passion can keep us so focused on what we think is the best, smartest thing to do when in reality, it’s time to accept the inevitable change and blow up the Enterprise.

Who knew a television show could have such impact?

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The author of the Heath Care Volunteer Programs column is Mary Kay Hood MS, Hendricks Regional Health, Danville, IN (317) 745-3556. With a BS degree in biology from Marian College and a Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, Mary Kay has been involved in volunteer management over twenty years with a zoo and in the health care field. During that time, she completed the Management of Volunteer Programs course offered at University of Indianapolis, several supervisory training programs as well as the Indiana Hospital and Health Association’s Management Institute offered by the Executive Education Program, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Mary Kay served on the Nonprofit Training Center of United Way from 1993 to 2006. During that time, she taught many workshops also facilitating speaker arrangements for the Basic Volunteer Management series. Additionally, she has presented at various national and international conferences. Mary Kay served as president of the Central Indiana Association for Volunteer Administration (CIAVA) from 1993-1997 and the Indiana Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (ISDVS) from 2006-2008. She was also the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Director of Volunteer Services Award and the 2002 United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award. Most recently she served on the Steering Committee for COVAA resulting in the formation of a new national membership organization for those in volunteer management, the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE). With several published articles, she is also author to two books: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions and The Volunteer Leader as Change Agent.

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