8 Lessons in Market Leadership from Spock and Kirk


You don’t need to have an MBA to understand the basics of sound market leadership. You just need to watch those new Star Trek movies. After all, Captain James T. Kirk and his Vulcan colleague Mr. Spock offer the perfect Yin and Yang of marketing savvy. Here are 8 market leadership principles we have gleaned from observing these two sci-fi legends.

1. It has to add up

Do the math. It has got to add up. If it doesn’t, walk away. This is basic Vulcan logic. In a merger, in a downturn, in a brand launch, underfunding will never produce a cash crop of return. The math of any business venture has to make sense.

2. Rules are made to be broken

You’ll never create something wonderful by playing it safe. James T. Kirk is the bad boy of the Federation for one reason only––he insists on using his gut. He bends the rules, he countermands orders and he goes it alone. You and your brand will never achieve greatness by playing by the rules. Why? The rules have been made for a previous era. The future will have a whole different set of rules. Isn’t that what future Spock came back to tell present Spock? I’m pretty sure it was.

3. Strong leaders need strong advisors

The best way to defeat Klingons is to tag team them. Captain Kirk is the leader he is because he has folks like Spock surrounding him. They are not there to follow orders. They are there to provide a different perspective. No matter how secure “yes” men make you feel, they are doing you no favors. Send them to some distant planet. Then find someone not afraid to speak his or her mind. A strong marketing team should offer a variety of viewpoints.

4. Take action

Sure, we can’t all travel at warp speed, but we can all make sure we are moving things forward. As David Ogilvy famously said, metrics and research are to be lampposts. We are to use them to illuminate our way, not to lean on them the way some inebriated wino might. Never allow your analysis to become your paralysis. Follow Kirk’s example. Deliberate, anticipate, then do something!

5. Take risks

“Risk is our business,” said a glib Kirk to his crew, “That’s what this starship is all about.” Let your inner Spock hone your analytical skills. But lean on your Kirk side to take risks. Look around. The big winners in the marketing business are the folks who embrace risk and accomplish the impossible.

6. Approach each day with awe and wonder

In an Esquire Magazine interview, actor William Shatner said the thing he most admired about his character was the way he approached each new planet with a sense of amazement. “The meeting of every new alien was never marked by fear or apprehension. Rather, the emotion was always one of awe, the magnificence of creation.” A great market leader is one who avoids the rut of the rote and the routine of the cynic. Let each new challenge amaze you.

7. Don’t be afraid to be human

From the 1960s TV shows to the silver screen, Spock is constantly at odds with himself. His human side is always emitting feelings and desires that don’t align with his logical mind. As business and marketing leaders, we can relate. Too often, our business sense confuses leadership with heartlessness. Yes, a leader must be able to make the hard the decisions. But we should never be so quick to answer the bottom line, that hard decisions are no longer hard.

8. Get off the bridge

James T. Kirk and his pointy-ear friend spend plenty of time barking orders on the starship bridge. But they are also seen getting their hands dirty beaming into unknown worlds. A good leader gets out of the boardroom and rubs shoulders with the little people. She explores, she questions and she takes the temperature of the backroom. No brand was ever built in an ivory tower. “Beam me down, Scotty.” Words to live by.

We are a Dallas Advertising Agency specializing in integrated marketing.