This week we honor perhaps the greatest screen villain ever; Darth Vader. The actor who played the original incarnation of Darth Vader ever died this weekend. I refer of course to David Prowse, who was THE Darth Vader in the original three Star Wars movies (now monikered Episodes IV-VI). Prowse was a 6 ft. 7 in. former British weightlifting champion who caught the eye of George Lucas after his performance in Stanley Kubrick’s ground-breaking A Clockwork Orange.
Unfortunately for Prowse (but very fortunately for the rest of us), his southwest England accent was so thick, that his voice was not suitable for the world’s greatest movie villain so the Voice of God (in the person of James Earl Jones) was dubbed in for the series. According to the blog post How Darth Vader Got His Voice Jones’ voice was further enhanced by sound designer and pioneer Ben Burtt. Burtt “used the sound of breathing through a scuba regulator as the basis for Vader’s breathing” and said, “Then I’d edit those breaths into every scene with Darth Vader and try to match the breathing rhythm of the speech, which of course was the voice of James Earl Jones.” It was not only inspired movie-making at its finest but great entertainment.
However, it was the dialogue that made Vader so memorable. What are your favorite Darth Vader lines? For my money, here are Tom’s Top Five.
- “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” This is about faith. According to the Sideshow article, “What makes this quote so important is that Darth Vader is more than just a warlord. He’s more than just a leader and a fighter. He’s a student under Emperor Palpatine, and a devout member of an ancient tradition. Every part of his life revolves around his faith and his goal to complete the will of his master. He is literally willing to kill just because someone else doubts his faith.” From Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Leadership Lesson – Perhaps the most important lesson to remember is not to over-rely on technology. Never forget the human element, even if that element is the Force. You must use the other skills available to you to achieve your goals and that can include intuition based upon your experiences as a leader.
- “I am your Father…”. The biggest reveal in all of the Star Wars oeuvre. Even today, even knowing the twist, when Vader says the line, it still sends shivers down my spine. How could a father fight with his own son like this? Sideshow noted, “It might be the most popular line in all the movies”. From Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Leadership Lesson – Sometimes revealing the truth can be just as important as it is dramatic. Of course, the converse is also true that if you are reporting to a leader, that leader does not want to be surprised. As Grant Harris noted, your job when reporting to senior management is to compress “the right information into the right amount of time, no matter how complex the topic or short the briefing.”
- “Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.” Here Vader makes clear that technology is not everything, which might seem counterintuitive. Yet at the end of the day, it points to the duality of Vader’s nature, even existence as Darth Vader. Sideshow said, “he distrusts technology when compared to the might of the Force. This is one of the many hints that reveal the warring nature of his soul. If you pay careful attention, you’ll find the contradictions in many of his words and actions.” From Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Leadership Lesson – Yes even Carl Jung and the duality in the nature of human inform leadership lessons. Lolly Daskall has identified several of these, including “To learn, we need to be curious. To lead, we need to have followers. To be strong, we need to be vulnerable. To give, we need to receive”; “In the new ethics of leadership opposites are about reconciling”; and, most importantly, “acknowledge the duality.”
- “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” Vader had made a deal with Lando Calrissian to deliver Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. When that does not work out, Vader decides he needs both Leia and Chewbacca as well. Vader is threatening Calrissian, all the while maintaining civility. He makes himself out to be a benevolent villain, who is showing kindness to one of his undeserving subjects. Yet this emphasizes to Calrissian that only good faith and compliance can keep his Vader’s rage in check. From Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
Leadership Lesson – It is all about risk management. Yet risk is not a constant but is forever fluid, changing as conditions change. Those conditions can be catastrophic such as a global pandemic, global climate change or something much more pedestrian, such as Vader’s unsuccessful attempt to attract Luke Skywalker by torturing Hans Solo.
- “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.” The only wisdom in my Top Five from outside the original three films. Audiences were on the edge of our collective seats, as Vader walked through a corridor of smoke to greet Director Krennic. All that Krennic cares about is his good standing with the Emperor, to meet the Emperor and have both Vader and the Emperor recognize his efforts. Obviously, this is “incredibly short sighted” as all Krennic’s efforts have caused Darth Vader far too much trouble. “Vader Force-chokes Director Krennic to put him back in his place. Even at his funniest, Darth Vader’s presence and command is absolutely chilling.” From Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Leadership Lesson – Great advice as well as a leadership lesson as here the lesson is humility. Authors as diverse as Matt Kelly and Robyn Ward have cited to author Jim Collins and his best-selling leadership book, Good to Great, in which he reported, “humility to be the X factor of great leadership.” Ward said, “When you are humble you open yourself up to continuous growth and learning, and you prime yourself to handle the inevitable lows of startup life with grace and dignity.” Director Krennic certainly could have used some humility in his meeting with Darth Vader.
While this blog post is about Darth Vader, another word about the actor who played him and passed away this weekend, from his New York Times (NYT) obituary, “In Britain, he became more widely known when he got the part of the Green Cross Code Man, a superhero who promoted road safety. He appeared as the character in a government television campaign and also toured schools to encourage children to stop, look and listen before crossing the street. That campaign ran until 1990, and Mr. Prowse wrote in a 2014 piece for The Guardian that it was “the best job I’ve ever had, including my Star Wars role, and by far my proudest achievement.””
So, a fond farewell to David Prowse and I wonder just how many lives he saved as Darth Vader and the Green Cross Code Man. Join me tomorrow when I look at compliance lessons from Darth Vader.
Have some fun and learn some leadership lessons by checking out these clips on YouTube:
I am your father
I find your lack of faith disturbing
Be careful not to choke on your aspirations
I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further
Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force.