Yoda the Mentor as a Great Leader from Star Wars

Yoda (896 BBY - 4 ABY)

Perhaps the most iconic mentoring leader on the silver screen, Yoda is an excellent example of great leadership. Here are 7 leadership lessons from the great servant leader, Yoda:

1. You are not the hero, but your Padawan may be

Yoda Mentor Padawan YounglingsYes, Yoda is cool. However, he’s not the popular hero of the series. Instead, he is the driving force behind the heroes, Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Similarly, great leaders focus on the future. They build their experience, knowledge and wisdom into others. It brings comfort to the best leaders to see their padawan (mentees) succeed.


2. You may be misunderstood

When he first meets Yoda, Luke Skywalker underestimates him:

Yoda: Help you I can. Yes, mmmm.
Luke: I don’t think so. I’m looking for a great warrior.
Yoda: Ohhh. Great warrior… Wars not make one great.

To further the misunderstanding, Yoda’s way of talking is different than most. Great leaders are often misunderstood by others. The servant leader’s emphasis on service over power and humility over vanity goes against the popular notion. You may not be tiny, green, ancient and speak funny, but you will be misunderstood.

3. If you’re not careful, your organization may produce a Darth Vader

Darth Vader's Helmet Face - Bad Leadership ProductYoda expresses concern about young Anakin Skywalker. Sure enough, the worst fears come true and Anakin becomes the evil Darth Vader. Great leaders have a great deal of accountability when mentoring and raising the future generations of their organization. Use care in when hiring, mentoring and promoting.

Yoda: Twisted by the Dark Side, young Skywalker has become. The boy you trained, gone he is… Consumed by Darth Vader.

4. You live in the muck

Yoda lived on the Dagobah System when Luke Skywalker finds him. This swamp world is full of mud, muck, grime and filth. The home of Yoda is a tiny mud hut. Like Yoda’s home, great leaders do not live in an ivory tower. To the contrary, they invest a lot of time in the thick of things.  In serving their stakeholders, great leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty.

Luke: I want my lamp back. I’m gonna need it to get out of this slimy mudhole.
Yoda: Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is!

5. You’re work is never done

Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kinobi GhostsYoda was more than 900 years old when he met his last student (Luke). In fact, even after he died, Yoda continued to coach and mentor the younger Skywalker. Great leaders understand that work is never done. Work-life alignment is important, but the work is unending.


6. Sometimes, you have to kick evil’s butt yourself

Yoda Fighting Evil with Light SaberAncient by human terms, but still spirited and full of Force, Yoda knows when he must pick up the light saber and do battle himself. Great leaders focus on building others to extend the culture of service and the positive influence of their organizations. However, when necessary, leaders who serve are not afraid to join in the hand-to-hand combat of their organization.


Darth Sidious: I have waited a long time for this moment, my little green friend. At last, the Jedi are no more.
Yoda: Not if anything to say about it I have!

7. It’s up to you

Like Yoda, great leaders understand the future is up to them. If Yoda had not gone into exile on Dagobah, patiently waiting for the right opportunity, all could have been lost. Yoda was the last hope for the people against the Dark Force. He had to train Luke to conquer the Emporer and Darth Vader. Similarly, it’s up to you, as a great leader, to conquer the toxic leadership so many organizations are fraught with today.

If you realize it’s up to you, please, check out our servant leadership manifesto to learn more about humble leadership through service.

Question: What other leadership examples do you see from Yoda or other Star Wars characters?