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Why The Leadership of the Galactic Empire Understood Return on Energy

December 11, 2017 James Elhardt


With the upcoming release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, we thought it was a great time to examine the world of Star Wars through the leadership lens of ROE Powers ROI, the Ultimate Way to Think and Communicate for Ridiculous Results.

*Disclaimer: We in no way support the oppressive and vile acts of the Galactic Empire under Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Neither do we support the continued actions of Supreme Leader Snoke and the First Order.

The Galactic Empire may have been an oppressive society, but they ran efficiently and saw great Return on Energy. Basically, they were organizationally built around the idea of galactic dominance, through a plan created by strategic leadership, and action was taken by tactical support, with communication flowing through every channel. Palpatine and Vader stand as paragons of how a visionary Way 1 should work with a strategic Way 2. In fact, it wasn’t until a young farm boy broke communication between Palpatine and Vader that the Empire truly fell apart. At every turn the Galactic Empire fought strongly against the young and chaotic Rebellion.

Return on Energy is all about getting the right people into the right seats to maximize your return on investment. Every organization can use the three Ways to help translate the potentially great and not-so-great information at our fingertips. Way 1 focuses on vision and leading an organization, Way 2 focuses on the strategy and how to make sure the vision is realized, while Way 3 are the action takers, the front line subject matter experts, who perform the tasks that make up the strategy and are vital to the vision. Another way to say this is Way 1 focuses on the idea, Way 2 on the plan and Way 3 on the action.

While the Rebellion against the Empire has all three of these in spades, the Empire is far more centralized, better at communication and, unfortunately, had many more resources to bring to bare. Today we’ll break down why the Galactic Empire has much stronger ROE than the Rebellion, or even the Old Republic that preceded it.


1. A strong and Resolute Vision

Long before the Empire existed, there was an idea of galactic dominance. This idea lived for hundreds of years, passed down from a Sith Lord to their apprentice, until Palpatine was able to take control. Palpatine realized his vision of galactic dominance through the Clone Wars. His was a vision that required dedication. He brought the right people onto his team and always looked for the next steps to take his vision.

The Rebellion’s idea is hope, a strong vision, but open to greater interpretation. The Rebellion lacks the single resolute vision of the Empire. One that is carried out from the top of the government, all the way to their armored legions of Stormtroopers.

This idea applies to organizations, if your vision is cloudy or open for interpretation it means that the wrong types of communication are coming from your company’s Way 1, or Way 2s. There should be a resolute vision for your organization, whether that is in marketing, manufacturing or galactic dominance.



2. The Power of the Force and Vision

Way 1s must have a reason behind their idea or vision, a “why” or purpose. They must have a deeper influence than just something to plan and act around. Palpatine had the Dark Side of the Force to help drive his vision. It was his “why”, he had given himself to it, and had turned Vader down the same path. A “why” can be good or evil, mundane or exciting. It is up to your Way 1 leadership to choose the “why” for your organization and it should resonate with the rest of the team.

Purpose gives your idea strength, it gives you focus. An idea with a purpose can resonate far more than just an idea. This is actually the greatest weakness of the Empire. Their idea resonated with some, and most of those were in the Imperial Navy, those with strength and power. The Rebellion much better represented the rest of the galaxy with their idea of hope, and their purpose of liberation. The general populace is going to take liberation over domination every day.

Think of your purpose like the Force. What binds your team together, what moves your organization forward, and what was the original purpose for your organization. Examining these items will give you a better idea of the root cause of your idea, before your Way 2 strategists and Way 3 tacticians start working on executing your ideas.


3. The Strategic Execution and Follow-Up

No Way 1 is complete without a strong team of Way 2’s. The Empire is full of strategists that execute on Palpatine’s vision. From the parade of dark apprentices, Maul, Dooku and Vader, to the military leaders like Tarkin and Piett. Palpatine brought in Way 2’s to do what they did best, and so he could focus on growing his empire.


Each of the Empire’s Way 2’s have their own specialty, their own expertise. One of the most imposing may have been Tarkin, with his cold collected mind, and penchant for dominance. He served to bring the power of the Death Star to bear and achieve greater control of the resistant systems and remnants of the Old Republic. Vader himself serves instead as the strategic arm of Palpatine’s dominance of the dark side of the Force. He represents an ethereal power, and works with his elite team of Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion. Vader serves the generalist strategic role and right hand of the Emperor, a living embodiment to the purpose behind the vision.

The Rebellion does not lack strong Way 2’s, but their strategic vision is clouded and confused at the beginning. They lack a vision to properly strategize around in their earliest days, as we saw in Rogue One. As time goes on their vision to destroy the Empire becomes stronger, but they are a more ragtag, muddled together team, as opposed to the Empire’s cultivated list of Admirals and Grand Moffs.


4. The Right Action from the Right People

Action is vital to achieving the vision of any organization. Action leads to making the tangible from the intangible, and execute on the strategy laid before them. While they may not be able to hit a womp rat at point blank range, the Empire arguably has the strongest Way 3’s in the form of their feared Stormtroopers. They became the scourge of not just the Rebellion, but freedom throughout the galaxy.

The Empire uses their tacticians and Stormtroopers to drive their agenda forward. They kept their Star Destroyers going, invaded planets and even manned the technological terror known as the Death Star. The Empire’s resources are nearly unlimited and their use of them is impressive.

The Rebellion once again falls behind. They may have bands of small specialized heroes working against the Empire, but they have had to hide behind one-way communication and strategists that insist on living in too many Ways to be effective at any. Just because the Rebellion was held up by a small band of very opportunistic Way 3’s, does not mean they have the same tactical prowess as the Empire.

We can’t help but root for the good guys, because their cause is noble, and their vision resonates with each of us. Yet, there is no denying that the Rebellion was a bit dysfunctionally managed, and relied more on heroism, luck and the Force over proper Return on Energy.



5. Willingness to Live in Multiple Ways 

To be clear, this is something both the Rebellion and the Empire utilize, and generally quite well. A strong Way 2 can take on Way 1 responsibilities as needed. In fact Darth Vader once started as a Way 3, under the apprenticeship of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He grew and learned from his master, developed expertise in piloting and strategic warfare, all the while being cultivated by Palpatine to become his right hand. With the proper mentorship many can learn the skills necessary to take on additional Ways.

It’s important to know when the right stakeholder should focus on an idea, a plan or an action. Vader joins the front lines as a Way 3 only when needed, and that is the most important distinction between the Rebellion and the Empire. Vader’s skills are best used when it comes to important matters, like someone stealing plans for your mega-weapon. Vader is uniquely suited to elite missions, as he can replace a squad of Stormtroopers, or even an entire army, on his own.

The Rebellion instead has to spread their resources thin, and lacks cohesive leadership to get everyone in the right seats at the right time. Han Solo may have the title of General by Return of the Jedi, but instead of flying a flagship, he’s making friends with teddy bears and running in, blaster first. He dabbles between Way 2 and 3 at will, while also imposing his own vision on the mission. While not your typical micro-manager, you find Han taking on a role of Way 1 and Way 2 he was not prepared for, and spends his time fighting his Way 3 tendencies. We see this in his inability to delegate, a problem that ultimately lead to a snapped branch and created the entire chase that separated him from one of their best diplomatic leaders and literally the ONLY relevant Jedi in the movies.


In the end, the Empire knew that we don’t always live in one Way, but they made sure to not to spread themselves thin, or move people into the wrong seat. Vader is the perfect example, using skills that only a Sith could bring to the battlefield. He is chosen to chase Luke, because who better than the boy’s father? Vader lead the attack on the Jedi Temple because Palpatine knew it had to be Vader, or else his conviction might fade. Vader also creates the vision for his flagship Super Star Destroyer, removing and promoting leadership to keep the strategy of the fleet aligned with the vision of the Empire.


6. Strong Communication

Say what you will about how Vader and Palpatine decided to discipline their employees, but their communication was direct and concise. Not only that, but Vader was able to stay in contact with Palpatine when on the far reaches of space to discuss how his Way 2 Strategic Plan met the vision Palpatine has for his Empire. We see this best during Empire Strikes Back as they discuss a plan for Luke Skywalker to join them in the dark side (back before there were ever only two Sith).

Communication must move from Way 1 to Way 2, From Way 2 to Way 3, and back again. The Rebellion doesn’t seem to understand this. Instead of joining the Rebel fleet or finding a safe Rebel haven, Han takes Leia into a literal trap by visiting an old friend. Luke runs off to train as a Jedi and doesn’t even turn on a communicator before running into the very same trap. I’m starting to understand why Ackbar decides the best course of action is to voice the obvious, specifically when it comes to the Death Star II trap in Return of the Jedi, because no one else would ever say anything. Poor, poor Ackbar.



The Downfall

While the Empire has shown far stronger adherence to the ROE methodology and used it to great success for over three decades, their eventual downfall came because of communication and vision.

This was the greatest error of the Emperor. He took Vader’s alignment with his diabolical vision for granted and did not cultivate a continuing relationship, as he did at the beginning. In the end Vader and Palpatine were no longer aligned to achieve the same vision. Luke was able to open a line of communication as a Way 1 with Vader. He shared a familiar vision, one Vader believed in as a Jedi Knight, and decided to follow once again. This communication and change in conviction is one of the primary reasons the Empire fell, because without that vision the Empire would crumble.

Following the steps the Empire took with a stronger purpose sets your organization up for success. Find the areas your business is lacking, or any gaps in Way 1s, Way 2s or Way 3s. Following the principles of ROE creates a predictable pattern for success.

Always keep communication between your team strong, a vision may be lead by the Way 1, but everyone else must be aligned behind it, or else you could be thrown into a giant power generator as well. That is not to say that there will never be disagreement on ideas, plans or actions, but the right communication can help people re-align. At the end of the day, finding success comes down to building your culture, and bringing people into your organization that truly align and can help you achieve your vision.

Also, never try to turn a father against his son — it just doesn’t end well.

James Elhardt

James Elhardt

James Elhardt has spent time in his career working in social media, event marketing, brand management, content creation, and account management. His true love is content creation and writing, working with brands and digging into what makes them resonate in the marketplace. He went to the University of Minnesota and graduated with a major in Journalism, and a minor in Photography. When James is not working he is likely playing board games with friends, playing a competitive tabletop game with little tiny spaceships, or spending time with his family and their pack of dogs.

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