18 Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

A Reel Leadership Post

With Disney’s $4 billion acquisition of the Star Wars license in October of 2012, a lot of things have changed. One of those changes is that new movies based in the Star Wars universe are rolling out on a regular basis.

Friday, December 16th saw the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to theaters across the US.


Rogue One introduced us to Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2S0, Baze Malbus, Saw Gerrera, Chirrut Îmwe, and more. Each character played a pivotal role in the attack on the Death Star.

We were introduced to a backstory that had never been told. How the Rebels infiltrated the Empire and stole the Death Star schematics.

As always, I’m here to bring you the leadership lessons found in the latest blockbuster movie. Get ready for the leadership lessons from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

CAUTION: Rogue One spoilers ahead!

Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

1. Change is okay:

A lot of leaders struggle with implementing change. This resistance to change can be due to their desire of wanting to be liked, of wanting to avoid failure, or because they feel change is bad.

In Rogue One, we saw a change to how Star Wars movies begin. The previous 7 Star Wars movies had an opening crawl text that brought us instantly into the action.

The opening crawl was there to give us the backstory in Episodes 1-7. Not so in Rogue One.

While many movie-goers had enjoyed the crawl text in previous movies, a change was made. Why? Because Rogue One was not a saga film but a side-film to the series.

Don’t be afraid to make a change. Organizations need to grow and evolve as they age. Keep the change coming.

2. Be vigilant:

Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, was a young girl at the beginning of Rogue One. Her family had left the employ of the Empire and wanted to live peacefully.

Yet, they knew they had to be watchful as the Empire could try to call upon her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) once more.

They had video surveillance in place. They also had places they could run and hide if the Empire returned.

That day came. Because of their vigilance, Galen and his wife Lyra Erso were able to get Jyn to a safe hiding spot.

Are you staying vigilant in your business? Doing so looks different from what Galen and Lyra had to do.

Being vigilant in business means knowing what your competitors are up to, how the business landscape is changing, and more.

Stay vigilant!

3. Galen Erso:

Whatever I do, I do to protect you

Galen had to make a choice. Does he step up and protect his family or does he let his family be slaughtered?

He had a tough choice before him. He made the choice to go with the Empire in order to save his daughter.

Leaders will be called upon to make tough choices. Be ready to choose.

4. Galen Erso:

You’re confusing peace with terror

Galen realized there was something wrong with the Empire. Their leadership led with fear and power. This led to terror that was confused with peace.

You get to choose how you will lead. Will you lead in a just manner that will garner the respect of your team or will you lead with a heavy hand that causes others to fear you?

5. Give people direction:

As we re-entered the world of Star Wars in Rogue One, we saw planets we’d never seen before. The film helped us here in briefly displaying the name of the planets as they appeared on screen.

This helped audience members know where they were in the universe. It helped guide them as the movie flowed.

Are you giving your people direction? Do you let them know where they are and where the organization is going?

Leaders give a helping hand in guiding their team with vision. Don’t let your team down.

6. Mon Mothma:

It’s a chance for you to make a clean start

Mon Mothma is one of the founders of the Galatic Republic. When we see her in Rogue One, she tells Jyn Erso she has a chance. A chance to make a clean start.

I loved this. Mon Mothma gave a criminal a second chance to start over and do right.

Isn’t that what great leaders do? They see the potential in people and pull it out of them, even if they’ve failed before.

Help those you lead see their potential. If the’ve messed up in the past, be willing to give a second chance for redemption.

7. Not all orders need to be followed:

Jyn Erso teamed up with the Rebellion to help rescue her father, or so she was led to believe. The truth was they were sent to kill her father.

Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, was given the orders to kill Galen Erso. He had the choice whether or not to follow through with the kill order.

In the end, he realized killing Galen wasn’t the right play. He put down his riffle.

You’re going to make a bad call here or there. You’re going to tell someone to do something that shouldn’t be done.

They may stand up to you and reject the order. Don’t be angry at their response.

Listen to them. Hear them out. See why your instructions weren’t followed.

You might have avoided a mistake by having someone stand up to you.

8. Jyn Erso:

Trust goes both ways

You want your team to trust you. Yet you may not trust your team.

There’s an issue there. As Jyn so eloquently said: Trust goes both ways.

Trust isn’t a one-way street. You have to have the trust of your team and you have to trust your team.

Without trust, there’s disunity. There’s disdain. And there’s hurt.

9. Cassian Andor:

Rebellions are built on hope

And so are great organizations. Organizations that instill hope in their team members go further than those that don’t.

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The people who are working with you want to hope for something better. They want to believe the work they are doing matters.

Thus, give your people hope. Hope that they’re doing great work. Hope that they’re changing the world. And hope that they have a better future ahead.

10. When people lack purpose, they get into trouble:

In Jedha City, there was a Jedi temple that had been destroyed. Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus were two of the temple guards who were now without a purpose.

Until Jyn’s arrival, Chirrut and Baze loafed around the city and caused trouble. They had no purpose. And it showed.

When we fail to give purpose to those we lead, trouble follows. They will look for things to do. Whether they’re good or bad, they’ll find something.

Give your team a purpose!

11. Great leaders put themselves in the face of danger:

After the Rebels attacked the Empire forces on Jedha, mayhem broke out. Blaster fire was going everywhere, people were being attacked, and the tanks began to roll out.

As one such tank was rolling forward, a young girl stood frozen in front of the tank. Jyn made a decision that put herself in danger. She jumped in to rescue the young girl.

There will be times when you’re going to have the tough decision of whether or not to place yourself in a dangerous position. The choice is up to you to take the risk.

12. A handicap doesn’t disqualify you from leading:

My favorite new character in Rogue One had to be the blind monk Chirrut Îmwe. He didn’t let his handicap hold him back from serving and protecting the ones he was called to serve.

Are you letting a handicap hold you back? You don’t need to. You can lead even if you have a handicap.

13. Chirrut Îmwe:

There is more than one sort of prison

Yes, there are the physical prisons with bars and cold, cement walls. But there are other kinds of prisons as well.

We can create mental prisons that hold us back as well. We tell ourselves that we’re not good enough or that we’ll never succeed.

Those are prisons as well. Open the doors to your prison and walk out. You’re not required to be there.

14. Saw Gerrera:

You cannot give up the cause

Forest Whitaker made his Star Wars debut as the character Saw Gerrera. He’s the man who had found Jyn as child after her mother was killed and her father was taken by the Empire.

He gave a wise word of wisdom: You cannot give up the cause.

When you know what is right and what you are fighting for, you cannot give up on that vision. You have to continue to fight for what is right.

15. Small flaws bring down big things:

The Death Star had a small flaw that was purposefully built into its designs. That small flaw was all that was needed for a rag-tag bunch of rebels to bring down a massive weapon.

In a recent article, I shared how we can deal with success as leaders. As we get closer to success, our flaws tend to become a larger liability.

Our pride and smugness open up ways for us to fall. Watch the small moral failures as they open up the possibility of major failure.

16. Great leaders take responsibility:

Galen Erso was the engineer who had purposely put the design flaw in the Death Star. He also sent word that there was a flaw to the Rebel Alliance.

When he was found out, he had a choice: Deny or accept responsibility.

He made the leadership choice to accept responsibility for his actions.

That’s what great leaders do. They step up and say “Yes, I did that. I accept responsibility.” Do what great leaders do.

17. Darth Vader:

Be careful not to choke on your aspirations

While Darth Vader may not be the man you’d normally take leadership advice from, I believe this one-liner was a great piece of advice for leaders to follow.

Director Osron Krennic had the desire to rise in the ranks of positional leadership. Vader was quick to cut him down and tell him the truth.

We have to be aware of why we have the aspirations we do. Are they to better ourselves or are they to better the organization?

18. There are people who believe in you:

The Rebel Alliance had turned down the plans to go and retrieve the Death Star plans. Jyn and Cassian felt defeated. No one believed in them. Or so they thought.

When they exited the council chambers, they had a rebel force waiting to go into battle with them. They had believers.

Your ideas may get shot down. You may feel no one is behind you. You’ll probably be surprised to find out that the people you’ve had a large impact on actually have your back.

If you enjoyed previous Star War movies, especially The Force Awakens, you’re in for a treat. Rogue One delivers on all fronts.

Question: Have you seen Rogue One? If so, what leadership lessons did you take away? If not, what were your favorite leadership lessons and quotes from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that I shared? Let me know in the comment section below.

Do you enjoy leadership lessons from the movies? Would you like more leadership lessons from the movies? Check out the Reel Leadership archives here for more leadership lessons from the movies.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Susan Landry

    I cannot watch movies without finding lessons. Love this! The one that came to my mind was that Saw Gerrera sent Jyn away years before out of concern for her. Leaders do what is best for those under them, even if it is difficult for themselves, and even if the people don’t see their purpose and end up hating them for it. They do what’s best regardless.

    • Love that take away Susan. It can be hard for leaders to do the right thing because it’s painful for them.