Control Your HR World With These Princess Leia Tricks

Dawn Burke Dawn Burke, Driving Productivity, HR, HR (& Life!) Advice

You say you’ve lost control? You’ve never had control. But you can’t let that stop you. You’ve got work to do—good work. You’ve got people who depend on you and need you. And, yeah, having a job pretty much is a must. (You still have that mortgage to pay, kids who need school supplies, and dammit… yes, yes, yes, paying for a manicure is totally worth every dollar. And hair color. And premium ice-cream).

Channel your Princess Leia. If there is one lady who had the crap end of the stick, it was she. And you never saw her lose it. So, she was always snippy at Han (who wouldn’t be) and yes, she kissed her brother. But nobody’s perfect.

Here’s how:

Be OK not being in control. This is a Jedi Mind trick, I know. A mental exercise we all must conquer. Sometimes you gotta channel The Force big time to overcome this, but you MUST find a way to be OK with this.  I mean, really, everyone in corporate America… EVERYONE… feels they don’t have control. Because they just don’t. I’m pretty sure Leia didn’t wake up one morning thinking her planet wouldn’t be blown up right in front of her face.  But she still rolled with the punches in the trash compactor.

Be OK being number 2. One of my mentors, a CHRO at a large corporation, told me long ago that if you are going to be great in HR you’ve got to be OK being number two. At the very most, if you are lucky, you will be number two—and that is a long shot. So, back to Leia. She was never number one. Never. She was second to, let’s see… Luke, Han, Darth Vader, Jabba The Hutt, even R2D2—the list goes on. But she was still a General and a Princess and a bad-ass on that scooter-thing in the woods. She still did really good work and got respect.

Control stress. Check this out. A Yale study (as described in this Time article) states that STRESS SHRINKS YOUR BRAIN. That is HORRIFYING. And the part that shrinks is the part that controls emotions and metabolism. So I get to lose control of my emotions and my clothes fitting. Sweet. So, I’m not gonna spoil Episode 7 or anything, but know this: Leia has dealt with some hard stuff and you never, ever, see her freak, yell, or breakdown. Maybe she is on sedatives or maybe she is just wise. But she still gets things done.

Be an active listener. The best way to navigate a reactive-environment is to be an active listener. Great actors are active listeners (aka the late, great Alan Rickman). Great musicians are active listeners (aka the late, great David Bowie). Great leaders know this is the secret sauce. Here’s the thing: Some of the time, if you zip-it, turn down the pysch-101 dying to get out of your head and spend 10 minutes just listening, you may be surprised. Surprised to hear the person that “needs another thing from you” is actually on the same page as you. Actually shares your philosophy. Actually understands your obstacles. Actually can be a partner, not an adversary.

Princess Leia did this brilliantly when she was chained to Jabba The Hutt. I mean, she shut up and just listened actively to all the stuff Luke was dishing Jabba’s way. And then when the time was right, she did her bad-assery on Jabba and you know the rest.


  1. Check Your Ego
  2. Calm Down
  3. Listen

And if that doesn’t work, well, you may never master the illusion of control. Just don’t go kiss your brother.