The No-Win Scenario
Leaders Must Act
Leaders cannot solve every problem. There are times when no solution seems appropriate. Nevertheless, leaders must act even in the most confounding situations.
The No-Win Scenario
In the Star Trek series, Star Fleet Academy gives students a test to simulate being in command of a star ship. The ship “Kobiashi Maru” issues a distress signal. They indicate that their propulsion is disabled. They are drifting into the Neutral Zone. Entry of a warship by either the Federation or Romulans violates a truce. Such violation can result in an intergalactic war. So, the Federation commander faces a dilemma. Enter the neutral zone and risk intergalactic war or leave the crew to die as the ship loses power. The computer simulation will cause the Kobiashi Maru crew to die if the Federation commander does not attempt the rescue. It will also have a host of Romulan war ships destroy both the Kobiashi Maru and the Federation ship if it enters the Neutral Zone.
A Test of Character
Naturally, whichever choice the student makes ends in disaster. Some students are puzzled and angry because the test does not measure their tactical leadership. They are informed that it is not a test of their tactical capabilities but a test of their character. Some accept the idea and others have a more difficult time with the concept. Of course, there is one student who successfully rescues the Kobiashi Maru, destroys the Romulan threat, and returns safely. That would be Captain James T. Kirk. His response is that he does not believe in the no-win scenario. So, he reprograms the computer scenario to allow him a fighting chance to win.
Leading “en extremis”
There comes a time when changing the scenario (thinking outside the box) is the only option available. Leaders must operate “en extremis” to do “what is necessary” to achieve the greater good. “En extremis” means that the normal rules for behavior no longer apply. It is an ongoing dilemma regarding the ends justifying the means. It has been with us since the beginning of time. But, leaders need to understand when they are entering the “en extremis” scenario and act accordingly.