Everything I Know About HR, I Learned from Obi-Wan Kenobi




Decision Maker


Adversity Survivor



When a fellow HR Peep Buzz Rooney (whom I look forward to meeting in real life (IRL) soon at ILSHRM12) said she was doing a series on Star Wars, I jumped up and ran downstairs to talk to my son who is an avid Star Wars fan at 11 years old.  He has grown up to learn a lot about the HR field since his mother is kind of an HR nerd.  So when I asked him if he knew any Star Wars characters who could teach HR pros about HR he too jumped up and said yes, very enthusiastically.  I named the characters that were already taken and let him chose.

As you may have guessed from the title it was Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master that he quickly spewed out all the “HR” related facts about.  I had to stop him and ask him to slow down long enough for me to get to a computer to document what he knew about this awesome Leader, Teacher, Decision Maker, Counselor, and Adversity Survivor (most in his own words and some I had to caress a bit).  So the following is practically word for word what he told me.

Obi-Wan’s career path was Jedi (rather than the Sith route which Adam drew both out in organizational chart format).  The steps he took under the Jedi Knight (rather than Jedi counselor) career path were: trainee, Padawan, knight, guardian (rather than sentinel) and finally master to many young Jedi’s including Anakin Skywalker/ “Darth Vader” and later Luke Skywalker.

Obi-Wan Kenobi once was a Padawan to Qui-Gon Jin. His master died — and Obi-Wan had to watch him die. And by seeing that he knew to always think before you act. Then he became a Jedi knight and master to Anakin Skywalker. As a master, he learned leadership. As a leader, he understood the importance of making the right choices and using the Force (values and morals).

Whenever Anakin did something wrong, he would tell Anakin to do it differently  (performance management). Some of his most famous sayings while he was training were:

  • Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?
  • You want to go home and rethink your life?
  • Patience. Use the force. Think!
  • But he still has much to learn, Master. His abilities have made him…well arrogant.
  • Anakin, don’t do anything without consulting either myself or the Council.
  • You haven’t learned anything, Anakin!

So when Anakin turned to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan had to make a choice about whether to fight and kill Anakin — or to try to fight with the Force and end it peacefully. He tried to keep the peace for as long as he could. But when Anakin attacked him, Obi-Wan fought and defeated Anakin. He had to make a choice between saving , leaving, or killing him. He chose to leave Anakin and return to the Jedi counsel (board of Directors) where he told them his decision and asked if it was the right choice. He found out he made a choice between good and bad (remind you of the gray in HR?) and learned to think more when making decisions.

After Anakin’s betrayal, he kept up his leadership and trained young kids to use the Force and even he began teaching Luke Skywalker. In order to do this, Obi-Wan had to learn all the languages in the whole galaxy (global HR).

Years later, when it came down to saving Luke Skywalkers’s life, “Darth Vader” saved Luke and became light again partly because he remembered Obi-Wan’s teachings. This showed that Obi-Wan had an effect on people even years later.

This was such a refreshing project as it brings youth, movies, lessons learned, and HR all together.  I certainly learned a great deal about what Obi-Wan can teach HR as I sat and listened to my son.  I also saw my son’s face light up when he thought he could help out his mom and be the expert!  How many of us sit back and listen to suggestions and incredible knowledge that our staff has?  I know it’s not the same as I am totally enamored by my son — but wouldn’t you be too if this was someone you were training to eventually take over your job? Think how Star Wars could’ve have been a very different story if Obi-Wan had done more of this with Anakin … Thanks Buzz for this wonderful bonding opportunity and excellent idea to apply the movies to our profession!


This post was written by Donna Rogers Skowronski, SPHR with assistance from her son Adam Skowronski. Donna is a consultant, trainer and speaker with almost 20 years experience as a Human Resources practitioner. She serves as an instructor for traditional and online classes in Human Resources Management (HRM), Organizational Development (OD) and Organizational Behavior (OB) for  the University of Illinois Springfield College of Business and Management.

I am just as excited to meet and talk with Donna at the Illinois SHRM Conference in 2 weeks as she is. You can connect with Donna on Twitter (@DonnaRogersHR), Facebook, LinkedIn, and read other posts via Women of HR and DonnaRogersHR


Don’t miss any of the posts in the Star Wars series:






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