Author Archives: Carissa A. Gilman

In “Descent, Part II” (season 7, episode 1) Beverly is left in command of the ship while everyone except she and a skeleton crew go down to the planet’s surface to form an unnecessarily large search party to look for a rogue Data. Not only is Beverly left to command the ship against a Borg vessel, but her tactical officer, Ensign Taitt, was posted to the ship only 6 weeks ago.

It’s obvious that Taitt is nervous and anxious about making a mistake that could result in the destruction of the ship and everyone on board (and all while still in her 3-month probationary period–talk about an inauspicious beginning). But Beverly (who may not be used to command but is used to holding lives in her hands) displays immediate self-assurance and no hint of a doubt about Taitt’s abilities. They manage to hold their own and bring back enough members of the search party that Lieutenant Barnaby is able to relieve Taitt at tactical. Beverly then shows Taitt how much she believes in her by asking her to stay on the bridge as science officer.

Beverly next demonstrates how important it is to trust in not only your abilities, but those of your staff as well. She first shows confidence in Barnaby by approving his risky plan of waiting until the last second to drop out of warp in order to hide for as long as possible the fact that they have entered orbit around the planet (while Taitt helpfully points out that they’ll hit the atmosphere if Barnaby’s calculations are inaccurate).

Beverly then shows confidence in herself by making the bold decision to hide from the Borg ship in the corona of the sun (with Taitt pointing out, um, you know stars are hot, right?). With no way of knowing if the shields will hold (and with Taitt looking at her like she is a few dilithium crystals short of a warp drive), she has Barnaby implement the experimental metaphasic shielding to keep the ship from burning to a cinder.

And finally our Doubting Taitt’s turn comes when she has the idea of creating a solar fusion eruption to destroy the Borg ship. Taitt may be new to real-world scenarios, but she studied solar dynamics at the Academy and knows she can successfully do this, even if Barnaby is now the one looking at her like she’s taken leave of her senses (see–kind of annoying, isn’t it, Taitt?). Beverly trusts in the ensign’s specialized knowledge, just as the ensign believes in herself.

The result is an incinerated Borg ship, an impressed Lieutenant, and a very gratified ensign who will move forward in her career with the important lesson that listening to her instincts and trusting in her own skill can enable her to accomplish extraordinary things.

As the senior leaders of the Enterprise, Picard and Riker appear at all times to be self-assured and confident in their actions and decisions (with Riker coming off as arrogant more than a few times). And I think most would agree that confidence and decisiveness are important leadership traits. But as managers, I think many of us question ourselves, experience uncertainty, and occasionally agonize over whether we are choosing the best course of action. And then we wonder if we are true leaders and are truly cut out for a management role.

As Picard teaches us, all leaders question themselves, but they realize that it is the appearance of confidence that matters as much as anything else.

In “Attached” (season 7, episode 8) as Beverly and Picard are on their journey to meet the Kes operative and escape the Prytt, Picard examines the map and then confidently points in the direction they should go. Beverly, given new insight to Picard due to their implants, says, “You’re acting like you know exactly which way to go, but you’re just guessing. Do you do this all the time?” Picard replies that he doesn’t but that “there are times when it’s important for a Captain to give the appearance of confidence.”

He echoes this wisdom when giving advice to Data in “The Ensigns of Command” (season 3, episode 2). Data is preparing to perform in a concert as part of a string quartet. Picard and Beverly enter Ten Forward, and Data advises them to wait and attend the second concert (when he will be replaced by a different violinist) because he has been told that while his playing is technically proficient, it lacks soul. Picard tells him that “excessive honesty can be disastrous, particularly in a commander…Knowing your limitations is one thing. Advertising them to a crew can damage your ability to lead.” Data asks if this is because you lose their respect, and Beverly says, “No, because you may begin to believe in those limitations yourself.”

Trust in the skills and expertise that landed you in a management position in the first place, and trust in your own instincts. In the next post, we’ll see how Beverly draws on this wisdom when she is thrust into a command position.

My favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is especially important to me because it helped guide me in making a crucial decision in my own life. Having finished a 6-year stint as Managing Editor of a top-tier scientific journal, I was looking for a new position (the journal office having moved to Boston). Jobs in STM (scientific, technical, and medical) journal publishing are not always easy to find, and I had been looking for many months. Nothing seemed to be available.

Sensitive to my growing concern, an attorney friend asked if I wanted a job at his law firm doing paralegal work. Since I had a mortgage to pay, I was seriously considering it even though I have no interest in law.

Then I caught a rerun of the TNG episode “Tapestry” (season 6, episode 15, written by Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame). Seeing Picard struggle with the reality of altering the life decisions he had formerly regretted, only to wake up an unremarkable lieutenant junior grade, I realized that I too would never be satisfied with such a subordinate position, and that I needed to be willing to take risks for the captain position I truly wanted (being the Managing Editor of a journal is a little like being the captain of a ship, or at least the first officer).

So I decided to take the risk of waiting and have faith that something would work out. Not too much later, I was offered a position as Managing Editor of another top-tier STM journal, and I have now been with the organization for almost 6 years, having since been promoted to managing 2 journals and a staff of 5.

(Of course, this episode is also why it annoyed me so much that Picard’s young clone in Star Trek: Nemesis doesn’t have hair, but that’s another story.)