Darth Vader: Never Meant for Promotion

A lot is made of Darth Vader’s management style by fans of the Star Wars series. Everyone gets a thrill out of his willingness to choke his subordinates into submission and death when they fail him. Nearly everyone who has ever craved the power to do so with impunity has envied this command ability.

However, it betrays a fatal flaw in Vader’s character that is oft overlooked.

Vader Was Never Meant To Command

He was groomed for command. The Emperor wanted him to command. But the very things that made us love Vader as a character made him a terrible commander at his core.

As enjoyable as it is to choke someone out who fails you, because it conveys how little you tolerate failure, think of the other messages it sends. You have disregard for the lives of those who serve you. You consider people expendable cogs. You don’t consider feedback a necessary piece of management, but punishment.

Further, think of how much it actually paralyzes the command chain. Once you get a couple chokings out there, word spreads not just not to f*** up, but that Vader never tells people what it is that they’re f***ing up until it’s too late. I don’t know about you, but I’d be terrified to make a decision.

“What should we do?”

“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure you’re the one that should do it.”

—Theoretical Conversation at Imperial HQ

If Vader had instead at least offered some sort of feedback, or possibly just wounded the mildly incompetent, you have a different landscape where people are willing to take responsibility for their actions. I imagine promotions are turned down in the Empire at an alarming rate if there’s an option.

You’d also cut down on back-stabbing d-bags like Piett. Everyone has an affection for him because he survives an error, but let’s face it. He maneuvered Ozzel into a position to get killed. So Vader’s obvious (invisible) hand at fast-tracking promotions motivated people to get their superiors whacked.

Therefore, it turns the military into a much more political organization, which probably explains why the Imperial one was so inept as to be able to let a beat up YT 1300 continually get away from them.

Anyway, that’s my take. Am I off-base about Vader here?

15 thoughts on “Darth Vader: Never Meant for Promotion

  1. Right on with it.

    When Vader’s grandson, Jacen heads down the dark path, someone fails him and he chokes them to death on the bridge of his ship, the Anakin Solo. After that, he loses all respect of everyone in his army, they will do what he tells them to because not doing so will lead to certain death, but none of them would take a “bullet” for him. When he was in a fight with his sister, and she severed his arm, no one around stayed to help, they all left him in the hope that he would die. Although this is not said about Vader, I believe it is the same aspect and why they didn’t try very hard. They wanted the good guys to get away and maybe kill him. But for all his fear and everything, I don’t believe Vader was that powerful.

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    1. Vader was definitely a disappointment to Palpatine. Lucas said as much – he thought Vader would be the one to guarantee Sith victory for all and for good, and then he had to go and get burned up. If Vader’d had any sense, he’d have surrendered to Obi-Wan and stood trial and let Palpatine work his political machinations.

      Wait a minute — new blog idea!

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      1. I’m guessing that the Palpatine wasn’t all that disappointed in the fact that Anakin got burned up, but more with the fact that Anakin consistently made decisions which would make him a poor choice to ultimately act as one of the final two Sith. He loved Padme (and had some really poor dialog with her, not his fault), and let the good in him affect his actions and cause his fall back to good.

        In the end, Anakin just wasn’t evil enough to suit Palpatine’s (and the Sith’s) agenda.

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          1. It had to be disappointing to bank one’s future on somebody with such a questionable demeanor (aka Anakin). Getting burned up and reducing his force potential no doubt reinforced Palpatine’s desire to find a more powerful and reliable replacement.

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  2. Vader fell. He started innocent enough, but he never really fought the pull to the dark side. It’s therefore not a surprise to me that his leadership style was completely authoritarian, and that underlings were treated like replaceable cogs.

    Makes perfect sense, the Emperor had the same opinion of Dooku and Vader; they were ultimately both replaceable cogs used to obtain better cogs.

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    1. And that’s how the Emperor doomed the Sith — at least as the films’ storyline stands now. We’ll have no real idea of whether he doomed them and the prophecy was fulfilled until the end of the next trilogy!

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  3. Did you read the recently released The Star Wars? It’s a comic published by Dark Horse, based on Lucas’s original screenplay. Way different. Vader of course too.

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    1. Yes! Big fan of it. Wish they’d do adaptations of all the original drafts. I’m following the artist on Twitter (Mike Mayhew) and hope to see more of his work. With the “Disney buys back the comic license” business I’ll be interested to see how they proceed. Unquestionably a reboot is a-comin’.

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