The most beloved villain of all time. Why is that?
Let’s break down the character traits based on the original trilogy, because everything after that is garbage and can go pound sand. Seriously, Disney, you killed off the franchise so completely that I reject everything after Return of the Jedi, and I only follow the extended universe from the books, because they used imagination and not repetitive tropes. Garbage, Disney.
Ok, so, Vader is decisive, we see that in his first scene. He is ruthlessly efficient too, choking out the Rebel and issuing orders to keep all the passengers alive. Pretty impressive. He’s not a micromanager either, he expects his subordinates to do what he commands. You can tell because he doesn’t specifically say that droids count, but he’s thinking it and expects the others to do so as well.
One single escape pod is launched, and that idiot officer lets it go. The entire trilogy is over right then if Vader didn’t have to be super specific!!! I mean honestly!! Talk about racism, the empire is racist as hell.
Then, Vader realizes that brute force doesn’t work on Leia. Tarkin has no qualms about destroying a planet but he failed to take into account human resilience, which Vader does, and tries the long game.
Vader is a front line leader, correctly identifying the greatest threat to the death star in Obi-Wan, and confronting him head-on. Putting your own life on the line for your subordinates, that is leadership right there! We look at contemporary accounts, especially of WWI, and the generals were nowhere near the enemy. Then we look at front chargers like Patton and call him a hero! Well, Vader is doing the same, including flying cover for the death star near the end of the movie. Direct involvement in the defense of the base, servant leadership.
In the second movie, we begin to see the maturity of his leadership. He’s holding his subordinates accountable for their failures and countermanding of his orders. Accountability is often overlooked in modern companies, especially bureaucracy, and its effects are toxic for any organization. Also, he begins to plan long term for bringing someone new into the family business. He consults with his boss then initiates the plan, diplomatically bringing third parties into the action. To maintain control of the situation, he alters the deal, but is reasonable and doesn’t alter the deal any further.
The family dynamic is also intriguing because he wants to bring his son into a fairly new family business. He didn’t start out there, but once he was established, he was bold in his willingness to mentor his son until he was ready to step in. His punk-ass kid rejected him though, and we get a glimpse of the measured response from Vader. He doesn’t browbeat his son, doesn’t scold him, shows restraint in not killing him, and opens his heart to his son with painful secrets. Then he allows his son to make his choice, poor as it is, in confidence that he will return soon enough. It’s really parenthood lessons for all of us, sometimes we have to let them engage in their destructive behavior.
In the final movie, we see how Vader is forced into crisis management, the bane of any organization. Using what he learned in movie two, he goes to the scene, holds people accountable, motivates their work, and at the same time continues his plans for the family business. The ability to focus on multiple tasks while also keeping subordinates in their correct roles is a good leadership ability.
We find also that Vader is not a chauvinist! In history, Henry viii (I am I am) divorced and killed wives because they didn’t have sons, even going so far as to create a new church to satisfy his hatred of women. Not so Vader, who when his son rebels against the sacrifices he would have to make to join the family business turns and offers it to his daughter! Think about the destruction and slaughter that came to England because of the chauvinism of Henry viii (I am I am). Thousands were martyred, all because he hated women. Vader sought to avoid that same destruction by holding women in equal regard as men in family business.
Lastly, we are able to see the best leadership quality of all, the ability to acknowledge fault and wrongdoing. When Vaders boss tries to force Luke to join the family business, Vader realizes that he’s in a toxic work environment, and decides to step out alone into a new business partnership with his son. On top of that, he shows great fatherhood in asking forgiveness from his son when he was wrong. I don’t know if you follow the news, but no one is acknowledging if they are wrong anymore. It’s toxic leadership. Vader recognized it and put the good of the new enterprise before his own ego.
Darth Vader. Genius, motivator, servant leader, a general among the troops, equal opportunity employer, and a loving father. What’s not to like?