Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
What is a leader? A century ago, we might have said, “He’s the boss, the man in charge.” Back then, most people did routine jobs and needed someone in charge to tell them what to do.
We are in the 21st Century now; times and people have changed. Most of us are skillful and well educated. We know how to do our jobs, and for the most part, we enjoy doing them. We don’t need bosses – We need leaders.
There is a parallel in fantasy games. When we created Quest for Glory, the Warrior had a simple role. He was strong, good with weapons, well armored, and perhaps not too bright.
Those times are no more. In the School for Heroes, the Fighter has become the Warrior who leads others to greatness. In MMO (massively multiplayer online) games like World of Warcraft, the fighter has become the ‘tank.’ A tank has more responsibility than anyone else on the team.
Tanks have five main responsibilities: They need to lead by example, inspiring the rest of their team. They need to survive and overcome injury and other setbacks. They need to act as the first line of defense, protecting the other team members. They need to divide the opposition so that the party never faces more than it can handle. And most of all, they need to encourage and support their team so that everyone does their jobs well.
In other words, a great tank must be a leader.
Here are some lessons that every good tank – and every good leader – needs to know.
Lead by Example
The best tanks know their own role thoroughly and understand the abilities of the other players. They don’t tell another player how to play, but they provide clear direction so that everyone works together. They choose which targets should be “crowd-controlled” (stunned, put to sleep, trapped, etc.) and which should be the first “kill targets”. Then they focus on their own job and trust the rest of the team to play their roles.
The best leaders are right there in the trenches with their troops, doing their own jobs competently and effectively. They give general direction without trying to micro-manage every task. They act more like knowledgeable co-workers than bosses, and the people working with them can see that the leader is right there working hard. When someone on the team has a question, the leader answers promptly and concisely.
Take a Lickin’, But Keep On Tickin’
The tank’s main job is to stand up under fire. He might be able to withstand four or five enemies better than anyone else in the party can handle one. The other players will do their jobs better if they know they are safe. This role starts with good equipment and character abilities, but continues with skillful timing and play. Is a big attack coming? Then use a mitigation talent. Is that attack a powerful area effect? Then move out of the area! Don’t just stand there and stress your healer’s ability.
The business equivalents to stamina and mitigation are tenacity, resilience, and flexibility. Is a supplier late with a critical component? Respond by changing the production sequence so that part is needed last. Or temporarily get a substitute from an alternate supplier. Are creditors late with their payments, or are they on Net 60 payment terms? Make sure you have the tenacity of sufficient cash reserves so that you can continue to produce while waiting for payment.
Dance the Masochism Tango
MMO tanks have many ways of attracting the enemy’s attention. They can “taunt”, they can do a sweeping attack that angers everyone, they may be able to daze or stun the enemies for a few seconds, and they can move around so that the rest of the team has a safer area in which to fight. To be a great tank, you have to be a little bit of a masochist – You have to want the enemy to hate you and to hurt you. Why? Because you can handle it, and your teammates aren’t as well equipped to survive a heavy onslaught.
Above all, the tank takes responsibility for everyone’s actions, not just his own. A great leader does that too.
Never forget that your job as the leader tank is to keep everyone else in your organization safe. That means you need clear policies that allow others to take appropriate risks and occasionally fail. They need to know that their jobs are safe (as long as they are effective contributors), and that you are their shield against outside critics and job uncertainty. Let your employees and co-workers know that you trust them and that you “have their backs”. If another manager – or an outsider – criticizes your team, take personal responsibility – Don’t blame the people who work for you. You are the tank – You’re tough and you can take the heat.
An MMO tank is responsible for taking on only what the team can handle. That includes directing crowd control to split up the enemy forces, and “pulling” small groups of enemies so that wandering patrols don’t join them. If you are storming a castle, you will do better if you first take out the sentries one by one than if you charge down the middle yelling, “Leeroy Jenkins!”
A business leader knows what she and her team can handle. She tracks performance and uses the results to plan future projects. She works with the team to break complex jobs into manageable tasks. She lets her team direct the schedule for individual jobs, but she keeps track of the results. If the team is having trouble meeting a milestone, she works with them to renegotiate the schedule and to further divide the tasks so that everyone can meet their goals. When you pull together, everyone on the team wins.
Support the Team
A World of Warcraft player named Jadden from the U.S. Argent Dawn realm posted this wonderful article, “I met an Elitist Tank last night” on the WoW forums. Stop for a minute and read it. Jadden talks about two types of players – the ones who would rather put people down, and those who are willing, ready, and able to help lift them up. A great tank supports the team, encourages players to improve without cutting them down, and makes sure that individual contributions are recognized and encouraged.
I’ve worked with people who believed that all managers suck, and that you just have to keep your head down and try to survive. That isn’t how people accomplish great projects. Real leaders do not tear down their teams and leave them working in fear. The best leaders act as resources and tools to help the team do great work. They listen more than they demand, and they act decisively on what they hear. If the team needs training, the leader arranges it. If their development tools are inadequate, the leader purchases new ones or schedules time and people to create better tools. They don’t say, “If you had any talent or skill, you would get the job done with what you have.” They listen, they learn, and they support the team.
Rule #1: The Players Must Have Fun
It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing an MMO or directing a project team. When everyone is relaxed and enjoying what they’re doing, they will perform better. As the leader, you will have a lot more fun when your team is having fun. The rules of tanking go far beyond the game. You can waste your energy complaining about the idiots around you, or you can transform them into smarter, nicer, and more helpful people. Lead by example. Help them learn to improve their outlook and performance. Being a jerk is self-destructive; helpful people have more fun.
You don’t have to wear plate armor and carry a shield to be a great tank. You just have to want the team to win and work hard to help them get there. Your team members will see the difference. There is nothing quite like hearing, “Tanks for being a leader” from the people you’ve helped to do great work.
Friday, February 20th, 2009
As we’ve looked at some of the school-wide assignments on “Why I Am A Hero” and “Who Am I?” we’ve noticed a common thread. Many of our students start out by saying, “Well, I’m not really a hero yet. I’m hoping the school will help me become one.” That’s pretty reasonable; you sign up for a school because you expect to learn something.
But what is a Hero, really? Do Heroes start out as exceptional people and do extraordinary things because they’re unlike the rest of us? We think Heroes are made, not born, and we also don’t think that there are just two types of people in the world – Heroes and non-Heroes. We believe that everyone has many opportunities to do Heroic things, and that you are a Hero whenever you take such an action.
So the quick answer is, “Anyone can become a Hero.” You just have to care enough to work at it – to do Heroic Deeds and to prepare yourself to be able to do them.
Lessons from Role-Playing Games
There’s an interesting tradition in both live and computer role-playing games that you rarely see in any other genre. When you start an RPG, you are not a powerful Hero. Instead, you start out as a wet-behind-the-ears “first level” wannabe adventurer. We used this technique in Quest for Glory, and you could say that we wouldn’t have a true RPG without it.
An RPG character may have the destiny to become a Hero, but it never comes easily. He has to work, train, and face increasingly difficult odds to fulfill that destiny. This is also the real-life lesson in the book Mindset (reviewed in the Quest Log at A Time for Change). No matter how smart, how athletic, how heroic you are by nature, you have to commit to your goals and work hard at them to accomplish anything really important and meaningful.
You become a Hero one step at a time. Your journey to Heroism might begin by playing games or reading inspirational tales. It might start with a single small unselfish deed. Maybe you helped an old person cross the street or by helping a friend with her homework. Perhaps you volunteered to work with learning-challenged people in your community or just dropped a quarter into a charity collection box. Maybe you concentrated on your work to get a task done on time so that your co-workers could get their jobs done more easily.
All the little “good deeds” we do can add up to big positive changes in the world. Creating change takes commitment, and it takes work, but both of those get easier the more times you do them. And don’t think your work is meaningless because you’re just one small individual. Think about this Starbucks Story:
Paying It Forward
A customer waiting in line at a Starbucks drive-through got impatient and started honking when the driver in front of him seemed to be taking too long. Instead of responding in kind, the “slow” driver asked the clerk how much the next customer’s order cost. Then he paid for both orders and drove off. When the angry driver arrived, the barista told him the previous customer had paid for his order.
Shocked and embarrassed, the formerly-angry driver smiled and asked if he could pay for the next customer’s order. The chain continued all day and people found they were really happy about the unexpected generosity of the drivers ahead of them… and even happier at the opportunity to do the same thing for the next customer.
That’s a pretty amazing change in the lives of that community that one person brought about for about $4… and a Heroic attitude. That same story has been repeated over and over in many different cities. It only takes one person to start the chain, and it doesn’t get broken very often. Every one of us has that power!
I first encountered the expression “Pay it forward” in an article about a generous science fiction author. He helped out a young fan who expressed doubt about being able to pay him back and he said, “That’s all right. Many people have been generous to me when I needed it. Don’t try to pay me back. Pay it forward when you can afford it and find someone else who could use your help.” It’s a very powerful concept.
Not Just for Paladins
When I mention “doing good deeds”, “generosity”, and “helping people,” your first thought might be, “That’s fine for Paladins, but what about us Wizards, Rogues, Warriors, and Bards?”
Well, first of all, generosity and good deeds have no class. The hallmark of a Hero is to see a task that needs to be done and do it, even if he has to sacrifice something. That “sacrifice” might be a few dollars, a few minutes of your time, or writing a blog article when you’d rather be playing World of Warcraft, but that’s what differentiates Heroism from “just doing things.” You make that commitment, take that step, do the preparation, and do the deed because you know it needs to be done. Every time you sacrifice a little to do something important, you are “paying forward” and making a positive change in the world.
Of course, acts of charity are not the only ways to be Heroic. Corey became a programmer for an interesting reason. Sure, it was fun and intellectually challenging, but those weren’t it. It was the late 1960′s and we were embroiled in the Vietnam War. Cold-war tensions ran high and a nuclear war seemed almost inevitable. I had a vision of becoming a key team member on a team developing software for nuclear installations. One day the President would push the red button to launch a full-scale nuclear attack… and nothing would happen. Yes, it’s true – I became a programmer so that I could write buggy software.
As it happens, I didn’t end up going to work for the military, and I suspect they would have found a way to misuse my bad code. Instead, I joined Lori in approaching that same goal by spreading messages of peace and heroism through our games. It took a lot more work for a lot less pay, but will probably be more effective in the long run.
R&D (Research and Development) is one possible path to Heroism. In the Hero test, there is a question about discovering a cure for leukemia. That’s one way a Wizard can make an incredible positive change through Discovery. Barack Obama is the epitome of the Warrior Hero – fighting for change through leadership. By the way, it doesn’t matter in the least whether you agree with his beliefs or policies. The point is that he believes in them and has done a tremendous amount of work to put himself in the position to bring them about. That’s what being a Warrior Hero is about.
Rogue heroes bring about change through trickery and misdirection. Had I stayed with my original military sabotage plan, that would have been a Roguish Heroic Deed. A Rogue in Santa Cruz objected to fines for minor parking violations, so he put on a clown suit and walked around the downtown streets with a bag of nickels. He fed the expired meters just before the police could ticket the cars there. Eventually he was arrested and told to stop… so he did it again. An appeals court determined that he had not broken any law and the city had to pay all court costs. That is the power of a Rogue Hero in action!
As for Bards, they have long been forces for social change. Songs, chants, and newspaper articles did more to bring about the end of the Vietnam War than I could ever have accomplished through sloppy code. You just have to choose where you need to take a stand, then tell the tales that move others to join you. When we write these articles and run the School, we are taking on the roles of Bardic Heroes.
We Can All Be Heroes
Nobody will open a proclamation and declare you to be a Hero… unless it happens long after you have already become one. Heroism is a habit. You get there one small action and one tiny inspiration at a time. Everything Heroic you do makes you a little more of a Hero. But there is no magical moment when you Become a Hero. You simply are a Hero each and every time you use your time and resources to do something difficult that Needs to be Done.
If you are faced with a challenge that seems impossible, don’t despair. Find a tiny piece of it that you know how to do. Take the time to learn how to do some other small piece. Just as a huge software or construction project is made up of tens of thousands of little pieces, so is every great and worthwhile task. When Heroes commit to getting things done, they soon find that others will follow and help. Everyone wants to do things that matter; they just need to be shown that they can be done.
Be a Hero. Do deeds worth doing. Find out how you can lead, how you can help, what you can discover, the changes that need to be made, and what tales you can tell that will make this world a better place.
Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
On the surface, the brash, straight-forward Warrior seems like the easiest and most obvious character class to define. Examples of great Warriors abound – Genghis Khan, Caesar, Conan, Wolverine, Hagar the Horrible, Patton, Leonidas, and many others. (Okay, so some of these are greater than others.) We all know what a Warrior is and does…
Or do we?
When we think of a Warrior, it might be one of several images – the plate-armored “human tank,” the wild-eyed berserker, the big, dumb, fighter, or the calm strategist. Each serves an important role in battle, and each is a very different archetype. Here at the School, when we say Warrior, we mean Leader.
If you took the Hero Test and became a Warrior, you would rather do something than sit around. You crave excitement and adventure. You are decisive. Other people respect that and look to you for decisions and answers when the going gets tough. Our great Warrior heroes need the judgment of Right and Wrong and the heart and soul to choose the Right.
Back in October, we wrote an article called Tribal Lore about a book called Tribes: We need you to lead us by Seth Godin. The concepts are powerful for everyone, but Warriors especially should read the article and consider getting the book.
Seth says, “The first thing you need to know is that individuals have far more power than ever before in history.” You don’t need a title to be a leader. You just have to be passionate about an idea and willing to do the work to help it spread.
Creating and sustaining a tribe is about leadership. More than any other class, the Warriors have the decisiveness, the vision, and the passion to be leaders.
No Substitute for Hard Work
The Warrior class may have some of the most difficult and challenging assignments in The School for Heroes. That’s because Warriors thrive on challenge and they know how to overcome obstacles. They don’t think their way around it like the Wizards, and they don’t sneak past it the way a Rogue might.
To a Warrior, finding a way around an obstacle is avoidance. They aren’t afraid of hard work when the goal is worthwhile.
Warriors see a problem, face it, and overcome it. They know that a challenge postponed is ten times harder than one handled immediately.
How was the Great Wall of China built? Step by step and brick by brick. If a task seems overwhelming, the Warrior breaks it down into manageable pieces, makes a plan, and starts working on it one piece at a time. If the project is too big for one Hero, the Warrior delegates, leads, and finds the people to get the job done.
Are Warriors the Best of the Best, or What?
Warriors in the School are pretty hot stuff. They’re confident, healthy, decisive, and charismatic. Nobody’s perfect though. It’s easy to go from “decisive” to “reckless.” Warriors sometimes act without having all the data they need to succeed. Somewhere along the line, a successful Warrior needs to learn control and balance as well as authority and power.
One of the most important parts of the Warrior curriculum is learning how to lead. Warriors are natural leaders because other people tend to follow the one who has a plan. However, to stay a leader, Warriors need to learn to listen, to compromise, and above all, to keep going when times are tough.
We might not succeed at every plan, but failure makes us stronger. Some of the greatest successes in history have come after equally spectacular failures. Be willing to be wrong, and be willing to adapt when the first try fails. Nike had a slogan, “Second place is the first loser.” We hate that saying, but that message is different to a Warrior than to other people. Here’s what it says to a Warrior:
“Second place is the best motivation to win the next time.”
Learn from your failures and grow. Maybe you just need a little more work, and a little better plan, to be a winner. Second place is pretty damn good, but being a Warrior is about becoming the best. Cherish your seconds and thirds, then do what it takes to become first.
“Never give up, never surrender, full speed ahead.” – Galaxy Quest
We don’t make it easy on our Warriors. One of the first Warrior assignments is to create a daily workout regimen and report on their progress after a week of following it. No other class gets a rank 1 assignment that they have to spend at least a week on before they can report it as done. It can be very easy for a new Warrior to look at the assignments, think “This is too hard,” and give up.
Give up? Even think about giving up? That’s no Warrior attitude! If they assignments are tough, that’s because we know you’re tougher! By working through them, you will become stronger.
And we need your strength. We need Warriors to help lead us into the future. More importantly, the world needs Warrior Heroes who lead with a conscience. Be that leader. Be a Warrior!