I’ve been away all week at a Leadership event. Heard some wonderful speakers (including Richard Wiseman – I will never trust my eyes or brain again!). All thoughtprovoking and stimulating stuff. I was told before going that I wouldn’t come back the same – and that’s exactly how I feel. There are changes afoot.
One of the best speakers of the week was Margaret Wheatley. She spoke about the Leader as Host not Hero – moving away from the “I will solve everything, make all the decisions, save everyone” leadership approach (you know – Buffy at her most annoying in the last season), to leader as Host – “Come in and let’s get to know each other some more” – welcoming, sharing, engaging. What underpins this is Trust. When you don’t trust your teams you often act as “Hero”- either to save them (“they are helpless without me”) or as some sort of Justice deliverer (“they have done wrong, it is my duty to bring them to account”). However, when you trust your team – their values, their work, their knowledge and their commitment – you open up to them and everything they bring, while in turn sharing with them whatever you can bring to the table. It can be quite wonderful.
There is something in that for the way we game too. I started this site when I decided my new WoW Pally was going to be a Tank & I was going to chart my experiences. I was scared and knew I had to be Brave- hence the name Bravetank. But why was I scared? I was scared because of my own expectations (& those of others) that the Tank needs to be the one in charge, the one who knows where to go and how to get there, the one who knows everything. But as a new Tank (one who had not done many dungeons before) I didn’t know everything and I didn’t feel confident – how could I? – I was a new tank. But the expectation was there (in me & in others) that the Tank must be a Leader, and a certain type of Leader at that – the Tank must be a Hero.
And it was awful. Bravetank is still only in her 60s – I never play her now. And if I ever return to her it will be as a Ret Pally. I did not enjoy Tanking. As those of you who have read this blog from the start know I constantly stressed about guiding the group through the dungeon. I was particularly concerned with not knowing the way and getting lost, or having to deal with impatient DPS pullers. Regarding the latter I was confused about what to say to them – should I rebuke them or just leave the group, or should I live with it & let them set the pace? My inner (conditioned) self baulked at the latter – it said I would be a bad leader if I did that. I’d be letting everyone walk all over me. I needed to be in control with my authority firmly established.
Ah yes – control and authority. Let’s show them who’s the boss. We’re back to Hero mode again- this time with a good old dose of ego too. If we are leaders then we must be strong and firm, quick to make decisions (you clearly don’t know your stuff if you have to THINK about it!) and unwavering in your commitment to these decisions once made (no matter the growing evidence that suggests you might-just might – have got it wrong). Otherwise you are weak and ineffectual, unworthy of the role or title of Leader.
But is that true? I think what people really need and respect is Authenticity – and people have good bullshit detectors around this. Trying to stamp your authority while quavering inside is not authentic. Saying you have all the answers when you don’t even understand the question is not authentic. Opening up to the skills and experience of those around you & asking for help when you need it is authentic. And from that authenticity will come growth.
But it isn’t easy. I did try opening up to a group as a Tank. I told them just as we were starting that I was a new Tank. I got “…” in reply. I have never understood what that means but I know it isn’t particularly supportive. So what then? What do you do when you open up, show who you are and get knocked back?
You carry on. It’s the paradox of leadership – you become strong by first being humble, you learn by first admitting your ignorance, you grow when you first allow yourself to be small. When starting out you don’t have all the answers, you aren’t invincible and you are not a superhero. You are, quite simply, human.
So you become the Host instead – you welcome in the people around you, valuing their knowledge & experience where your own is lacking, and sharing your knowledge and experience where yours is needed. And success will come. And as Host of course you always have one final thing up your sleeve – the Host has the right to kick out any individual causing too much trouble – but let that be the very last resort indeed :)