Soapbox Speech: The Truth about Leadership

Soapbox/cast Soap Box

I have been an officer for a little over a year now.  My guild has both the blessing and the curse of being over 900 strong.  It’s a highly active group of people who play the game in a variety of different ways.  Me and my fellow officers have the momentous responsibility and privilege  to  watch over this guild, from the day to day runnings of the guild, to planning out events days, weeks, and even months in advance.

I love my guild, I really do, but I also think there are a few things that they just don’t understand about officers and what we do.  And this sort of thing applies to more than just my guild.  I won’t claim that what I say here applies to every leadership situation everywhere, but I do think much of what I write today is relevant.  Whether we are talking about your boss, your teacher, your guild master, or the developers of the game you play, here are a few things I think everyone should understand about leadership*.
*Note: What I write here pertains to good leaders.  Bad leaders are another issue entirely that I am not touching in this article.

This is one of those that I think people are aware of, but they don’t realize the extent.  Leading isn’t easy.  It’s not a one and done thing. Leadership requires constant monitoring.  Things that have been going smoothly for a while can suddenly break down, and leaders have to be right there to fix it.  As an officer, I’ve spent countless hours working on stuff for the guild.  Things like writing up information posts, leading guild events, or even just talking to members of the guild.  Events that take an hour or two can have up to three months worth of prep work.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to drop whatever else I was doing to jump in and help with something.

Now I’m not saying all this because I want sympathy or a pat on the back.  In fact, that’s not what I want at all.  If I’ve really done my job right, no one will realize how much work I put into it at all.  They will just see the end product and enjoy it for what it is.  I’m simply telling you this so that you realize. While you might not see it right away, leaders are constantly working.

Alongside with this, the choices a leader makes are not always easy ones.  You know that phrase, stuck between a rock and a hard place?  That is probably the most factual statement ever made in regards to leading.  Sometimes decisions are easy and its great and everyone is happy.  But more often than not, there are no win win situations.  Many a times, they are lose lose situations.  One of the hardest things about leading is picking the best of bad options.  Do you split the raid teams or make people sit? Do you remove this person from guild for behavior or give them another shot? Do you give this person responsibility over this issue or do you need to step in and handle it yourself?

So if you ever find yourself questioning a leader’s decision, look at what their other choice was.  Often times, a seemingly odd decision was far better than the alternate.  Leaders have to choose what is best for the group and many a times there is not a good option.  This also brings me to my next point.

Or the one.  Your leaders, officers, developers, and bosses have the bigger picture in their minds at all time.  Their choices reflect what will benefit the largest amount of people.
On paper this looks all fine and dandy, but in practice this can be much harder to see.  Why is this leader purposefully screwing me over?? I thought they were supposed to look out for me! I am just as much a member of this guild as everyone else!! I’ve heard all of this (sometimes in nicer terms, sometimes not).
The fact of the matter is, I’m going to try to please the most I can.  Emphasis on most.  Because, I can’t please everyone.  If I were to try to make everyone happy, then no one would be happy.  Often times, people in the same group will want opposite things. This is why most of the world is run by some sort of democracy- when you can’t  get unanimous, you get a majority.  I might not be able to please you this time, and I’m really sorry about that.  Truly.  But one person’s unhappiness won’t change my decision to make 100 people happy.

You know how I spend the last paragraph talking about how leaders are looking at the big picture? Well, think of it like an artist painting a  picture from very far away.  The artist can see what the picture will look like in broad shapes and colors but they can’t see some of the smaller details.  That’s where feedback comes in.  Leaders rely on this info to get an idea of what their decisions look like to the ‘every day person’.  We know in broad strokes what is going on but we can lose some of the smaller aspects.  We need people to tell us what is going on because sometimes we are too far removed (or too wrapped up in it) to see.

And once leaders know where something isn’t quite right, they can go in and fix it.  Feedback not only lets leaders know what is wrong, it lets us know what to fix.  We can actively improve when we are told what needs improving.

I am not in the camp that holds a leader knows best.  I know there are plenty of people who are, and I don’t think they are wrong for having that belief, but I simply don’t share it.  Instead, I think leadership is the art of knowing when to act and knowing when to ask.  When we are acting, try to see it from the bigger picture.  And when we are asking, tell us what is actually going on.  Don’t sugar coat it or talk around the issue.  Don’t insult us or ridicule our decisions.  Simply tell us.  “Hey, this isn’t working because A, B, and C” or “Hey, I’m unhappy because D, E, and F”.

Because leaders care.  They care so much it hurts sometimes.  They don’t want to make people upset, they want to make people happy.  And we are trying, in the best way we know how.

So this is my message to you.  Help a leader.  Whether it be your guild master, a Warcraft developer, or an authority figure in any other part of your life, just help them.  Think about the bigger picture before you lodge complaints.  And if you do lodge complaints, do it constructively.  Tell them directly.  Be blunt.  Be truthful.  And be honest. And be aware that the answer you receive might not be the one you want to hear.  But by providing feedback, you’ve helped to make the situation even just a little bit better.

/end soap box


4 thoughts on “Soapbox Speech: The Truth about Leadership

  1. Pingback: 2017 New Year’s Resolutions | Growing up in Azeroth

  2. In Grade 11, I took a course on Leadership. The first day of the course, my teacher gave us this little statement:
    It has stuck with me ever since.
    Some days you make a decision that is for the best of the population you’re dealing with and they love you for it. They name things after you. Children are named after you.
    Some days you make a decision that is for the best of the population you’re dealing with and they hate you. Your name is cursed. You get hate mail.
    But few are those that volunteer to lead. To carve the path that is trod by many. Remember that we ask not for our load to be lighter, but for our shoulders to be stronger.
    Remain epic.

  3. I had nifty reply all written up and my browser barfed on me. I’ll try to recreate it as best I can….

    Having been a senior officer in a guild for a good many years, I am familiar with the metric ton (about 200 lbs more than a US ton) of time and effort that gets poured into the guild. While rewarding, it can be quite exasperating at times. Your mentality plays a huge part in how annoying it gets.

    In regards to “I might not be able to please you this time, and I’m really sorry about that.”…you are setting yourself up for a LOT of heartbreak. You need to adjust the dial on the icebox to a more frigid setting. Find a way adjust your thinking to the point of “I am not able to please you this time (*non-verbally tell yourself* I’m not sorry about that). You’ll get your turn another time.” In a democracy, majority rules. Folks will win some and they will lose some. They just need the mental fortitude to accept that throwing a tantrum doesn’t work in the grown up world. In fact, it will get them thrown out of said grown up world.

    If you (or any of the guildies for that matter) need a hand with anything, let me know. I’m more than willing to do whatever I can (with the exception of stepping into an officer position, as I’ve not fully cleared my head of the prior guild falling apart).

    • “…you are setting yourself up for a LOT of heartbreak. You need to adjust the dial on the icebox to a more frigid setting.”
      I’ve been told that by many different people in many different situations. I absolutely see the reason in that I just… have a very hard time doing that. I tend to care deeply (and I will admit, probably too deeply) about how other people feel and how my decisions and actions will affect them. So while I understand the reasoning why, I struggle to turn it off. But, what I can do, is not let that get in the way of doing what is truly best, regardless of feelings. I’ve definitely gotten better at that over the years, but I know that’s one area I still need to work in.

      And thank you for the offer of aid! I’ll poke ya if I ever need help! 🙂

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