If you are a remotely regular reader of my blog you will have heard the name Wolfeson bounced around fairly often. He is my dear friend, guild leader, and raid leader, and today he’s done me the great service of writing a post about leading. I think it’s amazing.
When most people think of the word “lead”, they think of it as an active verb. A leader is seen as someone who is always moving, taking action, imposing his will, ready to charge into the fray at the head of his men. However, one of the most critical skills of any leader is also one of the most passive: the ability to listen.
That is not the crown of all wisdom you’re wearing
Just because you’re now the person in charge of the raid, or the guild, or whatever, does not mean you suddenly become the only person with worthwhile ideas. Everyone has valuable input at least some of the time, and the amount of times someone else comes up with an idea that you’d never think of in a million years will always surprise you.
A leader with the ability to listen and consider the ideas of others allows the group to benefit from everyone’s ideas, instead of just the ones the leader can devise. It is essential for leaders to avoid the classic traps of believing that only they are knowledgeable enough to determine a course of action, or that any suggestion made by someone else is a challenge to their authority. Two heads, or ten, or twenty-five, are far better than one.
Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not important
Any leader must have the best possible information available to them in order to make good decisions. However, no matter how good a leader might be, it’s simply impossible for any one person to pay attention to every single thing that’s taking place in a given situation. Therefore, any leader must allow, and encourage, those around him to pay attention to specific things and report the important information.
Battlegrounds are a perfect example of this; the team leader simply cannot be everywhere or see everything at once. If a leader doesn’t have people reporting what’s going on in other areas of the bg, there’s no way he can judge the relative strengths and dispositions of the teams to make effective decisions.
Yes…you DO need to pay attention to all that whining and complaining
This is the one thing that is probably the most difficult to do as a leader. It is SO tempting to just shout “ENOUGH! Everyone just SHUT UP and stop WHINING!” at least some of the time.
Regrettably, it is essential that a leader NOT do this. Every member of a guild, or any group, expects their leader to be aware of and share their concerns, and a leader must be willing to do so.
As a leader, their concerns are yours too; any issues a group member is having will affect how they contribute to the group’s overall success, as well as the atmosphere within the group.
This is especially crucial in a gaming/guild setting, where the only incentive a player has to log on every day is the fun they derive from the experience. If something is interfering with that fun, the leader needs to know about it and deal with it fast.
If your head gets too big, the crown will break
As a leader, you will make mistakes.
Everyone makes them, there’s no way around it, and as a leader, your mistakes will be correspondingly more important ones. Feedback from others is by far the best way to recognize mistakes before they lead to major consequences, or better yet before you make them at all.
A leader who refuses to consider the merit of others’ criticisms will ultimately face to most dangerous situation possible: those around him won’t say anything when they know he’s making a mistake.
At that point, not only have those group members stopped caring about the leader enough to help him, they’ve also stopped caring about the organization as a whole enough to try and save it from the leader’s mistakes.
The crucial common thread of all of these points is recognizing that being a leader does not magically make you all-seeing, all-knowing, or infallible. All leaders still need the input of those around them to make good decisions, and must be willing to listen when that input is offered. Otherwise, you’re effectively running a group with all the other members only contributing a portion of their full potential.
Accepting input from others will not undermine your authority or make others think you don’t know what you’re doing. Those you lead will respect you more if you demonstrate a willingness to listen to them, consider their ideas, and then give a reasoned response.