Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leadership and Teamwork in TRPGs

The thesis of this post is that Leadership is made up of a combination of Roles that fall under what is conventionally conceived as "leadership". A person can perform all, most, some, and none of these roles. That to have them all in one person is what is commonly thought about as "leadership" but in most cases this "Ideal" (that all the traits are in one person) is not needed. What is needed is that the group or team has all of these traits to operate well.

Now that I've decoupled leadership into these traits: we now have Teamwork!

edit: +Nick de Vera  this is post can be taken as either Teamwork or Leadership. If most or all the roles are given to one person then its about a leader, if its been diffused to a group then its about teamwork.

In your game if your expectations match the thesis of this post then you can help players find their niche in the Team or have someone take most of the roles that make up leadership. In either case it should help your players enjoy the game more and have a better understanding of Teamwork or Leadership that can be carried into real life.

This thesis removes Leadership Skill, and replaces them with the 5 roles you have below. Instead of rolling leadership you check it the situation can be broken down into these roles.

Taking a gurps example:

  • Rolling leadership for a group to march faster is not a leadership roll so much as a Hiking roll where the best hiking or navigating person sets the best most sustainable pace for the group as well as knowing how to make up for the weaknesses of some in the group. 
  • Rolling leadership to get people in the right mindspace when there is fear and frustration is a Public Speaking roll, or a Professional roll (sorting their distractions from their priorities), 
  • Rolling leadership when there is an internal problem with the team is the leader's consensus and relationship building skills. 

Leadership as various Roles

To fix this problem I've come to look at leadership as a variety of roles. That for a team or group to operate well many of these roles need to be present. These are flexible "traits" that appear in the mix in a group. Typically the "leader" tends to have the most of these traits.

This should appeal to Gamers who want Niche protection or know their role in the decision making of the team.

  1. Responsibility / Burden of authority / Credibility. Someone who can make the call and accept the consequences and credit. This is the person who has the credibility in the group. He may have Decisiveness and or Technical Expertise/knowledge.
  2. Decisiveness. The difference with Responsibility is that this is the ability to make the call when the call is needed. Its an issue of timing and making the call. Typically this has aspects of Responsibility or Technical Knowledge. 
  3. Coordinator. Coordinator is soemtimes the consensus builder or chief communicator of the group. He sometimes provides the Inpiration or Motivation, Technical Expertise, and sometimes has also the Decisiveness to allocate resouces and information to make a call. 
  4. Inspiration or Motivator. This could be the chief communicator and influencer in the group. he gives everyone the motive or reason to act as a group. Influence and aligning personnel in a group is a lot of work. Even if everyone is aligned with motives that mesh there are the other roles needed for the group to reach any action stage. Typically acts as coordinator, responsibility, or technical expert.
    The motivator gets the team in the right mindspace. 
  5. Technical Expertise or knowledge. Simply possessing the knowledge, perception, awareness or expertise to know what is the right decision OR know how to find the information to make the right decision. Sometimes this role coordinates, often makes the calls, and sometimes has the responsibility through his awareness of the matter. 

Leadership through Flaws

these traits tend to be visible through the flaws of the organization. We can always assess our own organizations and others by how their failure manifest. 

Analysis Paralysis. Like in many organizations which suffer from Analysis Paralysis there is no Decisive role who can make the call and Implement even if they know what to do, the risks, consequences, and reality surrounding the circumstance. Sometimes its the absence of Motivator to make a timely call or to frame risk and reward. There is also a tendency to lack someone with clear stakes and credibility to follow through. 

Bumbling organizations lack Expertise and Credibility. They do a lot of things but they fail practically all the time. Since there are no serious costs to them they still exist and they have no one to take serious responsibility for their actions. Unlike Analysis Paralysis, they don't know what to do. 

Apathetic organizations. Clearly lack motivations and key authority with responsibility and tend to also lack everything else. They may still be around as a dinosaur and may have some or most of the traits but has lost any motivation to follow through.  

Lame Duck organizations. These organizations that are powerless and are mostly appearance and little substance. They may lack credibility (responsibility) and decisiveness,  and may possess the other traits. 

Leaderless Team

In a TRPG its possible to have the traits so diffuse and ambiguously set up in a group that there is no clear leader. That's not a bad thing: in fact it may be an awesome trait or potential nightmare (see diffusal of responsibility).

Diffuseness of responsibility will only happen if the roles are not clear and clean, as well as a poor in personal initiative. Drama (good role playing in my opinion) ensues as there is overlap and individuals come into conflict and they realize this is a complicated problem after all.

A Mesh System is actually pretty awesome but requires everyone to be on top of their game. The ability to adapt or adjust their roles when plans make first contact requires a lot of skilled and well developed individuals. There are serious recruitment problems when one has  societies which have gross inequality (in education, capabilities, and wealth). There is a altruism to make a team so well oiled that one's absence is not a great hindrance. The mind touch a well trained team has makes it adaptable in adversity but doesn't mean it wont miss the members that are gone.


Leaderships Traits in GURPS

  • Responsibility. Rank, Reputation, or Status. 
  • Decisiveness. Perception or the person with the best skill appropriate to the situation. 
    • Callousness to ignore emotional distractions (or human costs)
    • Behavior Codes (like Code of Honor, Discipline of Faith, Fanaticism, etc...) that makes for the most objective (or the most stake holding) call. 
  • Coordinator. 
    • Communications. language, writing, sign language or gestures, or the professional skill (like jargon or comm protocols). 
    • Organization. Administration (in a bureaucracy)
    • Consensus building. Politics or Diplomacy. Possibly propaganda.
  • Motivator. Influence Skills
    • If consensus building. Politics or Diplomacy. Possibly propaganda
    • Inspiration. Reputation, Charisma, Public Speaking, Performance, etc... (Emotional Influencing skills or Traits). 
  • Technical Expertise. The appropriate Professional Skill or the key  Knowledge or Technical skill.  
    • Support skills. Such as Administration, Research, Information Analysis, and all the information gathering, filtering, and sorting/selecting skills. 

Parting notes on Leadership

Like Rationality Leadership has Instrumental and Epistemic traits.
The Instrumental concerns with goals and achieving these goals as being a good leader or possessing the leadership virtue which is problematic because it can be substituted with another virtue.

Then there is the Epistemic leadership which there "word porn" of traits and so many books and authors have attempted to describe and break down.

You can imagine as I run my fire team in airsoft, follow my squad leader, work in a battalion sized company with several projects under my domain how often the thought of "Roll Leadership" happens when problem arises or challenges have to be met.

In my experience its not workable to look for the "Ideal" of leadership that one person has all these traits. Its unrealistic to expect in an organization and with your friends, team, and fellow players or workers. Its better to think in roles and try to fill these roles as best we can

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