Saturday, December 22, 2007

Being a Leader: Pros, Cons and Overall

My history of being a "leader" began so far back in time that ... dinosaurs walked the Earth.

It began in my original guild, Dragon Society. It was a guild run (and is still alive and doing well!) by a druid named Lizzy and her dad. Boon and myself, in some various incarnation or another, were officer's in the guild. We'd, together with our friends, do things together. To be honest, I don't recall if I was the one who organized instance runs or not.

When we left Dragon Society with some of our friends, we formed the core group of the Guardian Knights. This is when I believe my leadership learning took place. I KNEW the instances. I could (and did) write guides for them for our guild website (without being online). I knew what strategies worked well, what groups worked well, what to do, when to do it, what order to do it in. I knew what level you had to be, what loot dropped, quests that you could do. I knew all this without the benefit of Atlas Loot. I did my research on Allakhazam. I wrote my own strategies of each instance, the bosses, the loot, overall tactics. I wish that I had saved those, since the original website is long since gone and my hard work gone with it.

More than just the knowledge, I started the groups. I gave the orders (not always followed, but I was talking, anyway.). I found the people to fill in the groups. This persisted all the way up to the 10-man of UBRS/LBRS. I would organize 5-man LBRS, but not 10-man. I did assist others in forming UBRS runs. I knew UBRS well. I knew the fights. I knew where to go, how to do it. I simply didn't feel I had the playability and the charisma to lead 9 other people.

Unfortunately, the GK never progressed past those low-60 instances. I never did Molten Core, or Onyxia. I never downed Ragnaros. I never ventured into Zul'Gurub or An'Qirag.

At the advent of the Burning Crusade, I had a whole new set of instances to learn. New quests to learn. New skills to try out. New gear to puzzle over. I learned the new instances the way I learned the old ones. Ask some of the people who party with me regularly. I'm like a living strategy/quest guide. I don't claim to know the best strategy for EVERYTHING, but I do a damn good job of knowing a good quantity of them, for various group makeups. Likewise, I don't know all of the quests, but plop me back down in the middle of any zone I've quested in and I can probably tell you what quests you should/could do, what order you may want to do them in and what, if any, chain quests you need to consider.

What does that have to do with being a leader? Nothing much. I was just rambling.

No, I jest. What that means is that a leader isn't just the person who says "we'll do it my way", it's the person who knows, who understands, who considers, who adjusts, who listens.

I didn't spring, fully formed, as a group leader of various instances, knowing strategies innately. I began my career as a group member. I listened and watched other group leaders. I learned not just from the successes, but from the failures as well.

A leader also isn't just the person who knows the strategy. A leader encompasses so much more than that. Anyone can log into WoWWiki and look up an acceptable strategy.(Not everyone does, as evidenced by how often you have to explain a fight to someone.) A leader, a true leader, has that somewhat elusive spark to make people listen, to help them understand the strategy, to make them do what you say and to do it all without stepping on toes, egos, personalities or friendships. (I may or may not be such a leader. I am sure I am not as perfect as I describe above, but I do have to admit that in my conceit, I don't believe I'm all that terrible of a leader, either.)

True, not all leaders do that. Some say 'do it this way because I said so', and people do it because it works. I have always preferred being the type of leader that says 'do it this way because if we kill X before Y, then X can't heal Y.'. This way, not only do they understand WHY I'm doing it, but when they, in turn, someday, lead their own group, they'll know why they're doing it (or not doing it, conversely). They'll know why I sheep that person and not that one. They'll know why I advise a LOS pull as opposed to a straight pull. They'll KNOW. And in knowledge lies power.

Now, this is all my not-so-humble opinion (please, keep in mind my previous post about hubris), so if you don't do it this way, don't take any offense. But you suck.

I jest!

The pros of leadership... the heady sense of accomplishment that you get when your plans work right. The warm fuzzy glow inside when you see a group of people working together towards a common goal. You occasionally get people saying pretty little things like 'K is the best instance leader I've ever seen and a master tactician. Not only that, but her hair is absolutely stunning and I don't think I've ever seen anyone wear the Frozen Shadoweave set quite so gracefully.'.

The cons of leadership... if it fails, it's your fault. If you can't succeed, it's your fault. If three hunters want to go and you only have room for one hunter, it's your fault. Everything that does go wrong, will go wrong, and it's your fault. If people complain, it's to you. If people complain, it's ABOUT you. When people complain about you, it's never to you, but it's behind your back. If a mouse farts in Cleveland, which causes a butterfly to flap it's wings in China, which causes the healer's router to drop him in that crucial instance... it's your fault.

What this means overall? You need, as the leader, to be the best. You lead not just with words, but with examples. If you want everyone to do what you say, then you need to do what you say. If you want people to bust their ass for gear, then you should be doing that too. If you don't want to be a group leader of loot mongering rapscallions, then you need to be magnamious, generous, polite and respectful.

(Yes, eventually all groups and raids degenerate into name calling, dirty jokes and good natured teasing, but I speak in general more about an initial meeting of a group of strangers.)

If you do it this way... Will you be taken advantage of? Most likely.
Will it happen regularly? Most likely.
Is every leader like this? No, not really.
Is this the One True Way? Hell no. This is my way (meaning this is the best way, but not, by any stretch of the imagination, the only way.). Not yours. Go get your own way! Mine! Mine mine mine! My own. My preciousss...

Uh..

To continue my rambling... leaders need to be able to get their thoughts across clearly, with minimal fuss, muss and bloodshed. As a leader, your group expects you to be competent, eloquent and to let them know what's going on where clarification is needed. You set the pace. You set the tone. If it's going too slowly, talk to whomever is holding it up, do it in a way that doesn't hurt their feelings and do it in a way to get results.

Tricky, no? No wonder I don't like leading.

And remember, if you're in a group of strangers, you can't take for granted that everyone knows what way you typically do things, what marks you typically use and how you play, so communication is vital and frankly, expected. But at the same time, you don't want to offend people who probably know the instance as well as you do, so you have to gingerly feel them out as to what they do and don't know.

(I really don't like leading. I do it because I don't trust other people to do it right. There are a few I do trust to do it right. But I'm also somewhat controlling. If it isn't being done my way, I'm uneasy. If it isn't someone I know being leader, or someone I trust, I'd rather be doing the leading and marking, because this way I know I won't die because someone else is an incompetent nincompoop. I'll have died because I'm an idiot. Biiiig difference. Trust me.)

Anyway, for someone who claims to be a leader, and also claims leaders need to be eloquent and get their point across in a timely manner... I do tend to ramble.

However. This is my blog. I can ramble if I want to.

I do have my flaws. Oh boy do I. I tend to let others talk over me if they're louder or more insistent. I do this because I do not like confrontations. This leads to contention and confusion. I let bad playability linger on because I don't want to hurt feelings instead of stepping up and saying 'You're doing something wrong. I'm not sure what it is. Here's the problem. Let's fix it.'

My biggest problem, IMHO, is that once I find a good strategy, one that works, one that I like, I usually avoid deviating from it. Even if someone else in the group says that they do it well another way. Especially if it's a way I've seen not work so well in the past.

For instance, I was in an allied Karazhan run, sub-leading (in my own head) by talking with the raid leader in whispers about what I would do in the given situation. Their method of doing the Curator is to stack on Arcane Resistance gear, stand on the tank (literally, stand on the tank. Not a few feet behind, but right there!), and do it that way. It worked once we realized what was going on and how to adjust our play style to the strategy given. I still think it's an odd strategy. I can see the benefits of it (no running after flares, no pivoting to find them, etc), but there are a lot of detriments to it as well. You lose (at least in my case, and probably others) damage in order to gain resistance. Everyone being where they were, a lot of spells took longer to go through because of being interrupted by the chain lightning. This makes healing also an issue as the healer not only has to heal lots of people being hit all at once, but has to do it while being interrupted. If you don't have good arcane resist gear, this will likely result in wipe after wipe.

Now, so saying, it works for Angels Wrath. I haven't done it that way in my new guild, and the one time my previous guild did an all-guild-no-allies Curator downing was with the more standardized horseshoe strategy.

The cons of that strategy are pivoting, melee damage may spend some time running and people moving out of formation when they're being hit by an astral flare. So saying, in a guild of disciplined people with good gear, it doesn't seem to be a problem.

What does this all boil down to? You may think you're leading. But you can't lead if people don't follow. Whatever you are, whatever you do, whatever other people attribute to you, you do it all with other people. You don't know best. You don't know all. No one does. Keep that in mind. Adjust. Adapt. Learn. Respect.

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