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Be a gamer, Be a leader!

w00t! I hear the clicking noises of electronic gear being powered up like say the warp engines of the Enterprise… Scotty would be proud! And you might be wondering what does this have anything to do with leadership?

In fact, a lot more than meets the game console. Many of my own leadership lessons began with games (sports as well)…which I didn’t know at the time. Fast forwarding 15-20 years later, throw in some hindsight science and a cool article from Forbes, From MMO To CEO, to prompt a trip down memory lane on how gaming and leadership skills are one and the same. In particular, two games I really loved and stood out for me – Classic Sim City Classic Sim City

and Netrek (the Netrek official homepage states that the game is more like a sport such as basketball which I agree 100% with – the two best games to learn teamwork, IMHO).
Netrek screen shot

So…how does leadership skills come from playing these games? To oversimplify a bit, you’ll find two basic components to business leadership:
1. people or personal related capabilities and
2. business or strategic capabilities (e.g. management)

How do the games help with developing these skills? From Netrek, it’s very easy. The simple goal of the game is to genocide the other race. There’s 8 of you versus the 8 of them. To genocide the other race, there’s only one way – take all the other side’s planets. Sounds simple right … but not so simple to execute. And that’s the beauty of the game. To successfully achieve this goal, there’s a simple strategy:
1. Gain the capability to carry armies on your ship – kill others or bomb sufficient planets to gain this capability.
2. Take enemy planets by using your own armies that you carry.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.

So the whole game is all about executing these 3 basic steps over and over again until there’s a winning side. The more efficient and effective you are at it, the probability of winning goes up. As you might guess, the other side is furiously and vigorously performing these same three steps to achieve the exact same mission as you and your team. Their ability to be better at it than you, will naturally frustrate your progress…and vice versa. So what happens during the ebb and flow of the battle? Many things – a test of will by the combatants to win, team work, communication, subjugation of individual glory and rank against team goals, team mates coming and going (because to genocide and win may take hours(!)) changing team chemistry and skill level, game glitches such as computer crashes or network instability giving one side a bigger advantage against another, changing tactics, different in-game strategies depending on game environment… so much more. A simple game with significant game complexities! In the first week that I played it, I spent 80+ hours in 4-5 days over Thanksgiving holiday week. Totally addictive this game and even today, my memories of it are pretty fresh – feeling the energy of the game and the intense camaraderie one builds during battle with your teamates to stave off genocide and defeat whilst trying to achieve victory at all costs (because you sat in that computer screen for hours and you better have something to show for it!). What happened during the days I played was we had created intra-collegiate teams and league games and even a “playoff” system. That means teambuilding skills were also developed and tested as you built your team of 8-12 to battle for supremacy.

The following leaderships skills were developed:
1. Communication – Listening skills, clear communications, negotiate amongst teammates to achieve tactical and strategic objectives,
2. Drive for Excellence – personal development to improve gaming skills, commitment to team goals, self-sacrifice of individual goals for the team, resilience and perserverence (emotional, physical, intellectual),
3. Achieve results – team building, uses expertise to support team goals/objectives, manage change, take initiative, deliver results,
4. Develop successful relationships – foster cooperation and partnerships, support individual diversity, guide/coach teammates etc.

To be honest, the time I spent was really extreme, had alot of fun, and learned many practical aspects of leadership along the way.

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