Game Lesson: Lead or Follow, There Is No Middle Ground

Leadership skills are generally not associated with deep introverts, and rightly so. However, the special subset of introverts known as INTJs, or Sigmas, or whatever you want to call them, have the ability to become very good leaders- the odd thing is, though, that generally speaking, we don't want to. INTJs dislike being drafted into anything that compromises our independence of thought and action, and will generally refuse to take a leadership role until and unless it becomes very clear that either there is no leadership at all (in which case we simply have no choice), or the current leadership is completely incompetent and needs to be replaced. One of the defining characteristics of an INTJ, after all, is our adherence to extremely exacting standards- first and foremost to ourselves, and then to others and to the things that others do.

This can cause dilemmas in certain situations- like the one I find myself in at present. You see, I joined my current firm about 20 months ago, and within three months of my joining, my team, and the wider business, looked like it had been hit by a nuke. Turnover was sky-high, morale was at rock bottom, our systems simply couldn't handle the loads we were putting on them, and our clients were getting downright ornery. There was a complete leadership vacuum in my team- mostly because my manager at the time decided that he would simply rather not show up to work. So there I was, three months in, and suddenly I had to figure out how to run daily risk, P&L, and operations for two businesses.

It was... educational, to say the least. And it required me to step up and take charge, which I have done for over a year now. It is entirely fair to say that, barring a few issues, I've done a damn good job. But now, a new guy has been appointed to lead the team, and I am perfectly content to let him take over- if only he would step up and do it...

When a new leader is designated by the hierarchy of the Powers That Be, a previously dominant Sigma is usually perfectly happy to step aside and let the new guy take over- it allows them to get back to more important things, like figuring out how to take over the world, or finding memory leaks in 10,000+ lines of JavaScript. However, if the new leader turns out to be weak, or indecisive, or is constantly asking the Sigma for his opinion on how to do things that he should know how to do himself, the immediate and palpable reaction from any such Sigma will be open contempt.

This is exactly what is happening right now in my workplace. The guy I work for is a good bloke, and I respect him, for now- but he is also a complete Beta, and it shows. Every time a decision has to be made, I am asked. Every time an issue comes up, I have to decide what to do. This is a dangerous situation, because other members of the team are not oblivious to the fact that their designated leader is not up to the task. It breeds insecurity, complacency, and poor discipline- all of which leads to further problems down the line.

The lesson here applies to game, and therefore to life: if you will not lead, then you must follow. But know this: if you are in a position that says that you are the leader, and yet you act like a follower, the immediate reaction from those who are supposed to follow you will be subtle and eventually open contempt. It does not matter whether we are talking about your family, your friends, your colleagues, or your lovers. Do not try to be one or the other- make a choice, and stick to it.

There was a time when being a man meant taking charge- it was automatically assumed that this was our place in life. These days, of course, such traditions are traduced and scorned at every turn, and more than 40 years of feminist "thinking" has left us with an oversupply of Deltas and Gammas and far too few high Betas and low Alphas to take charge.

If you want those you work with to respect you, then there is only one way to do this: know your place, and if you don't like it, then work to improve the qualities that hold you back. If you are a follower, fine, get on with following and do not usurp the chain of command until and unless it becomes blatantly obvious that your leader has no clue. If you are a leader, fine, get on with the job of leading by taking into account what your followers are saying and then coming to your own independent judgement of the best course of action. But do not vacillate between the two. The moment you do this, you instantly begin to lose the respect and therefore the cooperation of those you seek to influence. This applies to your education, your career, your love life- you name it, this is relevant.

Lead, or follow, but get the hell out of the way.

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