“Isn’t that Heroes of the Storm?”

“Yes. Do you play?”

That simple exchange at the end of an intensive Friday afternoon working session via a shared screen started a gaming friendship between myself and two higher ups on my team. As the lines between my work life and gaming life blurred for a bit, I wondered what were some other benefits of being a gamer.

The ideas of how gaming improves students’ intelligence and using gamification to improve one’s productivity are not new. But what kind of characteristics do gamers have that leaders should learn from?

You Can Only Play Solo For So Long

For many popular games, there is a limit to how much you can do as a solo player. In Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG), the party and guild systems exist because players together can accomplish a great deal more in a shorter timeframe. In fact, some challenges are designed to be impossible to overcome alone.

What does this have to do with business and leadership? If this world is a game, then the system’s rules are also designed to prevent solo success.

This is an issue many micromanagers and business owners just starting to hire struggle with.

There is a limit to how much you can do without delegating. But if you instead leverage the time and resources of others, you can free up time to focus on what you can best do to move the needle.

In the words of Gary Vaynerchuk, he could be a 10 at doing one task. But he would still outsource it to someone else who may be an 7 at the same task for two reasons. The task still gets done and he also gets the time to focus on more important tasks.

Additionally, there is the patience that comes with playing with others. In League of Legends, a game that pits you against other players, you can almost guarantee a loss if you criticize another player on your team for playing badly. There is absolutely no benefit to doing this but many let their personal feelings get the best of them.

Does this sound similar to any toxic cultures you heard of?

Instead the company behind the game has taken its intensive data and proved how much of an impact having a positive attitude and being a team player has on your win rate. This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how people still react.

Top gamers also recommend that you guide the lesser skilled players on your team. Don’t be a know it all but direct your team patiently. Ping the urgent points of the map that your team has to attack. Alert them to high danger areas when they get close.

These gamers reached the top because they didn’t focus on complaining and pointing the blame to another team member. They took extreme ownership of the game, helped guide their team and carried them to victory, time and time again.

Funny how parallels are so easily drawn, right?

There Is Always A Way

Games have the benefit of knowing that any non player versus player (PVP) games they play can be beat. This may not seem applicable to leadership but this is only a difference in perspective.

If you knew that there is definitely a way to solve this impossible challenge you have coming up, would you give up? Or would you continue to find the way to the next stage?

Gamers cultivate their creativity and problem solving abilities because of this perspective. By believing in a solution, they don’t get in their own way.

In many PVP and eSport games, what is known as a meta often comes up. This is known as the current best competitive strategy to win. This can be likened to learning the skills of rising industries or pivoting to go into more attractive markets.

But what is interesting about metas is that they are player created. The company that creates the game almost never predicts the meta it creates. It is the players who mess around until they find a winning formula. Often the company steps in to patch the game to weaken the meta strategy. But then players create another meta.

These are the gamers who think outside the box and love to disrupt the current trends.

To start adapting some of their practices, ask yourself these questions.

What is the objective here?

What other ways besides my current approach are there?

Why wouldn’t this crazy idea work?

What are the conditions for this goal to be met? What are the underlying conditions of each of those?

With my current resources, how can I tackle the bottlenecks that are blocking me?

Narratives and Lore

The stories told through gameplay have become extremely important over the years. Classics have endured, are replayed and are even remade because of how deeply they have moved their player base.

When we think about the importance of a leader’s ability to tell stories, this should come as no surprise. By nature, humans are emotional creatures. Stories move us far more than data does.

For leaders, this is the secret sauce for developing a brand for your vision and how you can connect that with those who follow you. Now the big question is, how can you do so?

There are many tips and strategies for telling great stories. For leaders, this can get you started.

  1. Give a quest to a hero.
  2. Make that hero struggle to complete their quest.
  3. Have the story be interactive and engaging with the different characters
  4. End the story by coming around full circle to your main point
  5. Challenge your listeners

Gone are the times when the best stories are purely black and white. We love stories that we can relate to, the ones that make us question ourselves and inspire us to move forward. Part of a leader’s job description is to find their own unique voice in doing so.

And So…

Being a great leader can come from a variety of different experiences. The best learners are those who look for lessons in anything they come across. It just so happens that gaming is one of the more entertaining ways of doing so.

What other parallels have you seen from unexpected places that have taught you leadership?