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Faith and Steel: A Warrior's Manifesto

So You Want to Be a Warlord...

by Steve Bergeron
Dec 23,2002


So, You Want to Be a Warlord...

"Leadership is the art of influenceing human behaviour to accomplish a task in the manner so desired by the leader."
-Late 20th century military officer's handbook

Have you survived your first battle yet? If not, stop reading now! This article is for those warrior characters that have actually survived a few engagements and find themselves burdened with the weight that those in the business call "command."

Still reading? Good. So you survived the suicidal charge, the massive fleet battle, or the furious dogfight. But as is often the case, your commander was not so lucky. Congratualtions, you're the new squad leader, flight commander, sergeant at arms, etc. Well, what now? You have men and women who are more than willing to follow your fearless lead into battle, except you have no idea how to "lead." I hope by now you're past that belief that it's as simple as yelling "Follow Me!" and charging those front line machine guns.

"If he was totally nuts, but still won every battle, I'd follow him."
-Anonymous Canadian military officer.

Think you don't have what it takes to be a good leader, no worries, militarys have been perfecting a system of leadership for over 3000 years. You can draw off all of that experience. First of all, here's the stuff you might think you need, but you really don't:

1. Sanity. The line between genius and madness is hair-thin. With military leaders it is even more so. Many of history's greatest generals were a little more than half-baked. So if you're crazy, but still good at your job, your troops will look at you funny, but they'll still fight to the death for you.

2. Good looks. The bottom line is most generals are old, fat and ugly. but they still get the job done. Strangely, there is a concept that some one must "Look" like a leader or a hero to actually be one. Well it is true that younger combat officers tend to be fit due to the nature of their jobs, most of us are not Tom Cruise and never will be. Oh, you might not need good looks, but if you're part of a military, you're going to need to meet their minimum grooming standards.

3. Brilliance. Believe it or not, you don't have to be the smartest / strongest / fastest / most skilled to be in charge. In fact, it is almost guaranteed that you won't be best at these, since specialists under your command willl almost certainly be better at what they do than you are.

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity"
-General George S. Patton

And here are some essentials for you:

1. Command Presence. This ill-defined concept is built around the idea that a leader should always be confident, sure of himself, in control, and at ease. This is of course regardless of how panicked, stressed out, confused, or suicidal you may be feeling... good luck. In fact, confidence, or at least the appearance of confidence is so important, if you don't think you can hack it, you might as well quit now.

2. Situational Awareness. They usually use this term when referring to a fighter pilot's grasp of the 3D tangle that is aerial combat. For a leader, it means knowing exactly what you have and what it can do. Whether you lead just your tiny band of player characters, or a 10 000 man army. You must be well aquainted with your force's strengths and weaknesses, and be prepared to employ them despite of the obvious risks involved. Even if youre force is so large that there is no way for you to know exactly what you have, it is your repsonsibility to ensure thatt you have people around that know each of the bits so that you can peice together a reasonable whole.

3. Decisiveness. Typical gaming question: "What do you want on the pizza?" Typical gaming answer: "I dunno know." A 20 minute arguement ensues. This will just not do. As a leader you must DECIDE. Sometimes you will have time to weigh every option, listen to everyone's opinion, and make a well-informed, and thoughtout decision. In combat you will not be so fortunate. Often you will have mere minutes or even seconds choose your course of action. People will live and die by your decision. Choose carefully, but promptly. The only thing worse than making the wrong choice is making no choice at all.

Still don't you think you can cut it. Well, then resign that shiny new commission you just got, and let some one with more confidence step up to the plate. But if you are sticking it out for the long haul, leadership is a hugely complicated matter. There are volumes written on the subject, and modern military officers spend lifetimes perfecting their leadership styles. Alas, this a simple gaming column and my space is limited. Thus, for maximum effect in minimum space, I am going to distill leadership theory into the ten principles employed by modern day militarys.

1. Achieve professional competence - You have to be good at your job before you can expect anyone else to be good at theirs.

2. Know your own strengths and limitations and pursue self-improvement - you probably can't run 100 miles with 200 pounds strapped to you back...yet.

3. Seek and accept responsibility - If you don't, some one else will.

4. Lead by example - Simple to say, but hard to do.

5. Ensure your followers know your meaning and intent, and then lead them to the accomplishment of your mission - Knowing IS half the battle, and the more your troops know, the more likely they will act appropriately in battle.

6. Know your followers, and promote their welfare - Most of the great generals of history were masters of this. Napoleon remembered the names and faces of common rank and file soldiers that fought under his command and when he came back to France to fight again after his extended exile he was able to use this talent to regain soldiers' loyalty

7. Develop and use the leadership potential of your followers - There's a good chance you will buy your farm, it's best if you're next in line can take over for you.

8. Make sound and timely decisions - See decisiveness above.

9. Train your followers as a team and use their capabilities - Teamwork is still essential to victory, even Alexander the Great couldn't win his wars alone, (although sometimes I wonder if he could)

10. Always keep your followers informed, especially of changing situations - There only thing the troops hate more than having no time to eat or sleep is not knowing why they don't have the time to eat or sleep.

There are other magic 10 lists, this is the one taught in infantry officer school in Canada, and it works well enough. If you want to find out more, you can search the net or the local library. If you want to be entertained as you learn about leadership, I recommend reading "Ender's Game," and "Starship Troopers," but while you're out watch for our resident barbarian Thrag, he's leading a rampaging Barbarian horde these days, and he pays close attention to this column, so he's probably doing a good job of it.

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What do you think?

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  • Downtime by Steve Bergeron, 26feb03
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