There is No Them

Lessons on leadership from the world of game development

Leadership Defined & what a ‘Leadership Culture’ is

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I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership for many years now. In all that time I’ve been searching for a definition of leadership that accurately captured the essence of what I believe. This journey is partly why I started this blog; not because I thought I had all of the answers, but as a way to further explore the questions.

While I was interviewing with Warren Spector, a video game industry legend, for my current job with the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy, he asked me how I defined leadership. In retrospect I should have expected this question, and had a prepared answer ready to go. But the moment he asked I had an intense sense of uncertainty, knowing that my answer was likely the difference between getting my dream job or not. I knew that I needed to tell him my honest answer, simultaneously realizing that I hadn’t recently articulated my definition of leadership to anyone yet, and therefore had no idea how it might sound coming out of my mouth.

I take a non-traditional approach to defining leadership, I told him. Leadership, at its essence, isn’t about control or authority, or a title or a management position, or ‘being the boss’.

Leadership is committing oneself to the success of those around you, and acting on that commitment at every opportunity. (Warren smiled, and moved on to his next question. I got the job.)

Leadership is an attitude, but not just an attitude. Leadership is action, but not selfish action. Leadership is not just in intent, but also in a toolset to bring about the intended change.

Motivation, vision, conflict management, decision making – all of these are aspects of traditional leadership, but unless unified by an unrelenting commitment to the success of those around you these traditional qualities are insufficient.

One reason why I love this definition of leadership is that it makes it clear that everyone can be a leader, not just the person at the top of the organization. When this idea is instilled in every part of your organization, and everyone is provided the support and opportunity to develop themselves as a leader, a ‘leadership culture’ has taken hold in the organization. Teams that live the ‘leadership culture’ are more productive, more resilient, and more fulfilling to be a part of. (A future post will dive into what the research tells us make teams great and how great teams are a significant driver of business success, as it’s a whole topic on its own.)

If someone truly is committed to the success of those around them they are ready to accept the lessons about how to best do deliver on this commitment. The DSGA will attempt to teach these lessons, and I intend to blog my way through it, sharing what we are learning about teaching these lessons with everyone.

Next up, a discussion of what we’ve been learning as we go through the process of reviewing applications for participation in the DSGA. Its not turning out to be what Warren or I expected; its already so much more interesting than that.


Written by joshuahoward

May 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] a previous post I introduced my working definition of leadership: Leadership is committing oneself to the success […]

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