In Traveller, there is a need for leadership, for the players trying to reach a difficult objective in game, and (in the real world) for both the team leader of the play group and the Referee guiding them to a fun and dramatic adventure with a satisfying resolution.
(And of course, in the background of the universe there is a need for good leadership as well, from the the aristocracies and corporations, to the starship crews and the Mom & Pop businesses.)
Great leadership is hard to model, but you can at least get a feel on how it would look like with two Six Sigma stories, provided by Dr. Mike J Harry: Story 1, Story 2.
From Story 1:
A wagon train needed someone who was a master horseman, trail tracker and navigator. He had to be logistically minded and tactically astute. He had to possess extreme emotional fortitude, and have a superior ability to read, deal with and motivate people. Among other traits, the trail boss was highly adaptive, flexible and capable of improvising plans on the fly. He simply had to be such a person, because the lives and destiny of many people were dependent upon his performance as a leader.
Placed side by side against a trail-boss type leader, we can make a list of traits for those we would call managers. These are people who are goal-oriented, politically astute, budget-minded, empathetic and always diplomatic. They don’t bark out orders and say “follow me or die.” They hold down the fort once it has been conquered. They maintain the trail after it has been forged. They create policies and procedures, and they ensure compliance to them. They don’t carry informal forms of power too well, and they value the peace that comes with predictability. They aren’t risk-takers, and they shy away from those who might actually rock the boat in favor of those who just talk about it. The question is this. Who would you want to shepherd your business wagon train through uncharted territory – a manager or a leader?
From Story 2:
That’s what happens to all great Six Sigma Champions. That’s what happens to those who master the magic, move the mirrors, distribute the smoke and guide the path of a corporation. They are communicators. They make the unbelievable become believable and rational. They are con men, master mechanics, part psychologists and big-time politicians. They know when to throw a spear and when to hand out an olive branch. They know which battles to pick first, and which ones to avoid altogether, and they learn to move mountains.
Always, the focus of a leader is on winning the war, not necessarily all of the battles. A leader is strategically minded, tactically adept and tool sensitive. The best leaders understand the connection between strategies, tactics and tools, and they know they can’t create their interaction alone. So they surround themselves with people who are as strong or stronger than they are. In this manner, a senior Champion builds a house, not from deadwood washed up on the corporate beach, but from the strongest trees in the forest. They admire risk-takers and loath moss-backed generals.
If this is the case, and it is, then a CEO better start at the top by selecting the strongest possible executive to fill the role of senior Champion. He better find himself a fast-tracker – one of the birds that doesn’t fly with the flock – a bird of a different feather. When he finds this person, he should say: “Here you go, you have a shot at the golden corporate ring. If you succeed you will have it. But if you fail, you will be ostracized and doomed to the prison of career stagnation.”
As always, the best of the best either change the world, or burn out trying.
It’s safer to just stay a middle manager: it’s easier on the stomach and a smoother route to a nice pension.
But frankly, if Travellers wanted to do that, they would have stayed on the homeworld, hmm?
(Thanks to North’s article on Six Sigma Leadership.)