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Topics - Patched Wizard

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General Discussion / So long and thanks for all the fish.
« on: March 22, 2015, 06:06:35 pm »
I thought I would make it official here since this forum has been one of my more frequent watering holes.
I might come back after a while, I might not.

Thank you for the games, the laughs, and most of all, the friends.

Thank you and safe skies,

Gameplay / The Philosophy of the Sky Captain
« on: June 20, 2014, 07:14:07 pm »
The Philosophy of the Sky Captain

This is about leadership and its responsibilities.

In writing this I hope to help serve both new captains and experienced captains by highlighting some of the variances found in leadership styles and the positive and negative qualities associated with each style. I have been fortunate enough to have served under a vast multitude of captains, both experienced and inexperienced, and each one with their own styles and leadership qualities. I have also taken the role of captain myself and have led my own crews and teams with varying degrees of success. From these experiences I believe that thanks to cultural factors beyond the horizons of ‘Guns of Icarus’ most captains have a fundamentally flawed idea of leadership and are not operating at their fullest potential. Fortunately we are all never beyond the ability to learn, grow, and develop as individuals.

One distinction I would like to make before I continue is that the role of the pilot and captain are not mutually exclusive. The pilot is a functioning extension of the crew as much as the engineer and gunner. In most cases the captain will also take the role of the pilot, however it is possible for a pilot to not be the captain. While this is indeed rare I have observed a few good teams operating in this way for specific reasons. As for the captain, their role is to be the leader of the crew and is both a hard and soft in-game position in ‘Guns of Icarus.’ The hard definition can be qualified as possessing the captain position in the lobby that grants the player the exclusive ability to communicate with the other team captains and their ships. While the soft definition is the natural charisma that a person can have that would draw other members of a crew to listen to their instruction. I do not want to go too deep into these elements, but I do want to highlight that these factors do play a role on a ship. A crew’s effectiveness can be greatly affected by who may be the “official” captain and who may be the “unofficial” leader of the crew.

There are four dominant styles of leadership that I have noticed in the majority of captains I have flown under, with, and against. For this document I will identify them as:
1. The Silent Captain
2. The Learning Captain
3. The Independent Captain
4. The Dependent Captain

While I personally believe that most captains possess varying degrees of one or more of these styles, this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. There will always be the outliers and leadership styles that I have not observed or even considered. However, I believe that in highlighting these styles, even if they do not apply to everyone, any captain can use this information to examine their own leadership methods and in seeing their own strengths and weaknesses, improve themselves.

The first style of leadership I want to address is the Silent Captain. This is the captain who does not communicate with their crew in any way. ‘Guns of Icarus’ provides voice, text, and in-game tools to help captains communicate with their teams, but the Silent Captain avoids all of the tools that are available to them. This is the weakest of all the styles of leadership and there are no redeeming qualities to this method. A crew’s effectiveness will be sharply cut off and moral will be at the mercy to the tides of the round. ‘Guns of Icarus’ is a team based game and if a captain is unable or unwilling to communicate with their crew then they shouldn’t be putting themselves in a leadership position. If a pilot is not wanting to also bear the responsibility of being the team captain then that pilot should elect someone else to be the captain and allow that person to take command of the crew and communicate with the other team captains.

The second style I have observed is the Learning Captain. This is a captain who is still largely inexperienced with taking the role of leadership. There is nothing inherently positive or negative about this style initially. There is no such thing as a “born leader” and while some captains may have natural charisma, leadership is a skill that needs to begin somewhere and develop over time. The greatest weakness of a Learning Captain is the inability to learn from their mistakes and from the advise of other captains and experienced crew. A Learning Captain should alway seek to gain much advise as possible from a multitude of sources so they can accelerate the growth of their own skills. Watch, listen, assess, test, reassess, learn, and practise, these are all key tools for a Learning Captain and should be used frequently. The best leaders still use these tools late into their careers as captains as they know that they will never be above self improvement.

The third style that is quite prevalent in the higher tiers is the Independent Captain. An Independent Captain can be defined as a captain who takes it upon themselves to micromanage their crew. This is the captain who has preset builds that they expect each crew member to carry, preset roles for each crew member to perform, and who commands each crew member in every action they take. There are some convincing strengths to this style of leadership and so it is of little wonder that a few high ranked captains use this style whenever they take to the skies. Independent Captains have a strong knowledge of the the full range of capabilities of their ships and in turn arrange their crew to optimise their chances of success. This style of leadership can cauterise a crew together into a functioning machine of efficiency and deadly power.
However, there is a critical flaw to this method of leadership that prevents an Independent Captain from evolving even further as a leader. An Independent Captain's ship will only ever be as good as their own skill ceiling. Since the Independent Captain has absolute control over their ship and crew then that ship and crew will only operate at the same skill level as the captain as there is no flexibility to go anywhere else. These captains mistake micromanagement for leadership and forget that ‘Guns of Icarus’ is a “team game” and not a game of “solitaire.” Other people will always evaluate every encounter differently from the captain and they will have their own strategies and skills that they can contribute. But the Independent Captain misses this untapped potential as they restrict each engagement to their own limited view and understanding of the skies.

The final style of leadership is the Dependent Captain. A Dependent Captain is defined by all the members of the crew contributing and working together as a single unit. I personally hold that this is the single most difficult and and yet strongest of the leadership styles. A Dependent Captain takes initial authority and explains to their crew the function and focus of the ship and offers advice whenever it is sought. However unlike the Independent Captain, a Dependent Captain then takes a step back and allows their crew to make the final decisions in regards their own personal builds and operation styles. A Dependent Captain isn’t completely hands off either, but develops a perfect balance between instruction and silence. A captain already has a lot to consider during any engagement in the skies. They are communicating and coordinating with the team captains, they have eyes on each development on the battlefield so to react to the changes as they happen, and they must guide their crew and keep moral high as the battle wears on. To add the extra burden of micromanagement only adds redundancy to the ship, especially when the crew can easily take initiative themselves and operate at the highest levels with practise.
Initially there is plenty of room for failure, mistakes, and inefficiency, especially as this style is dependent on the collective skills of the entire crew. This weakness though is negated by time. By giving flexibility to each crew member to experiment and learn from every engagement the captain gains a more competent crew. This is a high risk, high reward leadership method when in a battle but by allowing a crew to contribute more to the strategy and listening to their advise a captain can continue to grow as a leader. As a team they are all climbing together beyond their previous skill ceilings and towards new heights.

The mistake of society is thinking that leadership is about commanding other people like they are soulless automations. That isn’t leadership but more akin to pushing buttons and pulling levers and expecting results. Instead the true mark of leadership is about recognising the crew as people, placing them first and carrying them to new levels of competence. Whenever i’m in the skies I will always be more cautious around the ship that flies with the collective harmonised experience of four people than the ship that flies with the experience of one, regardless of that “one’s” skills.

Safe Skies.

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