On leadership: guest Satorri

I’m very pleased to say that Satorri, a well-known Death Knight poster on TankSpot has agreed to have his essay on leadership published here at pwnwear.com. His bio concludes this article. Enjoy the read!

On Leadership

by guest author Satorri

Leadership plays a very pivotal role in how a team performs, whether it is a pug, a casual guild run, or a high-end, high-intensity raid environment. Simply put, a team is a group of individuals who work together to accomplish a common goal. In order for the team to work together they need the following abilities in some measure:

1.) Personal skills (each member in whatever they’re responsible for)

2.) Composition/Balance (all the necessary elements in the right proportion)

3.) Communication (to coordinate the actions of the pieces)

The nuances of communicating as a leader are complicated. The goal in this is that one person is paying attention to the big picture so they can orchestrate the smaller pieces. This does not mean telling the tank when to shield slam, but it could mean telling the tanks to swap targets, to expect a big burst of damage, or to expect a phase switch. Beyond just tactical direction, the leadership is also responsible for setting the pervading atmosphere and attitude of the team. In simplest terms, this atmosphere will determine the efficacy in raids and out of them, as well as the ability of your team to face and persevere through challenges.

If you were around during BC, you’ll remember how the end of t5 led to many teams falling apart. That is a simple indication of the limit of the team’s atmosphere and attitude. When they reached that level of time and patience required the team disintegrated unable to support that amount of investment.

So, it’s easy to make generalizations, but what specifically does this mean, where and how does the leadership need to use good communication and careful choices to ensure a strong team?

Read more of Satorri’s guest post on leadership and communication

1.) Cooperation

As a team, you succeed when people do what is needed of them, when it is needed, and trust the other required actions to other people. When one person fails to trust their teammate, they try to do both jobs and rarely succeed at doing both, usually mess up the other person’s ability to do so, and generally just make a mess.

For example, Healer A is assigned to the tank while Healer B is assigned to healing the group. Healer A sees people take damage in the group and rather than trusting Healer B to do their job, he tries to heal up the raid. The interrupt in tank heals allows the tank to get crushed before Healer A can switch back and pick him up, while Healer B’s heals overheal because Healer A was trying to do the same thing.

How does the leadership come into play here? Three main places come to mind:


the leadership (maybe a single person, maybe role-leads) sets out who is responsible for tanking what, healers are assigned to different needs, and DPS are told the desired kill order, sometimes including dps type splits (i.e. caster dps on X, melee dps on Y). Out of raids this comes into play in delegating important duties for the team.

Assignments may not always be the best fit, or they may be asking too much, but once the action starts it is no longer the time to question assignments, it is now time to follow your directions. Until the crunch time starts though, it is ok to question assignments, provided it is done through the appropriate channels, in the appropriate tone.

Expressed Support

it is helpful to use language that expresses your trust in your raiders, if you trust them others will be more inclined to do so. “Alright, Billy is going to be a champion and heal the tank solo, let us know if you need help.” On the other end of the spectrum, if you don’t trust your raid team (or accidentally suggest that in your language), the team is both less likely to trust each other, and they may have trouble trusting you.

Out of raids, entrusting tasks to people is a sign of confidence in their abilities and allows them to feel more invested in the team, like it’s not just a work place where they do a chore, get paid, and go home, but a product they helped create and can take pride in.

Encourage Feedback

at the right time, through the right channels, players should be encouraged to give feedback on how things worked. During the raid, or during the pull is likely not the right time, but after the raid, on the team forums, or through whispered conversations or role specific channels it is smart to listen to the experiences of your team and adjust accordingly.

For example, after the attempt, Billy whispers the heal lead that the healing was pretty manageable except for the soft-enrage, so the heal lead knows that the next set of assignments should incorporate a second healer having hots ready or switching over for just that portion. Feedback is also helpful in terms of policies and the demeanor of the leadership themselves. Your team is a mirror in which you can see how you portray yourself.

It is the combination of many working elements doing their part that make a whole organism capable of something much more challenging.

2.) Executive Decisions

The game (and the world) are full of decisions. Many of them are not earth-shattering, and many of them are not even a right-or-wrong scenario. There are simply many situations where a group of people need someone to make the choice so they act decisively as a group. As the leadership, this falls to you. In terms of raids this could be a small detail as “ok, break’s done, let’s move on to the next trash,” or larger as, “we’ve been wiping on this boss for a couple hours, let’s give this other boss some attention and come back to this later.”

Out of raids this encompasses a great many choices, but some are very important such as setting raid times, attendance policies, and deciding who gets to raid and why. As leadership it falls to you to make these decisions, and many of them are not easy, but it is important to make informed, considered decisions, and to learn from the outcome of them.

If your decisions are regularly to the detriment of the team, the team may choose not to follow you anymore, so tread carefully, and share your reasoning so they can appreciate where you come from and why you choose what you do.

3.) Unity

You may be 10 or 25 (or 40) people with individual thoughts, ideas, strategies, and goals, but as a part of a team you are strongest when you are united in a single purpose. Each person carries out their task to accomplish the greater goal. As a leader you can set this very tone to encourage more magnanimous thinking among the team members.

If the leadership sets the tone and the team falls in line, the power of being more team-minded and less selfish makes looting, sacrificial buffing (scorpid sting means less damage from the hunter but may be better for tank survival, less healing required and an easier fight), and general operations far more positive and healthy.

Leadership that focuses on the value of loot and individual performance, without due attention to the good of the team, is far more likely to find drama, arguments, and other negative interactions that make the team a trial instead of a joy. Leadership that stresses nothing, be warned.

If the people in charge of organization do not set a tone, they leave it open to the people in the raid to decide what the attitude and interaction will be like, for better or for worse.

Members who care about their team and their teammates will be loyal, committed, have more reason to do what is asked of them, and have a degree of buffer against potential strife. Think about it from this angle to understand that last point: If your best friend of 15 years accidentally knocks you in the head with a shelf he’s moving, you rub your head, laugh it off, and forgive him in a moment. If a random stranger or new acquaintance does it, you may not be so quickly forgiving and may harbor personal resentment or suspicion.


The focus of this article is on the value of communication for a leader, and I specifically talk about raid leadership in many of my examples. That said there are two important points that I think need emphasizing:

1.) Whether or not you are an officer, raid leader, or are actually appointed to a position of authority in your team, as a member of the team you can be a constructive force, a guiding influence on your team nonetheless.

A positive attitude, and a willingness to exemplify everything the team and it’s “official” leaders stand for can be a very helpful role on the team, and you can personally have a hand in making it the kind of environment you want to play in. In a way that makes you a leader, and is a form of taking responsibility yourself. Often times it is these people who are eventually elected or selected to become formal leaders.

2.) Leaders are nothing without loyal followers. Leaders may call the shots, make the big decisions, and settle the disputes at the end of the day, but if no one follows their directions they are not leaders at all. As a leader, be conscious of your followers, be attentive to the fact that they are living, breathing people with needs, hopes, and desires.

As a leader, know when you need to follow the needs and wants of your team, and when you need to make a decision that may not make your team happy but will eventually be in their best interest. If you are not a leader in your team, learn what it means to be a follower.

It is always important to have ideas and opinions, and it is helpful for the leadership that you voice them in the appropriate fashion, but what makes the team strong at the end of the day is that you support your leaders whether or not you like the specific choice. It is better for the team to act as a whole, for win or for loss, than it is for you to do what you think is the right choice at the expense of everyone else’s actions and plans.

About my guest Satorri

Who are you Satorri?

My passion for figuring out how things work has lent itself wonderfully to game mechanics, and I am a furious theorycrafter, with a twist you only get from an engineer.

Read more about Satorri, and find who is the person behind the DK avatar.

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4 comments to On leadership: guest Satorri

  • Thanks for the article, Satorri. I particularly enjoyed the way you explained the value of cooperation, and entrusting tasks to others.

    You’re good at illustrating your points with examples, which makes for easy reading.

  • Satorri

    Thank you, kindly.

    These essays are full of things I’d like to think don’t need to be said, but I’d rather say them unneeded, than have them needed and never be said. =)

    “Be nice to people!”

    Thanks for reading.

  • Thank you for this Satorri!

    I find that this essay covers all the main points of leadership quite well. My question comes on the matter of consequences. More to the point, all actions have a consequence. So when a raider takes an action that is not in line with the rest of the team, despite instructions to the contrary then there is a consequence. What form should this take? Chastisement? Expulsion?

    I know that all of us that do have the responsibility of leading a raid hope to never be faced with that kind of decision, but we have to make them all the time. I am just curious how other raid leaders have dealt with this issue in the past.



  • Satorri

    That’s a good question, and an important one. I think you’re dead on that actions usually need to have consequences, but I think there are two directions this can go in, and I’ll try to withhold my personal feelings for the end.

    Before I get into the specifics, a little clarification is needed. Most leaders will choose their leadership ‘persona.’ In other words, regardless of who they are in regular life is not necessarily the same when they put on their ‘boss’ hat. This is often important if you have friendly relationships with your players, because when you put on the ‘boss’ hat, however that is signified, they know it’s time to shift from joking around mode to business mode. At that point, they also know that you are calling the shots, and you are acting in the interest of the team, so ideally when you need to give people critical advice, or whatever consequences may be called for, they understand it’s not personal, this part is business. You aren’t getting on their case because you don’t like them, you’re doing it because their performance dictates it. Many people (even subconsciously) will communicate the ‘boss’ hat with a tone of voice, or a catch phrase (I have a tendency to say, “alright, let’s quiet down and get into this.” My team knows that means I’m in go-mode). You may find that when there isn’t a clear voice for directions, things get scattered or it is easy for the group to lose focus. So, the two paths I see:

    Option #1: Choose your leadership voice. Many leaders will be the ‘hardass’ leader who yells at people to get them in line. In some groups, the group is ok with this, it comes with the territory. If that boss hat isn’t taken off outside of raids though, at least from time to time, you’re just an ass and you will likely add more strain than you relieve. Alternately, some leaders prefer the optimistic side. Face setbacks with unfaltering affirmative comments to keep morale rolling. “Nice try guys, that was close, and a lot better than last time!” This can be helpful for teams that have a tendency just to need time to learn, or groups that may get discouraged easily (and that’s not uncommon). There are as many styles or balances of styles as you can imagine, and some leaders will simply choose their style, and go with it.

    Option #2: this is actually something of a meta-style from above. This is a hard road to walk and requires a great deal of attentiveness. It also may not work at all with your team, if it is not actually a familiar team but more of a professional group (think the differences between how you know your friends and how you know your co-workers). This meta-style means you learn the proper application of each of the styles above, and apply them as needed. For example:

    Raider A is a goofball, he likes to crack jokes and generally, visibly, keep things light. That said, he’s not a goofoff, and when it comes time to buckle down, he knows that, and you don’t need to oversell it. When things are a little rocky and you feel like he’s distracting the group, you can,
    A.) Yell at him in public comms, tell him to shut up and stop being a distraction
    B.) Tell him in public comms to lay off the jokes, and focus
    C.) Make a general request in comms for people to quiet down and focus
    D.) Whisper him to tell him to give it a rest in a manner of either A or B
    Personally, I reserve option A for only the most vital of situations. Yelling is like swearing, if you do it too much it loses meaning when you actually do it. And, the person I’m describing doesn’t need an over-sell, he just needs to know that you want focus. Personally, I don’t use D unless I think I’m dealing with someone who’s very sensitive and could feel hurt by the public comments. I also like to use a pointed version of C so that Raider A knows that I’m talking to him, but everyone else gets the message too and follows suit.

    Raider B is hard to focus and tends to gets distracted to the point of detriment to performance. He has a tendency to stop to pour over loot lists, sort through recount, or gets overly focused on side tangent discussions at the wrong time. This is the sort of player I will address directly. This is also the kind of person who needs a bit of a kick in the pants to get them moving and keep their head in it. This is where I will apply something between A and B, possibly raising my voice, but snapping them to attention using their name. They need to know this one is just for them.

    Raider C is that timid girl, who’s generally pretty good at what she does, but is very quick to blame herself. When she screws up, she really feels bad about it. This is the perfect time for D. You don’t want to yell (A), and even addressing her directly, publicly (B) will cause quick withdrawal and self-doubt. Making general comments may leave most people just feeling like maybe it applies to them but they don’t feel embarrassment, but Raider C takes those as indirect critiques of herself and feels guilty. Here, you can use a quiet whisper to both reassure her, but at the same time help her identify the mistake so she’ll learn more quickly from it.

    Being able to adapt your style and communication to the needs of each of your raiders is not an easy task and it requires you to get to know them. My personal feelings on the matter though, and my style of leadership, value that personal relationship very highly. Taking a step back to see it from a different angle, if your team is all about business, when business is rough people don’t feel bad about taking their business elsewhere. Rather than wanting to deepen their investment, they’ll just pull out and try to find a better job. If your team knows each other, and happens to like each other (mostly, not everyone has to like EVERYONE else), then when things get tough they will want to invest more, to support their friends, support their team, and help the group get through it.

    I think as a leader, this can be one of the most pivotal decisions. Many decide that the ‘boss’ hat means “I can’t be your friend, I’m the boss.” And that’s ok, but it makes a clear tone for the team. I take a much more delicate path. I am your friend, I care about my team and each person on it, but when it comes down to it, I do have to keep things even, I will not sell you short or hold back from doing what will help the team, just because we’re friends. It is the latter attitude, I think, that has made for many of my players to support me when things are rough, instead of saying “this group blows,” they see a caring leader and are more inclined to see the problems within the group instead of the group as a whole.

    So, the less verbose summary:
    Consequences are important, many things should not go unchallenged (note: some can, and it’s ok, or even valuable), but the manner in which you communicate needs to be carefully considered. Make sure your team knows that this is the boss speaking, and not just some angry guy who doesn’t like you.

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