Dungeons, Dragons, & Leadership

by Lori Lawson

This past weekend I had the opportunity to play Dungeons and Dragons – the ultimate crown of nerdiness. (Technically it was Pathfinder, which is like an older version of Dungeons and Dragons, but we’re just going to ignore that fact.) After watching 7 hours of Lord of the Rings, the time had come for me to make a character. With the help of Dave, the “game master” who essentially plays god to the game, I began to form a strong archer knowledgable in the ways of the land. As time progressed and the game began I became more and more absorbed with the world we had so delicately crafted.

After defeating the rogue skeletons of the tundra as I let  my scouting party onward, danger once again crossed our path. This danger came in the form of an Ice Dragon – right as all of my allies were incapacitated. I face the dragon alone, using my bow and my sword to slowly whittle away the dragon’s health points…and then I got eaten alive. Whole. One hour making a character, two hours of leading my group forward, and it was all over in one turn. How did this happen? A series of 3 dice rolls by Dave that in total probability would say should only happen 1 in every 8,000 dice rolls.

Now, just when you might think I simply wanted to mourn the loss of my brave little Lego self (as Legos make things a little easier to visualize), I will explain how this hit me as a leader. Dave, as game master, does not set out to kill us. As the leader of our group and the whole game, his goal is to follow the rules (which amount to the size of a textbook) and to keep us challenged  with our terrain, materials, and enemies. Dave didn’t send the dragon to kill me, but it did anyway. The one roll – the 1 in 8,000 chance roll – was the only thing that could take me out, and it happened. This just goes to show how no matter how good a leader is and how hard they try to keep the perfect balance, leadership can still fail due to uncontrollable outside sources.

Another lesson I learned from this experience is how important trust is. Anyone who has done a project or service work under the direction of others knows that there are always moments where we wonder “what is the point of this?” or “what good are we doing here anyway?” Just like I had to trust Dave when he said to wait to attack or to rest for the night, we have to sometimes trust in whoever is leading us to keep us on the right path even if we don’t see the reasoning behind it. Leaders who are invested in their work have many more concerns than just getting the task done as quickly as possibly. They have to worry about the ethicality of their actions, the safety of those around them, cost effectiveness, and a variety of different factors that we often times don’t think about.

While this example may seem a bit cheesy (not to mention nerdy beyond belief), it truly did make me realize the importance of knowing  both of these points. Ever since taking the Leadership and Community Engagement LLC class, I have learned to look for leadership everywhere. It just so happens that here I realized not how I can improve as a leader, but improve as a person under the direction of a leader simply through a little bit of trust and an understanding that sometimes things just happen. Hopefully this is a point that will help all of us moving forward so that even when we are not leading, we are following whoever is in the best possibly way.

Do you have any lessons in leadership you learned in an unconventional way? Tell me in the comments!

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