Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

2 May, 2016

My development of my leadership skills

Over the past few years, I’ve taken a keen interest in the topic of leadership. Part of it comes from my time running Near Death Studios; I think having more leadership training could have helped me grow the business better. I would like to start my own company again in the future, and so I’m looking to build my leadership skills for the next company I start.

Let me share a bit of what I’ve been looking at, and perhaps you’ll have a few suggestions of your own.


Being interested in leadership feels a bit odd since I’m an introvert. Leadership typically has a lot to do with interacting with people. On the other hand, I don’t hate dealing with people; in fact, I often have a strong Socializer motivation in MMOs. And, I can extrovert well enough at conferences to actually fool some people into thinking I’m an extravert.

So, I think it makes sense as what I’m really looking for is a way to share my experience with others and guide them. Understanding how to reach people and how to inspire them is important in this process of guiding them, both on a smaller scale of mentoring and a larger scale of running a company leading other employees. I’m looking at this as an opportunity to improve myself, improve relationships with other people, and to focus on larger goals I want to accomplish.

I also think that we don’t see much true leadership in the game industry. On one hand we have the large game corporations that have an established hierarchy where someone is leader because someone higher on the organizational chart says they’re a leader. The Lead Programmer on a project might simply be a really good programmer that has worked along time at the company, not necessarily someone with strong leadership skills who wants to inspire people to do their best. On the other hand, we have small indie groups where it’s either one or two people who do their thing without having to worry about dealing with other people.

The type of games I’ve been interested in, MMOs for example, seem to require a team to accomplish properly. So, being a competent leader is important for this, and not something that I feel I’ve seen a lot of in my career.


I have a few books on leadership sitting on my desk. Of course, I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and read them either because work was taking up a lot of time or I’ve been busy with talking with people about exciting new opportunities. But, the books are around when I do get some time.

The first book is Delivering Happiness, a book about the clothing site A friend of mine gave me the book a I was helping him move, and it looked interesting enough. Plus, it’s about an internet company, so somewhat relevant.

The second book is It’s Your Ship, a book by a former U.S. Navy Captain. This book came highly recommended by someone I chatted with on Google+; he suggested this might be interesting since the military is so different than game development. We’ll see.

The third book has a pretty straight-forward title: Team Leadership IN the Game Industry. As it deals directly with the game industry, it will at least keep my interest in that way. I don’t remember how I found out about this book, but it was sitting ni my Amazon wish list when I was buying some other stuff and I got it.

As I said, I haven’t done much besides read the covers and thumb through the tables of contents. But, now that I’ve mentioned them I have motivation to read them to not look too much like a lazy slacker. :)

Online courses

I’ve taken a few Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from Coursera. I’ve already audited the course “Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence” and am currently watching the videos for “Building Your Leadership Skills”.

On one hand, watching videos is a lot more engaging than reading a book. The courses do a good job of breaking lessons down into little bite-sized chunks you can set aside time to watch. So, that’s definitely good. And, the videos are done by experienced people with a long list of accomplishments. I particularly liked the teacher for the first course, where he said he got interested in leadership after working in a corporate environment and wondering how the people in charge could be so terrible at their jobs while still getting results! Another nice thing about the videos is that you can speed up the playback speed, which is nice for those of us who let background noise fade to the background and have to pay attention to the video.

However, it’s not perfect. One big problem is that the videos seem tailored toward people who want to lead non-creative businesses. Leading creative people is different than leading a more typical business. Yes, there are probably shared lessons, but inspiring a salesperson to get more sales is different than inspiring a game designer to look beyond their own tastes to design the best game possible.

A lot of these courses also have you interacting with other students as part of the coursework. Again, you don’t run into many people in similar situations who want to lead creative types, so interaction has limited benefit for me. Not to say that other students aren’t smart, motivated, and inspiring in their own right, but I’m not sure there’s a bridge between me and a middle eastern guy taking the course so that he can take a management position at his father’s company.

The last big problem is that most courses start by asking you to look at depth at a leader you admire. Well, as I said, inspirational leadership seems scarce in the game industry. And, I don’t really engage in hero worship, so picking a celebrity or sports star is usually not a good option for me, either. It feels like I only get part of the lesson if I don’t have someone who I have found to be exceptionally inspiring.

Always learning something new

One constant in the game industry is that you will always need to learn something new. When I started work on Meridian 59, I had to learn the game and the scripting language. When I started Near Death Studios, I had to learn a lot about running a business over the years. As I lead the design of some projects, I had to learn to organize my thoughts in ways that made sense to others. Now, I’m learning more about leadership with the goal of growing as an individual. Nothing new except for the focus.

What do you think? Any good sources for learning about leadership that you would recommend? Is leadership something that interests you?

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1 Comment »

  1. You should read the Zappos book – it is solid. I am also an introvert and run a company, but I have a business partner who is more of the “rah rah” type. I am more of a quiet leader giving my teams confidence by giving them freedom to do their work and supporting them as necessary.

    I would also reccommend Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” – it has the capability to be transformative for people.

    I was speaking at a youth entrepreneurship conference and the question came up – in a room full of A type personalities, how do you establish yourself – or recognize – who the leader is? In my opinion the answer to that is look to the person asking the best questions.

    I feel like out of all industries gaming can learn the most about how to treat their team members as valuable assets to grow with you, so glad to hear you are looking at this part =)

    Comment by Isey — 3 May, 2016 @ 6:37 AM

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