A Guide for IGLs: In-game Leadership Styles

December 2, 2020
Article written by: Taylor "PoeticRascal" Hays

Introduction by JAYEL

Leadership in Counter-Strike is one of the most sought after attributes in the game. Every team and player wants to be led by someone they believe can bring them to the highest level they are capable of. However, it is a hard ability to build up, and there are very few resources to help players become the next generation of great IGLs.

PoeticRascal has served the past four years in the United States Navy as a Steelworker for Naval Expeditionary Combat Command in one of their six combat-construction battalions, and has spent time putting together a guide to help players understand the different directions they can take to be a better leader (both in and out of the game). In this article, he takes key points from some of his training in both Naval Expeditionary Combat Skills gained from training under CSF (Center for Security Forces) guidance and leadership skills from his time in battalion; He then boils these key concepts down to their basics and then applies them to the CS ecosystem.

Whether you are an experienced IGL, someone who is trying to become a CS IGL, or if you want to just learn a new perspective on leadership in general--there is sure to be value in this written piece for you. 

For Starters

There is no definite right or wrong way to be an in-game leader in CSGO, period. Lots of teams enjoy styles that fit them as people and fit their cohesion and team culture; What I’m about to say is not the end all or the be all, it’s just common points of reference I’m targeting towards ESEA Main and Advanced players--those who know how to play but not how to lead.

Who this Article is for and Why

For players looking to lead other people, learn more about the interpersonal aspects of being a leader, and understand which styles of leadership cause stress to the leader and why. These are the keys to having effective and successful short-term team structures. Mitigating stress in a team environment is a can of worms I don’t want to open in this article, so I don’t address it in depth.

Below, the reader will find a scenario with common aspects of CS team structures and tasks. The scenario will be followed by four responses of how the reader could move forward and address the scenario. The reader should read all four responses and think about which one he or she would be most likely to choose. After that, the four responses are broken down into their corresponding leadership categories.

Think of this article as the following:

  1. Scenario (Question)
  2. Responses (Answer Choices)
  3. Responses’ Leadership Categories (Answer Key)

I hope this article provides a snapshot you can use to organize yourself better as a leader and understand yourself better so your teammates get the best out of you. 

In-Game Leadership and Leadership Styles: 

First and foremost you should consider yourself responsible as a leader, and your teammates should trust you to manage the schedule and structure of the team. Your personality, confidence, past successes and failures, and exposure to different styles of leadership will play a role in your decision-making. The ability to manage people and to make the best use of everyone else’s time should be of importance to you--giving some thought to what you bring to the table as a person, and what makes you unreasonable to be around is a start, consider how you’d handle the following:


📖 The Scenario:

A few days before the new season of ESEA League kicks off, you need to start preparing for the first match that is scheduled for after the weekend. One of the main tasks you have in mind is making adjustments based on takeaways from your most recent scrims on the upcoming map, but roles are not fully cemented in the team yet. You have four teammates to share the workload with, and you have a solid idea of which person you want to assign to which role, based on their individual capabilities and limitations. You call a meeting, and you: 

📝 Response A:

Identify and assign roles based on the capabilities of your teammates as you see fit, assign each member to study their role and be specific on how to complete the tasks in relation to their role. You entertain questions only after you’re done speaking. You give them guidance on how you want them to play in your system and a timeline associated with the completion of the task and when you will inspect their work.

📝 Response B:

Tell your teammates a plan for completing the tasks and ask for their input, assigning specific people to specific tasks based on their capabilities and limitations. You entertain questions throughout the process. In case someone disagrees with your plan, you defend it, ensuring that your team understands why you made the decision that you did and try to persuade them. You explain your plan to them because you want them to feel like a part of a team and a part of the process (though there isn’t a very good chance that you’ll change your plan because you know it’s the best one). 

📝 Response C:

Explain to your team what needs to be accomplished and solicit their feedback on how to do it. Though you have an idea about which teammates you want to take specific tasks, you don’t bring it up. Instead, you ask the group who wants to do what. You offer your thoughts on capabilities and limitations, if at all, after your players have contributed to the conversation. The plan is developed from the group discussion, with all having equal opportunity for input. 

📝 Response D:

Inform your team of what has to happen and what you were told to do, and the timeline you’d like to spend talking about roles and the most recent scrim as a group. You are clear on the purpose for the tasks and your intent, but you allow them to figure out the rest. You trust them, and you think giving them more responsibility will bring out their best.

🎯 If you answered A: (Authoritative Leadership Style)

You make the ultimate decisions and control the pace of both practice and team balance. This style doesn’t usually pan out in lower level NA rosters very well from a day-to-day basis, but a leader in control is a leader who can make decisions in the moment during tough situations. Mid-round calling and decisiveness may be your strong spots and a good starting point of focus for you. Your strength is in the server, and your weakness is outside the server--sometimes straining your relationship with your players and that is important to pay attention to. You can not control everything all the time and you must allow players to explore the tactics you set out in a way that makes sense to them, so that they can execute your vision in the match itself. This means that if there are issues that are no-gos for you, you have to fix them incrementally, as making changes that outpace the understanding of the players under your leadership will create disharmony. Take a breath, be patient, practice often and at the pace of your slowest learner. Believe in the people around you and this style will work well for you. 

🎯 If you answered B: (Salesman Leadership Style) 

You like to sell your ideas instead of demanding their acknowledgement from others. You will present your plan and decision to the people. Your strength is the relationship you’ll have with your teammates, and your weaknesses are in time management and in the server. You need to be properly in charge in the server, you can’t be trying to convince people that your plan will go well by the time a league match rolls around. A few issues can compound around this: For starters, practice can take a very long time if you allow five separate people to affect the game plan. I commonly see teams who have great mechanics and two or three set strategies per map, with minimal counter plays in the CT-side, and it’s because in-game leading is actually more about what you do outside of the server and what prepwork you bring into a server, and how that reflects in the match. You are usually the guy who has to look things up yourself and bring them to the team, trying to sell things you like simply because you like them usually isn’t good enough for the people in your team. They’re good players just like you, they likely want to help for the same reasons you do and recognize that your job is hard. You lose a lot of time trying to sell the tactic as a concept rather than putting a spin on it to keep the game plan as solid as it can be. The sooner everyone is onboard the better, and this style burns time in that respect.

🎯 If you answered C: (Participating Leadership Style)

Explain a problem, ask for input, and then make a decision after hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions. This style can work really well for helping your teammates all understand the same concepts, if you happen to have teammates that think a lot about the game rather than just click heads. Sharing the workload democratically only works if other people are invested enough to contribute their own ideas. Meaning, as the IGL, you’re merely guiding the decision making process for the other members. This is a good style to at least have a cursory understanding of since it’s great for most out-of-server meetings. Wanna talk about what went wrong in a particular match? Hold a meeting about it, and if everyone’s talking then you’re good-to-go. If there’s not a lot of talking, be prepared to fall back on other styles of leadership and craft what you want to discuss based on what you think will win games. Silence is a deadly kryptonite to this style of leadership, so if things don’t work out, be prepared to switch gears--but if they do work out it’s much less stressful.

🎯 If you answered D: (Delegating Leadership Style)

This leadership style has its strengths when everyone is highly experienced in their roles, but it is entirely situational and can’t work 100% of the time. To be an effective delegating IGL, you need to give the team some context of what they need to find and why it’s best they figure it out themselves. A common example of this would be letting people be in charge of their own CT-positions, so long as they show some degree of depth. Maybe they find videos and POV demos of pros they like and that fit their playstyle, but calling by committee and running down the clock is rough to-do for an entire season. 

To Summarize

Not all of these styles have to be inflexible. Mixing and matching different approaches to fit situations and personalities appropriately should play a role in your decision making process. For example, maybe you decide to tell your entry-fragger how you want to enter the bombsite, but you delegate responsibilities to your AWPer, making him or her responsible for their own impact and decisions to keep the setup unpredictable. There is no one correct way to approach the above scenario, and the scenario isn’t a perfect representation of what your experience as an IGL is going to be, commit to being flexible. 

If you liked this article and what to read the next one in the series, Stress and Control, you can check it out by clicking the image below!

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