Article written by: Taylor "PoeticRascal" Hays
Introduction by JAYEL
The second article in our IGL series is here! If you didn't get the chance to read our first article about leadership styles, you can check it out here. In this issue of A Guide for IGLs, Taylor breaks down the balance between control, stress, and limitations. It is a great story for leaders in and out of the game. With any leadership style, there is a level of control and stress that the leader must balance. We hope you find some valuable lessons in this article!
Understanding Stress and Control Independent of One Another
Before we can assess the relationship between stress and control, please understand that to exert leadership among others is to convince them to buy into your goals and style of leadership. If you don’t get the support of your teammates, you won’t be an effective leader. If people don’t buy into your leadership, they’ll ignore you and simply go along with your executions, should they choose to entertain you. Your level of control over a project is something you can decide to ease up on or exert more pressure on, but the stress you’ll feel isn’t going to be in your control. You will feel stress and need to manage your response. Things are not as simple as you being a hard-charger that pushes onto the next goal with boundless energy--everyone has a limit. Maybe as a new IGL your limit is a shallow sprint and maybe it’s the mental fortitude to run a marathon. If your teammates can keep up, don’t replace those people even if someone else is a better shot. You may never find that piece again. Creative-control over any project is exhausting, for both you and the people that follow you. If you can imagine it on a sliding scale, it would probably look like this:
Why use the word “control”? Your teammates only want to play Counter-Strike as they understand it. The IGL is responsible for the method of execution, and as such needs some degree of inarguable control over the other four player’s decisions. The method you choose is what you are responsible for, not what your teammates decide you’re on the hook for in hindsight. The more true this is, the more control you have, and the more stress you’ll experience to varying personal degrees. Doing things your way is the price your teammates pay, and that price has a correlating toll to be paid by the In-Game Leader. I’m beating around the bush but, ultimately, your burden is this: You’re supposed to be correct. To be correct, you must first be in charge and put to the test. How in charge should you be? That depends on how much you can hold in your head at once and how big your ideas are.
Four things have to be communicated.:
🎤 Communicate the source of your decisions.
Your decisions will lack the impact you want them to have if nobody buys in. You’re probably not a genius brimming with originality that your teammates are grateful to have either; you understand the same pool of information they do. Communicate your influences, and let your teammates understand, transparently, what style or approach you're trying to emulate. People are good at telling when what you’re saying isn’t matching what you’re doing, so don’t try to sell anyone a line about how you’ve figured everything out if you haven’t done your due diligence. People don’t take kindly to their time being wasted in that way. Understand the source of potential solutions.
💪 Encourage those around you.
Who encouraged you to be the IGL? What’s the reason you’re on an ESEA team in your spare time anyways? Who have you given permission to support you? Whether you stepped up because you said you should or someone else did, you’ve been given permission by your peers to be someone they work around and listen to, and you should provide that same courtesy back to them. If teammates have positions or gimmicks they want to try to bring variety to your setups, you should encourage and give permission to others to play their style of Counter-Strike if it can lead to an advantage for the team. You’re responsible for what happens and what does not happen on a server. Scrims are the best place to grow the team chemistry on the server and let people bring their own small bag of tricks to the table. In the spirit of Paul and Silas, every Gla1ve needs a Xyp9x.
♟️ Communicate a plan clearly.
Put time into explaining from start to finish what you think should happen, as frankly and clearly as possible. People don’t want to spend an hour hearing the why, most people are only concerned with “how” and “when” you want things to happen. However, you should work to clue people in on your personality and tendencies as a leader transparently, so that the amount of times the people around you are caught “off-guard” by your calls are minimal. Teammates are comfortable with plans they can see coming based off of prior experience, in practice or theory. Build off your practices with intent to follow through.
🎯 Act on your mistakes.
Don’t make your teammates burden themselves with keeping you honest. Don’t make your teammates be the first ones to present a difficult topic you’re well aware of. Be the first one to acknowledge the faults in your plan, or it will cease to be yours. If you know in your heart of hearts something needs to change, it is arguably your only day-to-day duty to address such issues yourself, if it involves your role. Congratulations, you picked the hardest role. I’d take a bet and say that’s why you admire this role, it’s difficult and you’ll never be done improving or changing. It will give you a feeling of importance that will fuel you; use this to burrow your way past the stressors that are guaranteed to come.
I feel this is so important, I’ll take a moment of your time to say it twice. Communicate the source of your decisions. Encourage those around you. Communicate a plan clearly. Act on your mistakes. These four things are important to understanding proper control and responsibility in your role.
Stress can come from a number of places on its own, and is as real as anything you can hold in your hand. Stress can cause you to make decisions that ultimately burn people’s trust in you if not managed properly, reducing your capacity to think clearly around people that you should be the most comfortable around. The danger of stress in its isolated form is that it can lead an otherwise rational person to take irrational shortcuts that seem unfair to the people around them, or insincere altogether. This matters to the extent that the more direct influence you have over a plan’s execution, the more places you’re likely to take shortcuts or infuse your own fallacies into the equation—ultimately making your efforts pointless—wasting everyone’s time.
Stress in this context is important to how you approach leadership; you become exhausted with being in charge of crossing every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ yourself without good personal time management. The best way in my personal experience to manage this level of stress is to be as honest as possible with the people around you, and work their own personal goals into your framework. People will not move easily for something other than themselves.
Control is as simple as it sounds in the context of tactics: it’s the amount of authority you’re granted by your peers to organize your team and call in game. Control is given and granted, you can lose it or never have it to begin with. Even in an environment such as esports, the position of in-game leader is only held to their standard by the respect others grant that position. Not every unit is the same, and units that only work together with the bare minimum will not have the discipline required to better themselves in areas of true and tender weakness. Responsibility is the defining variable that can ethically measure how much control you “should” have in a team as the in-game leader. Are you responsible for all the tactics 100% of the time? If that’s the case, then you can tell the members of your team to do virtually anything and they’ll know that you’re moving them around to set them up, not yourself. If you demand control, but merely ‘participate’ in the round without making game-altering decisions, you’re out of line.
There is an argument to be made for participating in a round and simply making the tactical flow of the round evolve into the effort of all five players at all times. I outlined ‘participation’ as a leadership style, in which case your level of competency and experience must apply to your teammates as well. Should you think this is an ideal situation for you, the two teams that have most notably pulled this style off are Fnatic in 2015 or Astralis in 2018. I say this to show you the relationship that control shares with styles of leadership, in that the most successful teams do not necessarily have their center of gravity around one person or idea.
The styles of Fnatic's individuals defined the 2015 Fnatic. They held a very loose style that could make great use of strong individual performances (we’re using Thorin’s definition of a loose style in this context, typically in reference to the in-game leader Karrigan though the same can be said for Pronax).
Astralis in 2018 had individuals with a strong tactical understanding who could amplify the game plan of their leader. They would change simple aspects of their game to battle various opponents. They were unrivaled in that year of competition. The individual levels of play and participation style of Pronax allowed Fnatic to have its era, and I doubt they’d have the same results in their trophy cabinet if Pronax told JW he had to play high pressure situations in a tactical manner.
The tactical style of Gla1ve and the individuals that supported his decisions with their own efforts led to a style that would never have worked for Fnatic. The individuals of Fnatic are not a limitation of Fnatic, they’re the cornerstone of Fnatic. The tactical style of Astralis does not limit the decisions of its individual players, it maximizes individual opportunity while minimizing individual risk. Neither of these extremes can function unless all five players believe that their method is not a limitation or a sacrifice. Stress and control directly correlate with one another. To communicate the source of your decisions, understand the source of potential solutions. To encourage those around you, provide that same courtesy back to them. To communicate a plan clearly, build off of your practices with intent to follow through. To act on your mistakes, be the first one to acknowledge the faults in your plan, or it will cease to be yours. Manage your stress as a leader, so that you can maintain your leadership long-term. Control is given or granted, you do not actually have control over how much control is given to you.
The relationship between stress and control ultimately opens the doors to clear communication and healthy long term decision-making abilities within team and self. You cannot see clearly if you feel overwhelmed by the stress of your role, and you cannot make good progress over time if you don’t feel in control of your tools. A lack of stress management can obscure good judgement. A lack of awareness for one’s level of control in a project obscures proper responsibility, undermining chances for success. Stress and control are the left and right lens required for good eyesight in a team environment; The full picture will always be fuzzy without an understanding of both.
Be on the lookout for a follow-up article that continues our “Guide for IGLs” series. If you didn't check out the first article in this series, Leadership Styles, you can check it out below.
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