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Competing in an esports team has become progressively more similar to playing on traditional sports teams. The role of the in-game leader is probably the most crucial one and a team’s success depends on their qualities as a role model and guide. But what does it take to be an impactful leader in a successful team? AOC talked to the pros and coaches from G2 Esports.
Players such as Tom Brady, LeBron James, and Francesco Totti have become iconic figures that are inseparably connected to each one’s respective discipline. But apart from being impressive on the field, they are examples of excellence and leadership – without these skills, their teams would probably lack the cutting edge.
This is also the case in esports. Any successful team is guided by a person that gives them security, comes up with a game plan and represents the team in interviews, on stage, and on other occasions. However, pinning down the qualities of a leader to a single set of characteristics would be a mistake, as Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann explains: “Each individual has different needs, therefore every team have a different profile for their leader.”
Fabian “GrabbZ” Lohmann
According to G2’s League of Legends coach, a leader can either be outspoken and energetic or soft-spoken and supportive, for example. Therefore, there are different styles of leadership. Every single team consists of different individuals that respond differently to any impulse given. “Some players respond well to open criticism, others need subtle reinforcement. Others will not react to motivational attempts during a game at all.”
Although the qualities demanded from a leader are dependent on the team, we discovered a certain pattern in our interviews. Some characteristics were named by most coaches and IGL’s at G2 we talked to. For example, each interviewee would acknowledge that leaders have more responsibility, take on the role of a tactician, and keep their teams together.
Pushing the limits
Especially the last point seems to be crucial. Damien “maLeK” Marcel used to be a professional player in Counter-Strike and became a coach in 2016. He has a lot of experience working on teams from both the perspective of a player and a leader, both in and outside the game.
Damien “maLeK” Marcel
To him, a good in-game leader is someone who is able to control his emotions. “[A] leader must inspire rather by natural charisma or by example.” The role model function is something addressed by most people at G2 – which is clearly a philosophy the whole company embraces.
G2’s CEO Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez was a League of Legends pro until 2012 and had similar experiences. “It is about the decisiveness of the leader.” In ocelote’s point of view, it doesn’t matter if a decision is right or wrong in the first place, what matters is that everyone follows the leader’s call. A bad call is still better than a team that doesn’t act as a unit and is in complete disarray.
Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez
And here we get to the point – a leader is supposed to be the stabilizing factor, one who never gives up, no matter the odds. They take the lead by giving a good example to their co-players and have lots of charisma which makes pushing their agenda easier for them. At the same time, they accept criticism and listen to different views carefully. In general, a leader triggers progress and solves problems at their roots rather than patching single problems.
What it takes to lead
Assuming a leading position is something players adapt naturally rather than growing into it. The captains of G2’s PUBG and Rainbow Six Siege rosters René "Braexco" Rehling and Fabian “Fabian” Hallsten, for instance, have always been inspiring personalities. “I have always been the one trying to lead any team in-game. It always just felt good to me and I loved to play the game in my own way,” says Braexco. His R6 counterpart makes a similar claim: “I believe that a leader is not something you become, it is something you either are, or you're not.”
Fabian “Fabian” Hallsten
Does this mean, some people will never be able to take the lead? Not quite. Although there may be people who find it easier to fit into a leading role as Braexco and Fabian do, leadership can also be obtained. CEO ocelote believes any person has the capacity to lead – it just has to be nurtured by taking on challenges and accepting responsibility.
Being a leader is by no means an easy task. It requires lots of will power, a strong sense of responsibility and work ethics. However, if you feel comfortable with taking on such a challenge you will not only see an increase in your team’s performance, but also a growth of your personality.