Lead the Way

Some time ago, while leveling my paladin tank through the dungeon finder, I ran across a rather odd viewpoint that I feel I need to share, discuss, and dismantle for the good of all WoW-kind. I popped into a Deadmines group about twenty feet from the instance. Apparently this is where the last tank ran screaming and disappeared. I buffed the group, made sure I had my self buffs on, and began to move ahead to pull. The group leader pipes up “No tank u stay back here I am leader”. Okay….now, usually I check the leader box when I queue but this time I didn’t get it. I didn’t argue with this person (you will find I am less than confrontational) but neither did I comply. I ran forward again to pull the next mob and was met by the same “No tank I am leader I go first”. Who in the hell subscribes to this school of thought? This person continually ran in front of me and pulled groups, which I then had to struggle to pick up. Being a low level tank is sometimes fraught with “oh crap” moments where you realize you have limited means of taking or maintaining aggro. I don’t recall how this instance ended. I think eventually the group leader grew tired of impeding me in my duties and backed off. Or left. Whatever the case, it forced me to recall a similar instance snag several years ago. No idea which character I was playing or which instance I was in. An argument arose and the group leader had his say. Someone remarked “No u have to listen to him he is the group leader”. I about threw up.

So what is a group leader, really? What are the duties, the responsibilities, and most importantly – what is it not?

Four Score and Seven Years Ago…

Okay, WoW isn’t quite 7 years old. But it’s getting there. And it’s come a long way since it first launched. Let’s take a look at how the role of group leader has evolved.

Back in the good ol’ days of vanilla WoW, the group leader was the first person to invite to the group. If you were questing out in the Barrens and invited someone to join you, you became the leader of your group of two.  The group leader had sole responsibility over who was invited into the group and who was booted out. Only they could reset instances. They were generally made responsible for filling the group appropriately in the days before the dungeon finder tool. To be a group leader, all you had to do was invite people. There are no prerequisite training courses required, no common sense and certainly no leadership skills needed. Many times the lead was then passed to the tank so he/she could mark mobs for killing, but this was merely a courtesy and sometimes foregone by power-hungry individuals. And there were plenty of those. If you won an item the group leader wanted and he was a particularly snotty person – out you went! Or if he was a truly cantankerous old goat, he’d boot you out before said item dropped to eliminate the competition. Sounds like an award-winning system, right?

Presently…

Blizzard has seen fit to revamp the dungeon system as a whole, and the end result is something much more stream-lined and beautiful. Currently if you wish to lead a group, you check the box in the dungeon finder interface and viola. When you are matched to a group, you are made the leader. If no one checks the box, then the lead is passed randomly to one person in your group. You may still become party leader by inviting people to a group on your server. Group leaders are called Party Leader in the chat interface (if you are not in an instance) and Dungeon Guides (if you are) now and are differentiated in party chat by a lighter blue text. Party leaders are still the only person who can invite to the group (a rare occurrence thanks to the dungeon finder tool) but they cannot randomly boot people on their own. No, now we have the vote kick system. It takes power from the group leader and distributes it between group members as a whole. One person cannot remove a player; the majority must agree to do so before the player is removed from the group. The party leader still has control over resetting dungeons and loot settings.

However, this small change has lead to some big changes in how a group is run. Personally I’m not convinced that the group leader was ever in a position of more authority than the rest of his group. Were that the case, groups would be called armies under their commander and not, well, groups. You cannot argue that the group leader should be treated with more respect – why would you treat anybody with anything less than respect? The group leader does not automatically know more, know better, or even know what the hell is going on. He is an equal part of the group, no more and no less than one fifth of the party.

Having established this, let’s discuss what a party leader is, what their duties are, and how you may go about fulfilling them.

For Those About to Lead…We Salute You!

Taking up leadership of a group is no small task, but neither is it as hairy as leading a raid. Leading a raid requires impeccable coordination, problem-solving skills, and the ability to compel 9 to 24 other people to do their best, not bite each other’s heads off, and succeed. It’s a daunting, often stressful task that few are cut out for. Not so with group leading.

There are 4 other people in your group, of which probably all know their role and what the dungeon entails. Most likely you will blow through your dungeon of choice without a hitch or even a hiccup, and you will /wave goodbye at the end with neutral or even good feelings for these fine folks. But not always.

First off, are you cut out to lead a dungeon group? Most often leaders are tanks, and I highly encourage tanks queuing in the dungeon finder to select the leadership role. Especially at low levels, this gives you an extra boost of  “authority” when running amok in a dungeon full of baddies. Group leaders can also excel as healers or damage dealers, for reasons we will discuss below. Let’s take a closer look at what is needed to successfully lead a group…

  • Strong knowledge of the instance at hand. Do not run blindly into an instance (any instance) and expect to lead. Especially if you are the tank, offer to hand leadership to someone who knows the dungeon’s layout, bosses, and difficulties so your group does not encounter problems. Learn from this run, and lead it next time.
  • People skills. No, really. You cannot accomplish anything with other people if your default mode is asshole. The best group leaders are those who take the time to politely and thoughtfully handle whatever comes up. Whether a new player wants to roll on an item not meant for their class, or a veteran player wants to skip a boss to cut down on time, you need to handle it with dignity and respect. Doing so will earn you the respect of your group, and will open their ears to what you have to say in the future.
  • A good chunk of time and patience. Dungeon runs of any kind can take between 15 minutes and over an hour to complete. It goes without saying that you should not queue for a dungeon if you have to leave home in ten minutes, but if you are leading a group of inexperienced players through rough content you should allow at least an hour. One wipe can set you back 20 minutes, especially if people get lost during the corpse run, the instance trash respawns, etc. Don’t get discouraged. Be reasonable about what wiped you and gently encourage players not to make the same mistake again.
  • Be willing to deal with bullshit. Player X loses a roll on an item to player Y. All hell breaks loose. Assuming player Y legitimately needed the item, how do you handle this situation? There is no reason to let squabbling over pixels on a screen destroy the entire group’s run. Speak up, be clear and respectful, and put the bullshit out to pasture.
  • Be willing to explain boss strategies. Most low level bosses are straightforward “kill it” strategies, but later heroic bosses can be tough. Ask if anyone is unfamiliar with the fight and be ready to give them a brief update on what is expected of them.

Now that we have outlined a little of what being a group leader entails, let’s discuss what it is not…

  • You are not God. Being a group leader is not about being the almighty end-all be-all of the group. Remember that you are one of five people pulling their weight here (assuming everyone is in fact pulling their weight) and that your opinion is just opinion. You carry no more authority than anyone else.
  • You are entitled to nothing. A disturbing trend of group leaders expecting they get the loot they want solely because they have a little crown over their portrait has taken hold. Stomp that fire out now. You are no more deserving of loot than anyone else who helped kill the boss. Roll fairly.
  • You cannot kick people. The vote kick system takes care of this quite nicely, removing power from assholes who would like to abuse it. You cannot simply vote out players you don’t want to compete for loot with. Sure, you can initiate that vote, but I have found that most people are reasonable enough to keep players who have done nothing wrong.
  • Being the group leader does not elevate you above your class or role. Simply because you are the designated leader does not give you the go-ahead to perform your role inappropriately. Like the DPS who insisted upon running ahead of me, the tank, being the group leader does not give you any special privileges in this regard.

When all is said and done, dungeon groups are so brief they don’t allow too much time to shine. But occasionally you may be called upon to go above and beyond your usual rotation and lead. Don’t be afraid. And if the designated group leader is coming up short, take the reins and speak up. Your group will appreciate the effort you make to keep their leisure time running smoothly.

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About Sylvestris

Gamer, nerd, book worm, baker.

Posted on June 24, 2010, in Tales and Adventures. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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