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Paraphrasing Sigmund Freud, sometimes a game is just a game. But many times a game can provide a teachable moment. This is the case of the video game called, The Angry Birds. The premise of the game is simple: Pigs have stolen eggs from some birds. These birds retrieve their eggs by destroying the pig’s habitat. It’s a game of theft, revenge, destruction and death. Sounds a lot like life sometimes, doesn’t it? Yet, it is a game that can teach us much about leadership. In fact, 12most.com has 12 really good teachable leadership moments from the game. But I’m going to add two more Angry Birds Leadership lessons:
I can’t help but believe that the pigs in the game stole the eggs from the birds knowing the level of total destruction the birds were capable of unleashing. But I also believe that the pigs made a conscious calculation that they could survive the best the birds could throw at them and in the end keep the eggs. And you know what? More often than not, the pigs do survive and laugh at you for your inability to punish them for their actions. Think about that. The goal of the pigs was not just to steal the eggs. It was also to keep those eggs they stole. This was their goal and most of the time they are extremely successful in keeping what they took. Their calculations paid off and the risk of destruction was determined to be worth the reward of the eggs.
A good leader needs to look at the goals he has set for his people and then devise a plan that will allow for the accomplishment of those tasks. But he should do so only after he examines the risk-reward equation of the goals he’s set. A leader should never rely upon the failure of others or a hoped for inability of his competition or his opponents to succeed in their goals as a basis for planning his own success. Doing so, in itself, is an invitation for failure. If you’ve determined that your goal is worth the risk and your plan doesn’t account for the possibility of failure on your part, you need a new plan.
The game gives you a fixed number of birds with different skill sets in each scenario. For example, there is a bird that boomerangs. That is, when activated it attempts to return to its launch point. Depending upon when and where you activate it, it can be extremely useful for attacking structures from the rear. However, you can also use it to attack objects from the front. That is, you can also use it to smash into a building made of wood and ice just like any other bird. You are not locked into using the bird only for its intended purpose. You decide how you will use each bird to accomplish your task.
If a leader remains flexible as to how he approaches a problem, he will end up by default encouraging his personnel to do the same. Just as in the game, a leader must recognize that his people also have different skill sets and he is generally best served by employing them in scenarios where they can best play to their individual abilities. But sometimes a leader needs to assign a task to a person that is outside of that’s person’s comfort zone. Why? Because that employee may have an underutilized skill set that is called for at that moment. Keeping your eyes open to all possibilities is one way to win in the game…and in life in general.