Friday, August 23, 2013

The Protoss of Starcraft: a Leadership Allegory -- Tassadar

Hey y'all.  So I was thinking about Protoss characteristics the other day, as a part of the Me and Aldaris series I've been writing.  Yes, it's not dead.  Sorry I haven't updated in a while.  It's just that I'm at a bit of a tedious part right now, and I have to spice it up until we get to the real meat of what I intended the story to be.  I didn't expect that showing Aldaris Starcraft would take so long.

In any case, I was thinking about the themes of Starcraft and Brood War, and one of their themes is the idea of faulty leadership, for one reason or another.  Mengsk was deceptive, the Overmind is evil (shut up, Starcraft II), Aldaris was unyielding, Raszagal was manipulated, and DuGalle was weak-willed.  However, I noticed an alternate theme: each Protoss character represents a different type of leader, with different behaviors and characteristics that make them suitable for some situations, but horrible for others.  Raszagal and Aldaris were in situations they couldn't cope with, yet Tassadar, Zeratul and Fenix were, and thus were able to manipulate their circumstances much better.  Yet they were all leaders, even when they had other above them or seemed submissive.

Let's go through each type of leader, shall we?

=== The Visionary ===

The thing that sets Tassadar apart is his independence, as well as his ability to keep his eyes open and judge his circumstances for himself.  These things are results of his being the Visionary, the type of leader that creates new ways of thinking and expands the business, territory, or group to which he is attached.

The key activity of a Visionary is thought.  They are constantly thinking of ways to improve their given system.  If they don't have an image in their head of what they want the future to be, then they're in the process of trying to think and figure out one.  This is the opposite of their anti-theme: being stationary.  Visionaries are future oriented, and they very much intend to make that future happen in their own way, rather than letting natural circumstances bring about whatever life they might.

This is shown when Tassadar makes attempts to reach out to the Dark Templar and Raynor's men, proving that Tassadar's vision for the Korprullu Sector is one where different peoples live in peace.  Given his passionate words to Aldaris during the first Protoss missions, as well as Aldaris' description of him as once being "our most beloved son", one can assume that before the events of Starcraft, Tassadar was very loyal to his people and the Khalai tradition.  Every Visionary needs some idea to lift up, some worldview to push -- however, they are extremely sensitive to each vision, knowing with complete certainty that every idea translates into action.  Therefore, when Tassadar encountered humans and how Protoss policy was effecting them, he was able to learn and create his own personal vision when the Conclave's doesn't prove sound.

From what I've read about personalities and seen in quizzes, true Visionaries are proportionately rare in any given population.  This is quite natural and fitting, as Visionaries by their nature tend to stir up society and create changes, which can be very consequential and possibly detrimental, depending on the Visionary in question.  Sometimes these changes are contained, as the person's visions may involve building a business, creating a charity, or some other organization.  This vision might not be as big as Tassadar's, or as obvious.  What makes a Visionary who they are is their inner fire, their urge to create something with their name on it that the world hasn't seen before.  They want to influence the world, and whether or not they like fame, they want their influence to be heard.

Note that many Visionaries are not motivated by fame.  Sure, many like fame, but it's not their primary motive for going forward.  The main motivation for their action is achievement or influence, and this doesn't change if the person is introverted or extroverted.  Tassadar is clearly an extrovert, and gathers many different people to follow him: Fenix and the Executor, formerly loyal soldiers, Zeratul the outcast, and Raynor the human.  He even gets Aldaris to come around in the end.  This makes Tassadar the classic definition of what we would call a leader: someone that just makes people follow him by sheer force of enthusiasm.

That, however, doesn't mean introverted Visionaries don't exist.  Because I'm trying to explain the concept and not just examine Starcraft characters, I have to bring out a character from another universe to explain how this concept works.  Granted, Samir Duran is certainly a introverted Visionary, as he uses subtle manipulation to create his vision of the future, but I still feel that Frodo Baggins is a better example for helping people understand what an introverted Visionary does.  After all, Duran isn't leading, he's manipulating.

Keep in mind that I'm talking about Frodo from the book, not the movies.  If he's not a Visionary beforehand, he is at the end, where he and his friends have discovered that Saruman has influenced and tormented the country he loves.  The four main hobbits must all come together to figure out how to get rid of Saruman's men.  What Frodo contributes is not fighting or weaponry or gaining allies, but rather his vision: to have mercy on whatever man will surrender and avoid killing as much as possible.  Frodo's vision even includes rescuing Lotho Sackville-Baggins, who is inadvertently responsible for causing the damage done to the Shire.

And you know what?  People listen to him!  He wants to rescue Lotho?  They head right over to Bag End in the attempt.  He wants to avoid killing?  Merry then contrives a strategy that will enable the men to have a choice to surrender.  Frodo's vision of maintaining a Shire that is peaceful keeps his friends peaceful.  Heck, his vision to keep a peaceful Shire is what lead him and three friends to leave it in the first place to destroy the ring.

However, it's Visionaries like Tassadar that are more easily noticeable, and also more easily achieve their goals because they are extroverted and loud enough to gain followers more quickly and keep them enthused.  It's much harder for an introvert to do the same.  Tassadar's enthusiasm for his beliefs and strong, melodramatic vocabulary sweeps up many people into his vision, and there's no hint of dissent for his actions from anyone in his group.

There are, however, flaws to the Visionary leader.  Visionaries are the kind of leader most vulnerable to getting caught up in their visions, without considering the consequences or dissenting opinions.  They often hold to their own will even when they're being unreasonable.  Specifically in Tassadar's case, there is a mission where he confronts Edmund Duke, General of Emperor Mengsk's armies.  The player activates this conversation by bringing Tassadar's forces into Duke's territory.  Duke gives an expected response: he firmly but moderately politely tells Tassadar to back off.  Tassadar could have responded by saying that the nearby Zerg are the real enemy, agreeing to back off, or insisting that Duke should allow him to use the island the Terrans are stationed on.  Any of these three would be logical alternatives to prevent direct altercation.

Does Tassadar do any of these things?  No, instead he flips out, implying he's learned (presumably from Raynor) that Duke is a scumbag, and Tass then proceeds to insult Duke in tones THAT ARE RATHER LIKE CAPS LOCK.  SERIOUSLY, TASS, YOU TALK TOO LOUD.  Duke responds with, "I'm going to have to assume that's a hostile response" and then sends several battlecruisers your way.  Not quite diplomacy, Tass.

Granted, Duke is a jerk, but he's always come across to me as someone who just wants to survive.  He doesn't go out of his way to be malicious, and instead is simply amoral.  He's completely rational and open to negotiation, so long as his authority isn't in question.  As a leader, Tass should have dodged an avoidable conflict.  Instead, his grand vision of himself as a leader gave him a strange and somewhat out of place moment of self-righteousness, and the warriors under him had to fight off the battlecruisers.

Tassadar again shows this side of himself when he argues with Aldaris.  Granted, Aldaris deserves it and many of the players like this dialogue, but the point remains that if you're Tassadar, trying to convince the stubborn Judicator to do what you want, is the best way to get your point across berating and insulting the person in question?

This is the primary problem with the Visionary: they can be so wrapped up in their ideas that they can end up sabotaging their own efforts.  Visionaries care about getting their objective done.  It's not that they are only task oriented and don't like people, but their unrelenting enthusiasm can at times disrupt their ability to be diplomatic; they simply don't like compromise, and in Tassadar's case, he finds the Conclave's position morally unsupportable, even to the point where he would fight them in the midst of the war against the Zerg.  Seriously, Tass, you got on the Conclave's case for coming to arrest you during a war, and then you take equivalent action?

Now, the thing about the different types of leaders that they need to be at a certain promotion level.  For most types of leaders, this means that they can only be promoted so far.  Visionaries, however, can be good at either extreme: they can do well at lower ranks, and they can do higher ranks.  Middle management is death for a Visionary.  Middle management has just enough authority to require a lot in terms of duty, but not enough power for the Visionary to be able to bring his dreams to pass.  The weight of inane paperwork, regulated tasks, and nagging people can crush a Visionary.

Higher authority enables the Visionary to complete his dreams.  Lower authority, however, isn't a problem.  It teaches the visionary to be humble, and since Visionaries should be sympathetic, they learn to see problems in life and create visions based on the problems they see around themselves.  Visionaries prefer to be somewhat detached and able to do as they please, and lower authority, due to lower expectations, allows them to do well in those tasks, and higher authority gives the Visionary the reigns.  The key is independence, as well as space to exercise their creative ability.  Tassadar's job as Executor, even though he wasn't operating on his own vision at that time, was a good fit for him as it allowed him a lot of leeway.  Separating from the Conclave enabled him to be even more independent.

Granted, Visionaries can take their independence too far, and need at times to be supervised and have their methods examined.  Many times the Visionary can have their heart in the right place, but they need help in considering methods and consequences.  Oftentimes Visionaries are very resolute, and are willing to sacrifice a lot for a vision.  Tassadar did not cease to give, even with his own life.  My supposition is that his vision was to become a hero and example of what the world he left behind should understand: to be driven by character and openness, not austere tradition or hate.

The thing about a Visionary is that they are emotionally at risk.  This explains Tassadar's outburst to Duke, perhaps.  Trouble is, the creative realm can be very impractical (no one can eat a painting or a story), and creative works many times require cooperation to succeed: painters need suppliers, writers need publishers and freedom of speech, businessmen need employees, and Tassadar needs followers.  Thus, the emotional well-being of the Visionary is in danger, as all they can do without help is make plans.

Tassadar never had much problem with this, as his strength of character and kind heart attract many people to him, and he has an antagonist in the Conclave that provides some of his followers with a motive to join him.  However, not all Visionaries have it that well.  Those that are frequently mocked or whose visions aren't popular, or ones who are simply not as personable as Tassadar can suffer from low self-esteem and a minimal sense of self-worth.  Creative vision doesn't pay the bills, and so people talented in this area more than others can feel useless and helpless, not fit for anything but being a common laborer or a silent housewife.  Visionaries are all about the future, and if they feel there is no future for them, there is no life at all.  To cope with this, the Visionary must have practical skills or must find an outlet for his creativity, even if in small little ways.

In short, Visionaries are indeed slaves to their vision.   To achieve total success, they must obtain a vision, edit their vision according to their research, and gain followers, listeners, or employees to share in what they want to do.

The quick version:
Visionary -- the creators of vision; those that see a new world and bring it into being.
Key word: Thought
Focus: Future
Authority level: Higher or lower
Operates best: As an independent.
Operates worst: Under excessive regulation or tedium
Potential weaknesses: Trapped in vision, lack of diplomacy
Ultimate vulnerabilities: Depression, uselessness.

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