Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Protoss of Starcraft: A Leadership Allegory -- Fenix

Hey y'all.  So, continuing on with my leadership allegory, we move on to the Strategist.  Fenix's role in Starcraft was admittedly small.  He appears only in three of the mission sets, and in one of those he barely appears at all.  However, we have several clues into his personality.  One is that he's a relentless optimist, not even succumbing to depression when he is killed the first time and turned into a dragoon.  Another is that he's immensely practical and not excitable.  His transition from loyal Khalai to follower of Tassadar is quiet, sudden, and not explained.  He just shows up and is like, "Hi Tassadar, how are you?" and just goes on with things.  Third, Fenix hangs out a lot with Raynor, a fellow Strategist.  They're probably closer friends than Raynor was with any other Protoss character.  As a result, I'll be talking a lot about Raynor in this entry.

I picked the Strategist next because it's the next most classic, typical leader after the Visionary.  It's someone you think of when you imagine a military leader or someone who gets things done.  The Strategist is an excellent parallel to the Visionary, as they're the opposite in many ways, but so very necessary to what the Visionary wants to do. 

In fact, unlike the Visionary, the Strategist is not vision driven.  He's need driven.  Usually it's the need of the culture rather than himself, as well.  While they may act on their own behalf, the Strategist will usually latch onto the vision of a Visionary and follow that vision until it seems impractical.  The key word to any Strategist is "pragmatic", as they will attempt to do whatever is reasonable, or in Fenix's and Raynor's cases, morally right for the situation.

The reason why Strategists are not vision driven is that they are focused on the present tense, the right here, right now.  They can have trouble imagining a future that is better than their present circumstances, unless they've been in better cirucmstances before.  This is why they are frequently by the side of the Visionary, who can help the Strategist feel like their efforts are not in vain, but are going toward a cause.  However, the present tense view of the Strategist is not a disadvantage.  It enables to see the world around them with clarity and sensibility, and take reasonable action accordingly.

The weird thing about Strategists is that they often are guarded.  It can be hard to get into their minds.  Fenix demonstrates this with his optimism.  How does he really feel about becoming a dragoon?  We don't know.  He's too busy being cheerful and changing the subject.  Also, when Fenix is volunteering to stay behind and keep the fleeing Aiur refugees safe, both he and Raynor give almost no indication of how it feels to be left in a situation where they are highly likely to be overwhelmed and killed.  They know what needs to be done, and do it.  It's not that they don't believe life is valuable, it's just that they are aware life has risks, and if someone doesn't take the risk, everybody suffers.

Not all Strategists are as morally sound as Fenix and Raynor.  General Duke is likewise a Strategist, equally pragmatic about living or dying, though probably not as likely to die for the vision of the Visionary he follows: Arcturus Mengsk.  Being a sensibly minded man, Duke is simply out to get his own.  He doesn't pretend Mengsk is a good person.  He simply does what he is told to gain a level of authority, and also to just live.  Because, unlike the Visionary, he can't see the future so well, he never truly realized how dangerous it was to listen to someone like Mengsk.

Fenix is the sort of person who is very optimistic, but not because things that upset him never happen.  He's optimistic because that's the best attitude to have when something needs to be done.  Aiur is more important than his own life, so it's not so bad to be a dragoon because he still gets to serve his planet.  Rescuing others is important, so he'll cheerfully remain behind and guard the rear.  Kerrigan is coming to kill him, but he's still going to do his best to resist her, even to his last moment.  He has Protoss warriors under him, and he's got to show a good example for their sake.

See, the attitude of the Strategist is priority, and they are very willing to disregard what they want or lesser priorities for the greater good.  They can even be thought of as cruel in their seeming disregard for consequences.  They aren't disregarding consequences or pretending that opposing opinions don't matter; they're simply doing the best they can with what they have, and if that means sacrificing things, so be it.  Thus, emotional trauma and dramatic brooding over choices is not apparent to those around them, and these are generally a good deal reduced even internally.

Strategists are present tense, but they're also event by event.  Meaning, that the Strategist isn't heading towards a goal at every second of his life, unlike the Visionary.  Strategists do what they need to do for a given situation, then recede.  If no large situation comes their way, they remain at the sidelines, more or less content with whatever is around them, major disasters aside.  For example, if the wars in Starcraft had never happened, Fenix would just be some guy on Aiur, getting whatever promotions and jobs due him.  Raynor would just be some marshal on Mar Sara.  Neither of them would have gained any importance or fame were it not for their circumstances.  Strategists work best either in tough circumstances or under Visionaries, as both of these give the Strategist a proper excuse to exercise his abilities.  It's hard to be a Strategist when you're just choosing between going to the movies or going bowling.

To be healthy, a proper Strategist has to be able to be content when his talents aren't being used.  He has to be able to enjoy ordinary things, like just hanging out with friends or a nice beer on the back porch on a sunny day.  Fenix never really has a moment in the games where his talents aren't required, but it's easy to see that he gets no real thrill from fighting or killing things.  Raynor also would be content just to still be a marshal, dealing with petty crime, volunteering at barn raisings, and fetching runaway cattle -- or whatever it is they do at Mar Sara.  An example of a malcontent Strategist is General Patton, whose longing for battle was really his own longing for significance and desire to get things done.

And, while we're referencing other things outside of Starcraft, Merry the hobbit shows himself to be a Strategist at the end of the Lord of the Rings book by providing strategy for the hobbits to reclaim the Shire, and also by pointing out practical things periodically through the book.  His clear thinking, even when deathly afraid, enabled him to help Eowyn destroy the witch-king.

Strategists work best when they are closer to people, and when they can see how their orders are affecting the people they have authority over.  Their pragmatic minds always keep them concerned about details and showing a good example.  Strategists are the leaders least likely to be hypocrites, as they are aware their behavior affects others, and they tend to do what is logical, believing that reasonable people would do the same things they do.  Even Duke isn't a hypocrite, and isn't surprised when others prove as power-craving as he is.

All Strategists take pride in their followers, and see their men as a part of their efforts.  This is precisely why a Strategist should not be promoted to the absolute highest ranks of authority, though they can do well fairly high up.  Highest authority tends to be distant and detached from the people that follow it, and doesn't have a clear picture of what is happening to those who do what they are told.  Strategists, from their detail orientation, pride, and concern, simply have to be aware of things.  They want to.  They like knowing when they have done well, and they like addressing the concerns of their people. 

Being taken away and promoted too highly takes the Strategist away from the people he cares most about, and forces him into a sterile cage, where he must learn to come to conclusions based on advice from lower authorities, when he would much rather just get out of his ivory tower and just go find out for himself.  A Strategist must be a General, not a President; a franchise manager, not a CEO; and a Praetor, not a Judicator.  They're fine in the lower ranks as well, as long as they feel their abilities are being given the opportunity for use.  After all, Strategists are all about learning, and in battle situations, being on the front lines is quite the educator.

One disadvantage of Strategists is that can be disrespectful of higher authority, seeing it as a load of bloated bureaucrats who can't get anything done, or else as ineffective know-nothings who, if they had any sense, would do exactly as their Strategists tell them.  In this regard, Fenix shows his quality by not (that we are shown) rebelling against the Conclave, but simply being pragmatic and joining with Tassadar without drama.  He wants to get stuff done, and sees immediately that bickering with the Conclave is pointless.

However, not all governments are as simple as the Conclave, and not all Strategists are as thoughtful as Fenix.  To use a real life example, General Douglas MacArthur frequently disobeyed and manipulated his authorities simply to get what he wanted done during the Korean War.  In the end he had to be fired, because he would not listen.  It is primarily due to the machinations of Strategists that conventional wisdom says all militaries should have civilian leaders; an improper Strategist can do a lot of damage when he has the nation's firepower in his hands, and can use a metaphorical bucket of icewater over the head from time to time as he may get too wrapped up in what he's doing to see the bigger picture.

Strategists work best surrounded by people they care about.  They work worst alone.  This is shown in that Fenix's and Raynor's mistakes in the final missions of Brood War; they didn't have the vision to realize that Kerrigan was planning to gain authority for herself at the expense of everyone else.  They thought it made strategic sense to use Kerrigan to stop the Earth Directorate from taking over the K Sector.  The Strategist can get too close to a situation, and thus lose sight of the bigger picture: Zerg have only conquest in mind, and Kerri's still a Zerg.

By alone I also mean the Strategist should avoid having no one under his authority or no one to care about.  As a rule, Strategists tend to ignore their own needs, and by having others around them with similar needs, they can remember that they too are human (or 'Toss), and aren't invincible strategy machines that can operate indefinitely.  This is very apparent in Raynor.  If Raynor had no one around him or to fight for, he'd probably just drink himself into a stupor and disappear into oblivion.

Fenix, as long as he is able, follows the example of Tassadar, his Visionary of choice.  This represents the best position of a Strategist: following along someone who is trustworthy and can see a future better than the present.  After all, a Strategist isn't fighting a war simply to fight one, but to ultimately win and put the war to an end.  Strategists need to remember that it's not always about the journey, and in fact the journey would be pointless without a destination.  Having men around them they're concerned about helps in this regard, as does having higher authorities that remind them they are in fact working towards a goal.

The quick version:
The Strategist: The detail oriented leader who focuses on getting things done.
Key word: Pragmatic
Focus: Present
Authority level: Upper-middle to lower
Operates best: As a hands-on authority
Operates worst: Alone
Potential weaknesses: Rebellion, contempt for the less knowledgeable
Ultimate vulnerabilities: Loneliness, over-focus on details.

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