A paper I read recently (“What Leaders Really Do” by John Kotter) made a great case that a leader’s value is not solving problems or organizing people but leading your company through change. I have been in senior executive positions for a while now and am sometimes left speechless when someone asks me what I actually do. The paper helped crystalize where I, and you, make the biggest impact on the company. Given all the changes game companies go through (I remember the days before cell phones and when MySpace was the primary social network), the ability to understand and adapt your company to these changes is the most valuable skill you can provide; just look at all the game companies that have failed to adapt to a changing environment, from THQ to 38 Studios to Midway to Oberon to Atari.
Leadership is not management
One important issue to keep in mind with leadership is that it is not management. They are two distinctive and complementary systems of action. Both are necessary for success in the game industry (and woefully lacking at many companies). In the article, Kotter points out that many companies are overly managed and underled. The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management (not necessarily with the same person or people) and use each to balance each other. Continue reading “What leaders actually do”