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Gone are the days of dictators and autocrats in the workplace. These days, successful leadership is about working together and allowing all voices to be heard. Such skills are remarkably difficult to teach, but surprisingly easy to learn by doing. Which is where gamification comes in…

A universal problem

Businesses cannot thrive without effective leaders at every level and in every department. Poor leadership dents financial performance, results in lower employee engagement and productivity and – ultimately – leads to staff turnover. Are you scared yet?

Click here to read the 2021 Global Human Capital Trends: Special report where Deloitte show how the worker-employer relationship has been disrupted. Another example of how the new generation of leaders face a new set of of challenges. And as we know, new challenges require new thinking.

An unexpected solution

Traditional teaching methods – lectures, seminars and video terminals – simply don’t work with folks who’re fretting about Instagram likes and Candy Crush leader boards. The answer, of course, has been staring us in the face all along. Instead of moaning about employees’ obsession with Farmville and Facebook, forward-thinking companies the world over are taking their cues from social media and games when creating leadership development programs. With stellar results…

Incorporating game-like aspects (challenges, rewards, leader boards, recognition, interaction) into leadership development programs doesn’t just make them more appealing to employees, it also renders them far more effective teaching tools. All the research shows that adults learn best via experiences.

More than just a pretty face

Don’t be fooled by gamification’s frivolous reputation, either. Early adopters the world over (lightweights like the US Army) are convinced that gamification is more than capable of meeting the serious challenges of leadership development. Gamification works, posits Rashmi Sasidharan, because it introduces a believable context; involves practice and collaboration and is eminently memorable. “Combining the use of gaming and simulation technologies with psychology-based leadership development offers exciting opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders,” concludes a report published by Deloitte University Press.

Different strokes for different folks

Recent research published in the Harvard Business Review identified six distinctive leadership styles from which leaders should pick and choose, namely:

  1. Coercive: “Do what I tell you!”
  2. Pace-setting: “Do as I do, now!”
  3. Coaching: “Try this.”
  4. Democratic: “What do you think?”
  5. Affiliative: “People come first.”
  6. Authoritative (not to be confused with authoritarian): “Come with me.”

Of the six styles, the first two are generally seen as doing more harm than good and should be used sparingly (in a crisis, perhaps) if at all. The most effective leaders use a combination of styles 3 thru 6.

A match made in (gamification) heaven

This all dovetails superbly with gamification and its focus on six distinct player types. By catering for an array of player types, gamification is the ideal crucible in which to forge new and diverse leadership traits.

For example, gamification tasks designed to appeal to Philanthropist player types are ideally suited to developing Democratic leadership traits. Similarly, aspects designed to float Socialisers’ boats will work wonders in nurturing the Coaching leadership style.

The final word

There’s a reason pilots learn to fly on simulators not in real planes. Gamification is a mighty effective tool for developing self-awareness, honing alternative leadership styles and learning how to identify which style is most suited to each situation. The best part? You won’t be looking for debris on the ocean floor if at all goes Pete Tong!