What Does It Take to Be an In-Game Leader?

Knowing your role within your esports team and why it matters.

Posted Sep 20, 2020

Markus Spiske/Unsplash
Source: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

It’s not enough to have the title of a leader on a gaming team—we must know what the actions of a leader are. If you’re aspiring to be a leader like Gla1ve, Karrigan, N0tail or Ceb, then keep reading. We’ve touched on leadership in a previous blog post (what esports teams need to know).

Being a leader is a vital yet highly demanding role. To be a great leader you need to truly understand your role. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Think about any kind of role you've had in a team, like in a group project you may have a researcher, a scribe, a spokesperson, etc. The difference between the team being a well-oiled machine or a mess can be the extent to which everyone truly understands their role. The same applies to team-based esports and leadership. If you don't understand your role then a difficult journey awaits you!

Why does knowing your role matter?

Put simply, not knowing your role is like trying to complete a task while blindfolded. Traditional sports research has highlighted the negative consequences of not understanding your role:

  • Higher anxiety - The less clear you are about your role in offensive situations (e.g., on the attack), the more likely you are to experience competitive anxiety.
  • Lower role satisfaction - The less you understand your responsibilities, the less likely you are to be satisfied with the role; and the less satisfied you are near the end of the season.
  • Lower self-belief - The less you understand your role, the less confident you are in carrying out your role.
  • Weaker performances - The less you understand your role, especially understanding your responsibilities, the less likely you are to perform the role well

To be an In-game leader (IGL) you really need to understand your role. You may be thinking, what do I specifically need to understand? Here are four areas you need to be crystal clear about. 

Responsibilities

When entering the role of an IGL, you need to know what are the duties, expectations and responsibilities of that role. Some IGLs may have the duty to be the peacekeeper of the team and maintain team morale. More typical responsibilities in CS:GO (Counter-Strike: Global Offensive) are being the key decision maker and shot caller, involving deciding on the best strategies before and during engagements. Another expectation of an IGL may be to keep the team united, both on and off the game, and to ensure that the team is progressing.

Behaviours

Once the IGLs responsibilities are understood, the IGL needs to understand what behaviours are associated with these responsibilities. For example, in CS:GO, to be a decision maker and shot caller you need to outline the best way to take the bomb site or the best strategy to defend your area. You’ll need to communicate where certain grenades should be thrown, where your teammates should position themselves, the enemies movement positions, when the team should rotate, etc. Players such as Stanislaw have been shown to engage in behaviours such as scouting the map and seeking information for the team during the beginning of a round, so they are able to act accordingly through the round and devise strategies. Additionally, the IGL needs to communicate how the team’s economy will be used (i.e., how much money to save in-between rounds and if certain guns, grenades or other items should be purchased).

Other behaviours include providing words of encouragement, like the occasional “Nice” that’s been seen in CS:GO tournaments after a successful team engagement. It also includes providing constructive feedback during scrimmages (i.e., training) and after competitive performances. IGLs and leaders in general can organise team meetings and elicit meaningful discussions. For example, even after their win at The International 8 (TI8) and the lead up to The International 9 (TI9), N0tail and Ceb would elicit team conversations that would touch on motivation and expectations. The list of behaviours that help fulfil the IGLs responsibilities can go on and on.

Evaluation 

Once the responsibilities and behaviours of the role are understood, the IGL needs to know how the fulfilment of these can be evaluated. Examples of this can include:

  • The amount of time the team spends arguing during feedback sessions.
  • The number of team meetings that are held a month and noting the topics of conversations during those sessions; and whether the topics are relevant to improving performance or not.
  • The number of good calls and successful team engagements made in a round.
  • The team’s feedback about the level of morale in the team before and after matches.

Consequences

Finally, an IGL needs to know what the consequences of not fulfilling their role are. The ultimate consequence is losing the round or entire game, but there are other consequences outside of losing. One example can be a lack of structure during an attack due to the leader not being tactically aware or using the intel they’ve gathered through scouting the map. Furthermore, the team members may be put in a vulnerable position and exposed to the enemy. Other consequences include: 

  • An increase in the frequency of team conflict (e.g., blaming) during and after a round.
  • Continued task-irrelevant talk when in the middle of an engagement.
  • Teammates buying items and guns that hinder the execution of a strategy.
  • Teammates wasting limited grenades by throwing them in the same place with no tactical advantage.
Edgar Chekera/PSYCH-CHEK
Source: Edgar Chekera/PSYCH-CHEK

Final words

Whenever taking a leadership role, or any other designated role within a team, ask yourself  the following questions: 

  1. What are the responsibilities, duties and expectations of the IGL for this specific team?
  2. What behaviours/actions will indicate that I’m fulfilling these responsibilities? 
  3. What are the metrics/methods of assessment that will indicate I’ve performed the role effectively? 
  4. What will happen if I don't fulfil the role well? 

Join us next time to where we talk about being physically active in the esports world!