In a rare overlap, today's post combines rantings and ravings on my leadership style with a very specific tool from Dungeons & Dragons.
The alignment chart.
I know, I know, I just did a D&D thing last week, but this is a bit different. It's an exploration of the way that I think about things that just happens to use something from D&D to illustrate my point.
Honestly though, this blog is called People and Pandemonium and I promised to combine this sort of stuff in weird ways right on the box.
You knew what you were getting yourself into when you started reading.
Hey Nonny-Nonny And A-here We Go
Role-playing is hard.
Putting yourself into the headspace of an entirely different person or thing is strange and alien. In order to help with that mindset shift, D&D has a number of systems built into it. They aim to provide prompts and guidance and to get you thinking outside of your own experiences.
One of these systems is character alignment, which is a simple two-axis system:
- Law -> Chaos
- Good -> Evil
Intersecting those two axes results in the following well-accepted combinations:
- Lawful Good
- Neutral Good
- Chaotic Good
- Lawful Neutral
- True Neutral
- Chaotic Neutral
- Lawful Evil
- Neutral Evil
- Chaotic Evil
This typically manifests as a 3x3 matrix called the alignment chart.
If you've spent any appreciable amount of time on the internet, you've probably seen the alignment chart applied to just about everything, from characters in a TV show to real life.
It's very much a meme, though it has somewhat fallen out of popularity in recent years.
To use it in the game is simple: select one of the squares on the chart for a person or thing and then use it to help understand how that person or thing might react to a situation.
A lawful character is likely to follow the letter of the law, even if it's sub-optimal for them to do so. An evil character is selfish and will gladly screw other people over even if it doesn't necessarily help them in the long run.
That sort of stuff.
Like everything, people tend to take it too far and get stuck on it, but I think it's a decent system for prompting thought and supporting role-play.
But what in gods name does it have to do with my leadership style?
I Roam Around The Office Looking For Fights
In my head, I see myself as something of a Chaotic Good manager. A rebel with a heart of gold, keeping an eye out of the good of the people around me (staff, customers, doesn't matter who) while still trying to do the best I can.
Partially, I think it manifests as a general disregard for authority, especially if the authority takes the form of someone or something that expects to be obeyed without giving appropriate reasons or context.
To me, this is a healthy approach. It's all well and good to start by assuming that an institution or system has your best interests at heart, but you need to do your due diligence and not just blindly follow along hoping for the best.
I get a bit of cognitive dissonance from that though, because sometimes I am the authority. I try not to tell people to do things without explaining my reasoning, but it can get challenging at times. On the upside, I have the fear of being a dictator always present in the back of my mind to keep me in check.
The other way that it manifests is a willingness to put people above just about anything else. If a situation comes down to a choice between making someone or something suffer to achieve a specific outcome and letting the outcome slide but protecting that person or thing, I know which choice I'm going to make 99% of the time.
It doesn't mean I'm not willing to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal, it just means I'm not willing to force others to do things that I wouldn't do myself.
Honestly, if I were the owner of a business, I'm not sure I would want a Chaotic Good manager.
Except maybe Atlassian.
How convenient for me.
Wasn't Your Alignment On The Other Side?
In truth, I'm probably not Chaotic Good enough. It's an attractive piece of mental imagery, but it doesn't really fit when I reflect on myself.
I'm too systems and process focused. I like structure and reliability and consistency. I rail against chaos and want to apply order to it, not because it represents a personal ego trip to tame the discord, but because I honestly think it leads to better outcomes.
So, I'm probably closer to Neutral Good, with a bit of a rebellious streak.
I'll happily work with institutions or systems if I think they are supporting the greater good, but will gladly abandon them if I don't think they are providing value. I still very much value overall "goodness", but I'm not disorganized or out of sync with the people around me.
It doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Chaotic Good, with its imagery of a Robin Hood-esque figure, breaking the unjust shackles of an indifferent or self-absorbed regime, but there is a subtle greatness to be found in balance as well.
To walk the line, selecting the best parts from both sides and making them work for the greater good.
There Must Be Another Way Of Doing A Summary
Of course, the idea of alignment and the labels that go with it, are a gross oversimplification of reality. They exist in order to help you make decisions in a role-playing context of a game.
Applying them to real-life is a fun exercise that can act as a useful thought experiment, but it's ultimately just that: a fun exercise.
People and things are far more complicated and nuanced than a two word alignment allows for, with a hundred different shades of grey built up from a lifetime of experiences, trauma and all sorts of other things.
Labels are easy and comforting, and this one is no exception.
I like the mental image that Neutral Good provides. I like the idea of presenting myself as a Neutral Good manager.
But I'm not going to use it to help me make decisions.
That sounds like something a Chaotic Evil person would do.
Special thanks to Kirk Mapperson because I'm pretty sure he came up with the name of this blog post when I was canvassing for names for my blog almost a year ago.