I find a lot of interesting parallels between GMing and Management. Not just in terms of how there are similarities between them, but also in terms of how people perceive them.
Work any amount of time in a technical field and you’ll discover that there’s a reason that people will keep reading Dilbert no matter how often it re-tells the same joke. Management just gets in the way of people doing what they should be doing, after all, and their motives are highly suspect since their priorities are not the same as the engineer’s. Management doesn’t get it, and they make the wrong technical decisions because they are not technical, and things would work much, much better if these decisions could be made by technical people because they’re not mired in this bullshit.
For a lot of people, this accurately reflects their experience. They’ve had the kind of management that inspires pointy-haired-boss stories, and as a result, that is what they expect from management. Statements to the contrary, talk of things like leadership or teamwork, are obviously just buzzwords used to manipulate those who don’t know any better.
Some people have had good managers. Bosses who step up for them, communicate when appropriate, and who do all the things to help make sure that their work is not just technically correct, but meaningful. They make sure shit gets done, and even when they push you, you get to the other end and thank them for it. They nurture their employees, and push them further than they’d push themselves. They bring people together in ways that allow the word “synergy” to be used without irony. It’s unhip to say it, but they lead, and in doing so they demonstrate that leadership is something much more nuanced than standing in front and shouting orders.
People who have had these managers want to repeat the experience, and they chafe hard under managers who don’t live up to this example. But they chafe even harder when no on is even trying to do these things because they’re just stupid management stuff. But for all this, the first group is likely to think the second group is delusional, or are sheep who aren’t smart enough to know they’re being misled (and the second group tend to look at the first like they’re talking nonsense).
You can imagine how well that goes.
But I mention this because the same can be said of people’s experience with GMs. Some have had nothing but pointy-haired-GM experiences, while others have had fantastic GMs. As with management, each group tends to assume that this is how the world works, and looks down their noses at the other people.
You can probably imagine how well that goes too.
Now, I like this parallel. Like GMing, management is an inexact science, and an IMMENSE amount of work and thought has gone into it. There are levels and types of management that require different ideas and nuances for how to do things right (a project manager is different than the manager of an autonomous team is different than the day manager in a call center) but there are still certain underlying ideas (like, say, TALK to people) that emerge throughout. This parallels GMing nicely, since running PTA is different than running D&D is different than running a LARP.
Now, we don’t have the language to talk about GMing the way people can talk about management, at least not yet. That makes a lot of things pretty rough, but I am finding myself thinking that it might be worth turning an eye towards business literature to help clarify the distinctions that we carry around, but don’t communicate.