Companions or plot devices?

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At a dinner last year with several authors/speakers/consultants I hold in high esteem, I was delighted to uncover a shared love of fantasy and science fiction novels. And here I thought I was the only geek in my field.

Since I was a kid, I’ve held a deep love for fantasy novels. There’s┬ásomething captivating about an underdog character with strong values and untapped talents overcome seemingly-insurmountable odds… oh, and dragons.

Like most genres, fantasy books follow a fairly predictable narrative flow; unassuming hero stumbles (seemingly by chance) into a sweeping saga that will take him or her well beyond the boundaries of their previous life and into a series of increasingly important adventures, whereby our hero learns that perhaps it wasn’t accident after all that led to their central role in a quest to save the world/village/galaxy. And, in all great stories, the hero is accompanied by a humorous/supportive/challenging gang of secondary characters. Some characters end up coming along for the whole ride, growing into important companions on the journey, while others seemingly exist┬ásimply to advance the story, and then fade back into obscurity.

So where’s the relevance to a blog (predominantly) focused on leadership in the 21st Century?

Meeting a new character for the first time – be it through the pages of a great TOR novel, or in a boardroom meeting – you never know for sure how major or minor a role they might play in a quest. Whether they’re gatekeepers, apparent villains (but later discovered to be good hearted and noble) or trusted champions, we never know whether someone will make a short term appearance in our stories, or stay with us to for the long haul. But does it matter?

I believe we benefit greatly when we keep an eye out for those with similar quests or a particular enthusiasm for our own quests. People like to join quests. Quests are exciting and, in the most important of quests, victory is most often only achieved through the collective efforts of a team.

Share your quests openly. Some will oppose you – these folks are plot devices; their very existence makes your story more interesting. And some will join you – these are your companions; it is only through adding their unique skills to the mix that you can typically achieve your goals.

Look for those with unique skills and strengths that are attracted to your mission. Not only will you create a more well rounded team, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun to imagine you’re working to identify wizards and elves in your next boardroom meeting.


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