Coaches, managers, and principals often pick up team leadership lessons in interesting and unexpected places, and the other day I was introduced to just such a moment while learning how to play Temple Run.
My children were playing the popular game, and after quickly getting hooked on the game myself, I recognized at least five very useful leadership lessons that the game offers.
For those not yet familiar with the game, it is available as an app on your iPhone or iPad, and has become nearly as famous and enthralling as angry birds was a few years ago, but the premise of the game is quite different. You are running, much like Indiana Jones, from a temple carrying a golden idol and being chased by huge ape-like creatures.
You must turn right or left to stay on the path and then occasionally (and increasingly more often and more quickly) leap over or slide under obstacles. You can collect gold coins as you run and also can collect a “power-up” of invisibility and speed. You reach different levels as a runner over time and by accumulating gold.
The game is addictive, and in the midst of doing my best to at least come close to my 8 year old son’s high score, I realized that there are five very applicable lessons the team leaders can take away from the experience. While I would imagine that many of the people on your team are already familiar with the game, it may be interesting to discuss the ideas listed below as part of your next organizational discussion.
Here are my five team leadership lessons from Temple Run:
1. Success is often simple, but seldom easy. Temple Run only requires that you swipe the screen up, down, left or right to survive and continue running… but simple can be difficult to do consistently! Remember that consistency is the true measure of success and while many can succeed for a brief time, it takes commitment and discipline to survive and reach “new levels.”
2. Rewards are a part of the journey. The gold you collect in the game is useful for purchasing new tools to get further in the game – but the game is not about reaching a destination… it is about enjoying the journey and finding value along the way. What we get as leaders is seldom as important as who we become and what we remember from the adventure along the way.
3. There will always be more turns and obstacles. The environment and surroundings may change, but there will always be new problems to overcome – and that is part of the excitement and enjoyment of leadership. You keep moving forward through each turn and obstacle and become a better leader with every one that you maneuver over, under or around. Even when you get a “power up” that makes you invincible for a short time, you know that the reality of another set of challenges waits ahead, no matter how many levels you master.
4. You cannot cheat or automate your way to true greatness. My son learned of a way to cheat from one of his friends, and soon showed me a high score that was unbelievable. Instead of hovering around a few hundred thousand, his high score had jumped to over a million! The trick was that he swiped the screen three times quickly when the runner neared a turn, and it sent the game into a mode where he ran without any obstacles – and you could just leave it on and return to find yourself with an astronomical score. But true greatness is not automated, and you get no pride from false victories, cheating, or cutting corners with your conscience.
5. Failure is a learning experience… and never final. Obviously, when I started to play I found myself falling into pits, being eaten by alligators, and splatting my face against trees because I did not turn when I should have. But just as in athletics, business, and life – failure is a chance to begin again more intelligently. Learning that failure is feedback is essential to reaching higher levels – and you must be willing to be bad at something long enough to get good at it… for if frustration causes you to quit, you will never be the leader (or player) you might have.
I hope you can identify with at least a couple of these lessons and apply them to your specific team situation. There are certainly ideas that this or another game may have inspired you to consider, and I would love for you to share them in the comments section below.
For those of you who aren’t a fan of Temple Run, it is very likely that my daughter will soon convince me to add Jetpack Joyride to my app list. She swears it is even more addictive than Temple Run, and it may give me another excuse to play, to compete and to hopefully pick up a couple more team leadership ideas to share!
– Sean Glaze has enjoyed motivating athletes and inspiring teams for nearly 20 years, and has consistently turned under-achievers into winners – both on and off the court – with his practical tools and focus on great relationships and team-building. As an experienced author, speaker, and team-building coach, Sean entertains and influences audiences with a unique blend of dynamic content, interactive activities, and practical action steps. Learn more about the business teambuilding events he provides, or follow him here on twitter.