Frontline Leadership
By Anthony Casperson

Divinity: Original Sin is a role-playing video game, released by Larian Studios in 2014. It follows the exploits of two individuals who are tasked with hunting down the murderer of a high-ranking official. The thing is that the murder was obviously performed with the aid of a powerful and dangerous type of magic called Source.

Along the way, the two characters gain up to four other companions who tag along. Though, only two of them can join you at a time. Your party follows the typical RPG standard of leveling up as you progress through the story. You can increase your ability with armor, weapons, and other defenses. Special abilities like those for bow users, rouges, and magic users (who use less dangerous forms of magic than Source) can be augmented. Even social skills like how well you barter with others, lockpicking, and crafting have a leveling system.

But one of these social skills gave me reason to pause and think for a minute. This one skill is called Leadership. You might be wondering why a skill called Leadership caused me to contemplate. We all understand leadership, don’t we?

The reason I paused while reading the description of this skill is because it has nothing to do with our typical thought about leadership. Usually, we think about leadership as something along the lines of the power to make people do things. An average person will assume that the one who acts as leader is able to cause others to perform their will. And this comes because of some innate ability, whether that be because of their charisma, their strength, their rank bestowed upon them, or something similar. It’s often considered that leadership means giving orders that others follow.

But in this game, Leadership is others-focused. It’s not about making the other party members do something. Rather, as long as the leader is in sight of the others, the skill gives benefits to every other member of the team. It boosts how quickly they act in battle as well as how well they perform. And depending on the number of points placed in Leadership, it can increase the other party member’s defenses and willpower. In some of the highest levels, it can cause the others to be immune to fear.

It’s a very different perspective on leadership. One that has nothing to do with the power to command others. It gives responsibility to the one with leadership that requires them to place themselves in such a location that everyone else can benefit from their leadership. That place is often right on the front line…in the line of fire. And they don’t gain the tactical advantages of their own leadership, like the others do.

I believe that this perspective on leadership is not only a healthier direction for the role of a leader, but also a biblical one. We followers of Jesus often hear about “servant leadership,” a thought about leadership that says those who lead are to be willing to give their all for those under their care.

We point to Jesus and his work on the cross. The One who leads the Church followed his own words from Mark 9:35, becoming first by being the servant of all. And those who prepare for such a role are reminded to serve others in a like manner.

But I believe that referring to it as “servant leadership” doesn’t complete the picture of leadership that Jesus illustrated to us. A leader’s service doesn’t just end with helping raise others in what they do. It also requires a responsibility that takes the hit for those who follow. Jesus took on our hell so that we might have a right relationship with God. He took the greatest hit of all.

The author of the book of Hebrews writes, in the final chapter, about this responsibility even as they give commands to those who follow. In Heb. 13:17 the author tells those who are led to obey and submit to those leading them. Those English words carry baggage, so I should probably explain them.

The word translated “obey” is something along the lines of “allow yourself to be persuaded/convinced” by those who lead. Essentially, don’t be the kind of person who is suspicious of every motive from those who lead. Don’t make them work harder than they have to.

And the word “submit” here gives the idea of “give right of way to” those who lead. Let them cut in line. Give them the ability to speak first. Allow the leader to position themselves in such a way to be beneficial to all who follow them. Let the leader take their place on the frontlines.

And why should those who are led do these things? It’s because leaders have a responsibility to seek the welfare of those who follow them. They have to give an account for the well being of not only themselves, but everyone who follows. If they’re not placed in the frontline, then it could be detrimental to the community around them. And when it comes time to pay up for that problem, it’s all going to hit them.

Leadership isn’t about power, it’s about taking the hit when things go south. It’s about being the one responsible for the issues. Everyone else in the community can stand back and duck. But the leader doesn’t have that privilege.

And anyone unwilling to take the hit is unworthy of leading.

When we view leadership not as power to command, or even as merely serving the need of others, we can find leaders who run to the frontline to protect those who follow them from the fallout. And they can be helped by those who are led, when given the ability to run free of “friendly” obstacles.

So, if you are one who is led by another, are you letting your leader take their position without hindrance? Or are you making the job tougher than it needs to be? And if you are one who leads, in any format, are you just sitting back and giving commands to others? Or are you running to the frontlines ready to take the hit?

The answer to that question will prove who is truly a leader.

Leadership symbol in Divinty: Original Sin