When Players Meet with Crisis
By Jeff Darville and John Hardy
Everyone is born to play the game of life, but life is much more than a game. Some people choose not to play, others watch, some choose to make their own game, and many of us can not help but compete.
In every game, players must learn the rules and how to play well to win. The big game of each society is a competition for money, power, and status. In this “Game” the people who make the rules win the game. In order to gain power, one must abide by certain rules in order to advance. Those who see every aspect of life as the Game that must be won are “Players.”
In the Game points for Players are measured in status and money. Business and politics take place in organizations that serve to create a collective group effort in order to accomplish overarching goals. These organizations are designed to serve the purposes of the Players in the Game by crafting rules that benefit themselves.
When measuring the boundaries of the group, an organization can be described as a circle. As the system matures over time the inner circle closes, and the odds of the leader being a Player approach 100%. Under a normal range of circumstances this is far from optimal, yet remains sustainable. In the case of a crisis, however, the situation changes, and a different set of rules applies. Crisis demands competence, fortitude, and wisdom; collectively all of these can be described in a single word: character.
Character and virtue are usually conceived of as individual traits. Religious and philosophical texts across cultures recognize attributes of personal morality to be important correlates of individual and collective well-being (Dahlsgaard, Peterson, & Seligman, 2005; Park & Peterson, 2003; Peterson & Seligman, 2004). We are a collection of ethical strengths and weaknesses which define the use of our abilities and impact those around us for better or worse. Objective morality provides standards for behavior that we are judged on. Our adherence to these values and duties aggregate into our moral character and direct our actions.
Character just happens to be the quality of which the Player is singularly lacking. The Player has no capacity to do anything other than play. However, in the case of a crisis, there is no game left to play. There are no clever moves to make. There is no way for them to bluff their way through a real problem. Decisions have to be made, plans have to be implemented. They might not be popular, in fact over the course of time it is almost certain that they will not be.
This is precisely the point at which the Game fails.
The recent Coronavirus crisis has been a perfect example of this very fact. Those at the top, for instance in Canada such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the national level, and the Premier of Ontario Doug Ford on the provincial level have been found to be singularly lacking. Interestingly, the one is emblematic of the Left, and the other the Right. Yet in the face of adversity, they were both exposed as being the same: Players. They had a script, but nothing behind it. In the United States during 2020, President Donald Trump established the Coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence and headed by the NIH Director Anthony Fauci and Response Coordinator Deborah Birx. Recent revelations in emails show that this group was not forthright or scientific in crafting a national strategy to deal with this virus.
The response in both countries was anemic. All artifice and no substance. In some cases, the ploy was political correctness or the message was populist. But under the pressure of the circumstances both gave way and the result was a series of knee-jerk solutions, lies, cover-ups, and corruption. One can think of no better validation for the Game. These people were more interested in insulating themselves than the people they were sworn to protect.
Character is a set of traits that one possesses which has outward manifestations that affect relationships with others (Wright & Goodstein, 2007). Because humans are social beings we live and work in the community. Whether you are highly independent or from a collectivist culture, ethics can be measured from a behaviorist, inter-active, psycho-social perspective that emphasizes the way that you treat other people. We can see if you are willing to do what you say you should do when push comes to shove and the rubber hits the road.
During a crisis character is revealed.
Leaders who are not just another Player are able to avoid the constraints of the Game, rewrite the rules, and take action to provide real solutions.
Dahlsgaard, K., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Shared virtue: The convergence of valued human strengths across culture and history. Review of general psychology, 9(3), 203-213.
Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2003). Positive psychology as the evenhanded positive psychologist views it. Psychological Inquiry, 14(2), 143-147.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol. 1). Oxford University Press.
Wright, T. A., & Goodstein, J. (2007). Character is not “dead” in management research: A review of individual character and organizational-level virtue. Journal of management, 33(6), 928-958.