Byron's Babbles

Leading Like Yahtzee

Last week in our first gathering of our newest cohort of Florida 3D Leadership Program participants, we were discussing leadership being like chess or checkers. The participants even played chess and checkers while having the discussion. We had some great discussion related to this considering things like you must know your opponent, players have limited movements, checkers is at a smaller level, checkers and chess have different missions, playing chess is more like be a principal, playing checkers is more like being a teacher leader, and strategic movement/placement. Then, one group discussed that they thought leadership was more like playing Yahtzee. The game of Yahtzee then came up again in another discussion. I finally had to come clean with the group and admit I had never played Yahtzee or even knew how the game was played. Of course after the gathering was over I had to look up the game of Yahtzee and found that the group was right, there are leadership characteristics contained in the game of Yahtzee.

Actually, on the surface Yahtzee appears to be a simple game. Each player gets thirteen turns to complete their score card. The top section of the score card consists of numbers 1 thru 6. You need to roll three ones, three twos, three threes, etc. to get your “minimums.” You could also roll four fives (or four of anything), which comes in handy if you were only able to roll two threes on a previous turn. The idea on the top section is to score at least 63 total points, so you can get the 35-point bonus. If you get a “Yahtzee!” you score 50 points. That’s when you get all five dice to be the same during your turn. Some players focus solely on getting Yahtzee at the expense of everything else. Some people really work hard count on getting the Yahtzee. From my studying, however, a balanced scorecard is more beneficial to winning the game. Balance is important in leadership as well. In education for example there must be balanced effectiveness in governance, financial health, student performance and achievement, or teacher effectiveness. Concentrating on any one of these and forgetting the rest would be disastrous to the school.

Yahtzee seems like a game of chance. It’s much more. It’s a game of decisions and imperfect trade-offs. Wow, doesn’t that sound a little like leadership. So, there is actually some genius in comparing leadership to the game of Yahtzee. We must at some point fully form our approach to decision making. Success, failure, decisions, and sacrifices are in play with every turn while playing Yahtzee. Excellent practice for leading in real time. The game of Yahtzee is completely random. But, as leaders we know that sometimes completely random things happen. Therefore, something completely random and driven by chance can be, as we can learn from playing Yahtzee, be managed within a solid set of priorities and strategies. Do you have other ways you would compare playing Yahtzee to leading effectively?