Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beware the Middle Management of Second LIfe: Poor Leadership Plagues the Virtual World

Hey, this might be part one in a series called 'Having a Career in Second Life: Are You Crazy?' - Gina

I'd have to characterize my 'career' in Second Life as a series of wonderful accomplishments punctuated by occasional brushes with ineptitude.  I can count those brushes on one hand, so they are infrequent, though traumatic in each case.

As you work in SL, doing whatever great things you envision, you will undoubtedly encounter what some people call 'drama'. I am not talking about drama (an overused term anyway). There are cases wherein I'd use the term appropriately, such as the 'drama' that many trolls cause on purpose, due to malevolence or incompetence. But again, this in not the subject of this article.

With the day-to-day 'drama' you may encounter, chances are you have reached a point where those issues don't even bother you. They are inconsequential. They are ephemeral.

No, I'm talking about the secret 'glass ceiling' of Second LIfe. SL's Middle Managers.

As you do your good work, and aspire to do better, you may reach a point where you encounter a certain cadre of residents. These are residents like any other, save for the fact they envision themselves as something far more. They envision themselves with more power, more influence, more credibility. This is not a problem on its own, and after all, there are people with more power, influence and credibility. The specific phenomenon to which I refer is rather insidious, because in Second Life, many of the Middle Managers dont have the maturity, ethics or experience to actually be responsible.

This is a dangerous situation because you may have very unqualified and possibly toxic personalities in 'positions' within Second Life that affect many people.With power, influence and credibility these people should have responsibility, yet too often I see that this cadre of residents lacks any positive leadership skills to fulfill the 'job' in a responsible manner.

Effective leaders excel in communication and listening skills, engage with their group, have awareness and facilitate creative investment from the members. This is a rare occurrence within the Middle Managers of Second Life. Too often, these Middle Managers are arrogant, unresponsive or outwardly destructive. Amazingly, as one would think the virtual world might 'lead the way' when it comes to networking and group dynamics, when you reach a certain level, you see the opposite is true. Top-down management, micromanagement or complete alienation are all common practices of the Second Life Middle Management. Sometimes it seems that Second Life is stuck in a 100-year old management style.

It doesn't help that the administration itself (Linden Labs) has, within its conduct, some of the worst practices of toxic management style. However, you don't even need to examine the practices of LL (which is another, admittedly more complex issue), to see the problem with the so-called Middle Management.

Typically, the Middle Managers of SL are self-appointed, though not always, such as in the Linden Endowment For The Arts, where they are hand-picked by the Lab. And not all of them are poor leaders, but if you are going to embark on a SL career, be prepared for the worst.

Realize that the Middle Management of SL has, within its population, some very unqualified and outright toxic personalities. These are residents who will stop at nothing to maintain their imagined positions. Always stay alert and never move too quickly. Never get too involved with them. Keep your privacy intact. It simply isn't worth risking the chance that a toxic personality will invade your privacy.

In group dynamics, Trust is always one of the most important topics. Be careful with your trust. These Middle Managers are simply not always responsible enough to value you as they should, and could turn on you within seconds. Keep a nice distance that is safe and be ready to stand up to defend what is right, despite the odds. Realize you may think you are working with someone at least as mature and responsible as you, but those facts may change quickly.

Tip: Maintain your own publicity and marketing, to survive whatever damage the Middle Managers may attempt to cause.

My career in Second Life has been largely fruitful. As I stated, the instances of toxic Middle Management have been few.
  • Back in the early days of Zindra's formation (the adult continent), both Lias Leandros / Blady Bommerang and Counter Landfall / Gavin Hird quickly revealed themselves to be toxic personalities that were self-imagined Middle Managers.  Because of their lack of responsibility they caused great damage. They tried to control or shut down conversations, acting as if they were authorities well beyond their actual positions. Their 'work' alienated countless residents, negatively impacted business and social aspects of SL, and directly led to the destruction of community on the adult mainland.
  • Within the LEA (Linden Endowment For The Arts) there was a small minority of Middle Managers who exercised unethical behaviors and almost destroyed the organisation through manipulation and political maneuvers. Because LEA is 'propped up' by Linden Labs, it survived, but nevertheless kept some of the same Middle Management. The legacy that is left is one of corruption, and a negative publicity sting that doesn't seem to be reversing.
I think a career in Second Life is a viable concept, if you have great ideas, perseverance, and the ability to perceive the danger of poor Leaders in advance.
Positive leadership is rare in SL.
Keep your eyes open. - Gina

1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of experience with drunks in RL so I have no problem in SL dealing with people. Plus I'm We're usually the ones causing the "mayhem" :-).