Family: A social unit where the father is concerned with parking space, the children with outer space, and the mother with closet space.
The other night, I was with my Raid Team and suddenly, I was a very funny guy.
We were pulling some trash on the way to the boss and I had thrown out a quick one-liner and it was a hit. People were laughing! It wasn’t really a great line nor was it a “you had to be there”.
Have you ever wondered why, when you are with certain groups of friends, that you are the funny one? Have you ever noticed as you shift from groups that you seem to have a different role in a group, perhaps they look to you for leadership or another group may need you keep the peace.
Dontcha worry, Uncle Wrath is here to explain it to you. Once you understand how a group dynamic works; then you’ll see how you, without changing who you are, are forced or welcomed into different roles in a group.
It is most easily explained by the Archetype of a family; a father, a mother and their two sons.
The father is quiet and provides an environment for the sons to grow. He is the provider. He is also the voice of authority and has the ultimate final say. The family willingly follows his decisions.
The mother nurtures and keeps everyone together. The mom is a great organizer and keeps the kids from squabbling and is a shoulder to cry upon, a confidant.
Son One is the dreamer, the visionary and gives the group direction. He is the moral compass with lofty ideals and goals. He is an awesome leader, a natural at leading.
Son Two is the clown, trickster and risk taker. He’s the funny one. He keeps things loose in contrast to the tight Son One. Ultimately, it is a balance.
That’s it, the family archetype. The deal is: every group has to (and can not control or stop it) fulfill these roles. No matter the size of the group. These four roles do exist with any group that is together for any period of time. It is as true and dynamic as the idea of Alpha and the idea of pecking order — we can not help it, avoid it or dismiss it.
Let’s take a Raid Team for example. Typically it is between ten and fifteen players who meet twice a week and play for three hours. With time, the roles of the family archetype are filled and people get comfortable. You’ll notice that mostly it’s only four people who talk and make decisions. The Raid Leader is often the Mom (by the way, it has nothing to do with which sex you are; a man can be a Mom and that is okay). There will be one person who organizes the group. There will be one person who sets the standard for excellence (Son One) and has typically done his homework on the boss. Son Two will keep the group loose. Dad will tell us when to wipe it up.
In a Raid Team, outside of the Four, there are other players. They find themselves comfortably and quietly playing and supporting the group and having a great time. Think of the times when you were in a Faculty meeting and had a strong voice — but at the meeting with the Board of Trustees, you were quietly in the corner.
The more complete human being (if you will indulge for a moment) is the personality that can easily shift between roles. Some Moms can only be Moms — they force everyone to revolve their worlds around Mom. We’ve all seen that.
The next step is awareness. Noticing that you are the Funny Guy and the group is expecting you to cut up some. A smart Son Two will tweak Son One and give a lot of respect to Mom and Dad and give everyone else a hot foot. And the group will love it. Knowing who you are is important.
The family archetype is not absolute. There are plenty of blurred lines. A healthy family will have ever shifting roles.
The ideal is to have strong personalities in each role. If you have a super strong Son One with no balance of Son Two to temper him, the direction of the group can become extreme and perhaps fail.
The thing to look at is that the family archetype is in every group dynamic. Sports, politics, theater groups, choirs and criminal organizations too.
There is an ugly side to this group dynamic. If the trickster is an Alpha, then that teen age group might do reckless and stupid things. Of the four, one will be Alpha and lead the group.
A mom is an awesome Alpha. This person can organize huge groups, I don’t know, Mothers Against Drunk Driving is too easy, Mom is in the name! Any big organization that is successful has a Mom at the helm.
I wonder sometimes about the great military leaders. General Patton must’ve had an amazing Mom who organized all of his troops. Patton would be a Son One, visionary and with the moral compass. Patton had the quiet approval of Dad, the President of the United States. If I were to study Patton, I can promise you that there was a Son Two, perhaps another general who kept things balanced so Patton was not a fanatic.
The Beatles had no choice, there were four of them. Paul was the Mom, keeping everyone together. John was the dreamer. George was the quiet Dad. Ringo was the clown. Paul was such an amazing Mom that once the Beatles broke up, he organized Wings and made a bunch of hit records.
When Phil Jackson came to the Lakers to win five more championship rings, it was an amazing dynamic. His first year, he’d call time-outs back to back. He’d get kicked out of games. He’d poke at his players and use the press. And then he sat down. He sat down and was Dad. He let Kobe go all Son One and Alpha and had the drive to be great. I wonder, did he FORCE Shaq to be the clown? Derek Fisher was such a good Mom, he became the player rep for the players union.
In Theater and Television, story-telling, the dynamic is typically Son One and Son Two. It is Laverne and Shirley, Oscar and Felix, Two Broke Girls, Hawkeye and BJ; with situation comedy, the humor is often from the players in the wrong roles (but that’s another story).
Sometimes there are groups within groups. Sometimes people are not aware of their roles (quite often!). Have you ever seen a temper tantrum by a child (or adult, even better) and it bothers no one? That person was not one of the Four in the group. If Dad is upset, everyone worries.
For amazing success, you want all four roles to be filled by strong people. You want the Alpha to be Son One.
The beauty of the World of Warcraft is that there are guilds and raid teams. The group dynamic can be enjoyed because so much of the physical is gone. The hot chick who distracts everyone is simply a voice on a head-set or a person typing in the chat line. In our guild, we even have a player who reminds us (at least once a week) that he is 6’4″ and weighs 240 pounds. He is used to his size playing a role in a group dynamic!
We are not professionals in the game. We are players, often on after a long day at work. Not everyone has a “personality” and some struggle to simply finish a sentence. With a good Mom and Dad and the two Sons, some people can take those roles and learn to flourish and be better at life. We can, as leaders, create small groups at let someone be in a role — and grow as human beings. Think about that.
In some real families, the children have to be the Mom and Dad; taking care of their parents as they are falling apart. We’ve seen it. The roles have to be filled, we can not help it.
The next time that you find yourself the funny guy. The next time that you are surprised when your decision is not questioned. The next time you are nurturing your group. The next time that all look to you to lead. Know your role, embrace it and be a person.