Tanking Ego

Zahraah at Pugnacious Priest asks,

“Do you need an ego to tank? Should I roll a ‘tank’ and see?”

Lao Tzu is credited with the following quote –

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I love that quote and its variations and forgive its author for a 600BC gender bias.

To have or not have an ego isn’t an option. By classical definition, our sense of self is our ego. However, if I read the question as “Do I need an inflated ego to tank?” I can have some fun. Now our answer revolves around whether an inflated ‘sense of self’ manifested (occasionally?) as arrogance helps a successful tank. I’d say at times “yes” but in the long run absolutely not.

However, what we’re talking about here isn’t exclusively about tanking. It’s leadership. As a tank, the [simplified] job is to make sure everybody wants to smack you around more than they do your generally more squishy compatriots. Do that and stay alive and you get the cookie. I think that’s trainable through research (EJ) and class mentoring.

Leadership is much more complex and not the exclusive domain of tanks. I’ve seen some great dungeon/raid leaders that were confident, patient, knowledgeable and most importantly aware of the need to work as a team to be successful. I’ve also seen plenty of groups with poor or no leadership. In my experience, that leadership role seems to more commonly fall on tanks, but I have seen great leaders in the DPS and heals spots too.

So what about this ego issue? Here’s it in a nutshell: Leaders see the success of the group as part of the value they add. If you’re a tank and find yourself as the defacto leader AND you accept that responsibility then confidence (in the form of appropriate self esteem / healthy ego) balanced with humility (it’s not the “Mr. Tank and scrubs” show) can get even a mediocre group through difficult content. That’s not an inflated ego.

On the other hand, tanks relied upon to lead that don’t accept or understand the role can easily become arrogant (“oh it’s all up to me”), hostile (“what the hell are you thinking with that gem?”), and or just disengaged (“pulling w/o watching mana levels or group proximity”). They might be proficient tanks, but lousy leaders.

Personally, I don’t know if I’m good at either. I’ve been druid tanking for about two months as I moved from 75-80. I’ve tanked most of the Northrend 5-mans but no raids. Some people have been very complimentary of my ‘tanking skills’ and others have offered good suggestions about gear/gems/etc. I have occasionally pulled a boss too early and to my amazement, I’ve pulled before my healer is ready. I heal as Resto too and have an 80 holy priest I’ve healed on for over a year /facepalm.

I start most instances with an honest statement about how many times I’ve tanked it (either reg or heroic). Most people seem to respond very well after that. In my approach, I’ve also had to step up my game and read more about bosses and fight strategies. I also feel I need to understand what all classes bring to fights and how to best use them. Many of those skills I learned as a healer, e.g. raid wide resistances make healing so much easier.

Does any of that make me an effective leader? Only time will tell, but I suspect that the better I get at bringing out the best in the rest of the group the closer I’ll get.