The Leadership Game
By Geoffrey James

(Business 2.0) – Videogames can be a powerful way to instill real-world skills. The U.S. Marine Corps has used Doom to teach battlefield tactics, and a recent survey revealed that doctors who play videogames made 37 percent fewer mistakes during laparoscopic surgery. It's no great leap, then, to conclude that the tools that make better soldiers and surgeons might also make better corporate warriors.

Virtual Leader is a training game from SimuLearn, based in Norwalk, Conn., that drops aspiring managers into the cubicle-lined corridors of a company in financial trouble. Instead of blasting aliens, players take meetings. In each scenario, they are asked to solve a business problem while managing a variety of different (read: difficult) personalities.

Since it was first introduced in 2002, Virtual Leader has found a home at companies like Hilton Hotels, United Technologies, and Verizon. Think you have what it takes to become a high scorer? Find out in these sample simulations. -- GEOFFREY JAMES


Uh-oh. The troops are whining about salaries again. Rosa found out that Jack earns twice what she does; now she wants to dump coffee on his head. They're fighting, but you need them both to work unpaid overtime for the next two weeks to complete a big project. What's the best way to get the team working together?

A HASH IT OUT The anger between Rosa and Jack will fester if you don't get all the feelings onto the table. "We need to be a team in order to succeed, so let's talk this out."

B HUMOR THEM Salaries are a loaded topic, so nudge the discussion back to the business at hand. "Sure, salary policies seem inconsistent sometimes. But if we get this next project out on schedule, we'll all benefit."

C REGROUP, REFOCUS Squabbling over salaries is a waste of time when there's so much to be done. "This is a business meeting. Stop whining about the money, and let's get back to work!"

ANSWER: A discussion about salaries will only increase tensions; forcing everyone to concentrate on the new project will make you seem insensitive. Instead, agreeing that there may be a problem (option B) defuses the anger while holding out the possibility that successful completion of the project could lead to salary adjustments.


Danger, danger! Your company has been acquired. The new management team wants to reduce headcount. Your team is the best in the business, but you've also heard that your job might be on the block. It's Saturday morning, and you're in an emergency meeting with your new boss to discuss near-term strategy. What's the best way to save your skin?

A GET ONBOARD Supporting the layoffs will make you look like a team player. "You're right, we probably could save money if we get rid of some deadwood."

B EDUCATE HIM Praise your well-trained staff so your new boss will understand why layoffs are a bad idea. "Have I told you about the national engineering awards my team won last year?"

C REINVENT YOURSELF You have a wife and kids, so start looking for a place to hide. You've heard that the human resources department is staffing up to oversee the layoffs. "I've got experience handling the legal issues surrounding layoffs, so you should assign me to HR during this difficult transition."

ANSWER: The new boss is worried about reducing costs, not winning awards. Jumping to HR makes you seem like a lightweight. Going with the flow (option A) shows that you have an open mind. Besides, final staffing decisions won't be made for a while, so you may still have time to persuade the new boss to retain your best and brightest.