What Final Fantasy Tactics Teaches Us About Leading Teams

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Teams are an essential part of success in organizations, large and small. Are you a manager leading a team of 9 or less employees? I know exactly how challenging it can be to build and maintain a team this size. The larger the team, the more complex it becomes to manage. For smaller teams, I look to one of my favorite turn based strategy games: Final Fantasy Tactics.

The Best Team Members Are Smarter Than You

Leveling up your characters in Final Fantasy tactics, giving them proper equipment, and teaching them techniques and spells to give an advantage over the enemy always pays off.

You want smart people on your team. If you know more about every job than your employees do, you are in trouble.

In the same way, leaders should look after the safety of their own employees, grow, and equip them to be wildly successful.

Sure you run the risk of losing them at some point, but which is worse to have?

  • A well-developed character/employee that may one day leave


  • A poorly developed character/employee that won’t leave

(Hint: no one wants a team of poorly developed individuals)

Problems Need Solving, Monsters Need Slaying

Customers represent problems that need solving. I know that it is very tempting to see the final fantasy tactics leadership lessons video games allegamycustomers as the monsters in this allegamy, but the monsters actually represent the problems that the customer has. Problems that need solving (which is why the customer has come to you).

In order for you to successfully help them, you need to make sure that you were taking care of your team.

If you send one of your characters into battle without the right equipment or with low hit points you’re guaranteed to lose them very quickly. You may lose time while you take precious turns to revive the fallen party members and heal them back to a functioning condition.

Once they’re gone from the match the remaining characters have to work harder to overcome the same challenges. Everyone suffers.

These precious turns could be used for defeating enemies, but instead are used to recoup for poor planning and attention placed in the wrong direction.

Just like in Final Fantasy Tactics, the level is not cleared until all the monsters are gone. Showing up and doing just the bare minimum is not how a team builds a reputation for greatness. Are there monsters still in the field?

Then get slaying.

How will you do that? Focus on your team.

Build Your Team

In Final Fantasy Tactics you have 4 regular slots with the ability to have a guest member. You begin the game with a set team, but you are soon given the chance to add characters to your roster.  In total, you can have up to 15 regular character slots, but the focus will be on the core 4 team members. When building your team, you can select based on two attributes: Faith and Bravery. Aside from those two traits you will need to grow and develop all other skills.

In the workplace, 95% of your success as a team will depend on the people you hire. Software company Valve describes hiring a new team member as “the most important thing you do.” That is a bold statement, but accurate. Every hiring choice you make will strengthen your team or weaken it.

So what is the most important trait to look for in a new team member?


Being able to get along with the rest of the team is essential. The best talent with a poor attitude can sink your entire team. You can always train skills, but poor attitude is difficult to recast and worse yet, it is contagious.

Take your time to make the hire. I think Brian Tracy hits the nail on the head when he stated: “If you hire in haste, you repent at leisure.”

Grow & Develop Your Team

In Final Fantasy Tactics, your party members have the ability to level up and change job classes. What this means is that with intentional effort, you can increase their strengths and abilities, and in the case of job class, you can open up entirely new skill sets and actions.

Growth happens as you have characters repeat job-specific functions. Each time they successfully use a skill, they gain experience points (JP) that allow the character to grow in their job and also learn new skills.

Development happens as the character grows in a specific job and a new job is unlocked. The character can continue growing in their current role, or they can change jobs to develop new skills and abilities.

The parallels are pretty direct to workplace teams. You grow your people by giving them a chance to practice their skills and learn new skills related to their existing job. You provide a chance to develop when team members can cross train or transfer to a new job. In both situations, the entire team benefits from the expanded capacity of your team.

The Right People Doing The Right Things

This particular point is obvious in video games, but strangely ignored in many workplaces. In Final Fantasy Tactics, to win you must assign actions to job classes that make sense. Your Priest class is an expert in healing, but poor when it comes to direct attack. Your Samurai job class can dish out some serious physical damage, and Archers are most useful when attacking from a distance.final fantasy tactics leadership blame

The most successful teams are made of many roles so that the final team is balanced, rather than every team member needing to be well rounded.

Which do you think is more powerful? A team of experts with amazing strengths that compensate for each other’s weaknesses or a team of individually well-rounded but ultimately mediocre skills across the board?

The key is to make sure you have each of your team members doing what they do best. I know this is not always possible, especially for smaller organizations or when there is an open position in the workplace, but as much as possible do your best to play  to strengths.

Put The Team First

You are preparing for an important battle. You have selected your team and you are in position to engage the enemy. What is next thing you do?

If you want to win, you start checking: equipment, character status (is their health full? What about their magic?), the best combination of people in the party for dealing with this particular enemy, item stock, and perhaps you even consult a guide to make sure you have the correct strategy.

The point is, you go in prepared and with a focus on your team.

When a character takes damage, you heal them. You help them develop and grow so that as a team you can all win. Your success is directly related to the strength of your team as a whole. In the business world, the same is true. The leader often gets credit for the win, but the individuals on the team can make or break the outcome.

The wise leader gives more credit to others and takes more of the blame for themselves. When you have the right people on the team, when they have the right skills, and when you have them doing the right things and the team still loses a battle – it is not their fault, it is the leader who used the wrong tactic.

When I add a member to my team, I don’t get mad about them lacking a skill, I find out how I can help them develop it. Their job is to have the right attitude.

Maybe you are in the position of the team member – here is my advice: don’t wait for your leader to develop you, that is your own responsibility.

When it comes to success and leadership, it all boils down to personal account ability (learn how to leverage accountability HERE).

What is the biggest challenge you have faced while leading a team?

  • My biggest challenge is happening right now. While I’ve been in a support leadership position, there are big changes happening and it’s time to step up. The big challenge is to help our youth group survive the coming transition between youth leaders, once again, and see it through to success.

    • Jon

      significant change is difficult – especially when an entire group is involved. What actions are you taking to smooth over the transition?