What makes Commander Shepard such an inspiring leader

Published on 13 Feb 2023

I've been playing Mass Effect Legendary Edition for the past couple of months, starting with ME1, progressing through ME2 and finally playing through ME3 and there's something so compelling about the lead and player character, Commander Shepard.

She (or he, if you play as a male Shepard) has this uncanny ability to attract the brightest and most capable of team members who, if you gain their loyalty, follow her to the ends of the galaxy to defeat their common enemy.

I usually play as a Paragon, with some Renegade conversation options thrown in here and there, depending on the situation, but no matter which route you take, Shepard is one of those deeply memorable characters that makes a lasting impression on you.

I have no use for team members who can't think for themselves

— Commander Shepard

I cannot remember where exactly Shepard said this, or in which game, but it stuck with me. It's a harsh thing to say and in today's society you cannot go around saying things like that about people, because it might offend someone, however in the context of Shepard's situation during the events of Mass Effect 1 to 3, it makes perfect sense. Would you want to have a squad member who cannot think for themselves in life-threatening situations?

The nature of my work is not military, nor do I find myself in life-threatening situations at work (thank God for that), yet this quote is highly relevant. I've been in a tough situation where a team member wasn't pulling their weight and I was tasked with overseeing their progress and giving them tasks. I will go as far as to say that this team member was utter dead weight and wasted many hours of my time and drained my mental energy. I failed this team member and myself, because I could not adjust to having to carry someone and manage to be efficient and effective at my own work. At that time, I was in the middle of writing third-year exams as well, so the added stress of having to babysit someone who claimed to have specific skills (which they did not) got me down. If I only had been as bold as Commander Shepard with my superiors, maybe the situation could have been salvaged and this team member could have been moved to a department or role that suited them better.

I learned from this situation that I should be more frank and bold, not try to appease and act indifferent for the sake of politics. My internal peace was so disturbed that I shut down my emotional centres to conserve energy so that I could handle the stress of being utterly helpless more efficiently.

Commander Shepard is not a politician

Being polite has its place, but Commander Shepard has no time for pleasantries when the galaxy is at risk. What I love about Commander Shepard is how she has a way of being direct without being a complete jackass (except when you take on a more Renegade approach). That's the kind of eloquence I want from a leader, someone who does not beat around the bush and says things like they are. She's smooth-talking, but without hidden agendas.

From my own personal experience, politicians always lie and talk around things. They're wolves in sheep's clothing and what you see is definitely not what you get. Whoever wrote Commander Shepard did an utterly stellar job developing a genuine character who can be diplomatic, yet not political. She stands up for what she believes, gets the job done according to her principles, and does not let politics dictate how she does her job.

Shepard also listens to people, trying to understand what is going on and make the best of a potentially disastrous situation. She trusts her squad to help her solve problems and provides them with the means to get their jobs done. She doesn't question them, but gives a firm hand when problems arise and settle disputes in a diplomatic manner. At least, when you play as a Paragon. I think I should replay the entire series and take a Renegade approach. Perhaps my perceptions will change, perhaps not.

Commander Shepard is approachable

I've noticed how Commander Shepard's allies and team members feel they can approach her with problems and ask for advice. This is an important quality in a leader, because a leader should provide guidance when there is no clear path forward. Supporting your team in their endeavours leads to building a more cohesive team and productive environment. I am grateful to leadership at the place I currently work at for fostering this mindset. My manager is approachable and I feel that I can bring issues to light without being judged or shot down.

There are a lot more I can say about what I like about Commander Shepard's leadership style, but these are just the things that stood out to me.

I can't wait to see what the next Mass Effect game throws at us, I have my own theories about Commander Shepard's presence, so one can only wait, hope and see...

Bad ass Commander Shepard in Cerberus headquarters with EDI and Liara