I consider myself pretty much a loner in real life, but I don't enjoy soloing in MMOs; I never have. What I really did like to do was to joke around with people while someone else provided a nice selection of fun activities. My only job here was to show up, really.
This took me through my first few years of EverQuest. I played a druid and then a rogue, and all I had to do was show up. I was super replaceable, too. My game life matched my real life, in that it turned out I was super replaceable at my current real life job, causing a sort of wandering around the state of California and eventually Connecticut while I struggled to fix my life.
I eventually started playing healer classes in EverQuest, then WoW, then EverQuest 2, because I liked feeling needed, but not necessarily essential. Healers keep the group going, but by themselves, typically struggle. As such, the role is typically eliminated in action RPGs and some MMOs (like Guild Wars 2) in order to make sure everyone gets their fill of jumping around like maniacs, and nobody has to sit in a corner and be quiet and heal.
Lately, I've tried to take more control over the direction of my life. Perhaps I'll stop being ashamed of existing at some point, get over my traumatic childhood, and just be a real person for a change. This has been mirrored recently in MMOs, as I've moved to enjoy the tanking role. I swapped roles in EQ2, moving from a bard to a berserker/tank. I liked it, and in Neverwinter, went full tank. Now in Final Fantasy XIV, I went tank and haven't looked back.
A group gets defined by its tank. Last night, Omuro was doing Stone Vigil with a poor tank and everyone suffered. I'm a noob, but I can learn, and when Kas and I did Stone Vigil on our own with two dps (both of whom were new to the dungeon), it was smooth. Because I paced the group, told everyone what to do, trusted Kasul to keep us all alive and the dps to do their jobs, and just… led.
Today in a RL meeting, the group was settling on a super vague mission statement, and even though I'm just a minion, I was able to take what I learned leading groups in a game, and proposed (and got adopted), a very specific mission statement against which we can actually plan. And now I will be part of a planning meeting to which I was not previously invited.
So… the question is… are MMOs making me a more effective leader, or am I taking personal growth outside the game, back into the game?