Kambei is the first samurai we're introduced to in the film and the main character. He's experienced, patient, and a natural leader. He's the one who pieces together the group of samurai who are needed to protect a village from bandits, and it's his judgement and personality that keeps the motley group on the right path. His role is two-fold because in order to successfully drive out the bandits, he has to manage the personnel required to do it. That often means he's as busy instructing the villagers and even the samurai as he is with the task at hand. Guild leaders often have the same role -- managing the members and guiding them when needed in order to accomplish the guild's overall goals.
The loyal learner
Katsushiro is a young, untested samurai, but he makes up for it with his devotion to the cause and his willingness to follow instruction. Often, guild leaders will come across candidates who are somewhat of a blank slate, and it's hard to get a good read on whether they'll be good members. But sometimes it's worth taking a risk on someone who might not be the best player but is a good team member.
Kyūzō hardly says a word, but he doesn't have to. He's only interested in one thing, and that's perfecting his craft. He's the best samurai on the team, and all he's really interested in is getting better. In the film, the bandits have the upper hand because they have three muskets, while the samurai and villagers have none. Kyūzō goes off on his own to the bandit camp to retrieve one of them, and when he returns several hours later, he simply hands over the musket, very businesslike, and sits down for a rest. Every guild has members who are skilled, but the ones who do it without showing off or talking about it are the real keepers.
Gorobei is the brains behind the group. He's a good samurai but an even better strategist, and he helps come up with the plan to defend the peasant village from bandits as well as train the villagers to protect themselves. In guilds, you often have lots of people who think they know everything -- how to play each class, how to kill each mob, and what the best gear and specs are. But when everyone's kicking the ball, so to speak, you end up with chaos and arguments. It's important to have someone at the lead who can wade through the chatter and get everyone on the same page with a plan. He doesn't have to be a firebrand, though -- Gorobei wasn't, yet he had a commanding presence, and when he spoke, people listened. That's what you want from your tactician.
The right-hand man
Shichirōji is an old friend of Kambei's, and he ends up joining the group to fight with him once again. He's the sound board for Kambei, and the two know each other well enough that they can speak frankly. If you're running a guild, you need someone whom you can talk candidly with, someone who can tell you when you're wrong without making you feel defensive about it.
The sunny personality
Heihachi is the morale booster. No matter how bad things seem, he's able to turn spirits around and make people see that the cup is half full, even when there are just a few drops of water. We've often talked about how guilds are endurance runs and how it's hard to keep those peaks and valleys nice and smooth, but having someone like Heihachi in the ranks is a big step toward guild longevity.
The sincere loose cannon
Kikuchiyo is the hardest candidate to gauge, and it's no wonder that Kambei reluctantly let him join the group. He has good intentions, but he's tempermental and doesn't always express himself in the most polite way. He actually becomes the central figure of the film, though, and in a guild, he can also become one of the key members, but that's not always a good thing. In the film, his impulsiveness leads to trouble, such as when he leaves his post at the village in an attempt to copy Kyūzō's successful retrieval of a musket. His poor judgment leaves the village exposed, and the bandits take advantage. But at the same time, he has good intentions, and wears his heart on his sleeve. The samurai learn from him at times and understand that his high emotions are often for good reasons.
This type of guildmate is not always an easy one to manage, and guild leaders have to weigh the potential for drama with the benefit of having a Kikuchiyo in guild. He's the type that requires some guidance and probably a few stern talks, but he's also the type that can keep a guild energized and lively. There are times when the tone of the guild can become bland, and even the best morale-boosters in the guild have trouble keeping spirits up. That's when a Kikuchiyo becomes handy, even necessary.
Each of the seven samurai brings important qualities, but it's when they're together as one group that they're most effective. There's a weird synergy that happens, and their personalities, while vastly different, begin to complement one another. If you look at successful teams, whether it's in sports, business, or elsewhere, you might wonder how on earth such different people work so well together. It's that variety that ends up being the key to it all, and if you find these samurai for your guild, scoop them up! You'll be thankful you did.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.