Guild leadership is a tenuous social construct. It's all volunteer. It's based purely on someone's commitment to a community of people, most of whom they have never actually "met." It's based on their continued enjoyment of a single game, over months and years. When you look at it that way, it's amazing how stable and long-lasting some guilds can be, thanks to dedicated and enthusiastic leaders.
This week's email, unfortunately, is about a guild in a different situation. It's from an officer who, after a series of mishaps and disappearances, is the last leader left.
First off, let me say that I'm a huge fan of your column, it's helped me out a lot in the past. I'm currently one of 3 officers in a midsize guild. My guild has recently been hit by a perfect storm of bad events over the summer.
The guild's raid team has seen moderate success since the end of Cataclysm, enough to keep 8 people interested in raiding. However, we haven't been able to fill a raid team since Mists of Pandaria launched.
I'm the PvP officer for the guild, but our Guild Master put a horrible new rule in place (disallowing any kind of guild events on Raid Nights) in January that send our entire PvP team off to another guild. Ever since then I haven't been able to recruit and gear enough people to make a full team.
All of the issues started at the beginning of June, when our Guild Master started logging on less and less. He'd only log on for raids, but after a few weeks, he stopped logging on at all. In addition to that, one of our 3 officers stopped logging into WoW completely in mid-June. My colleague and I just kept trying to drive up guild activity with events, gearing nights, and raids, just trying to keep the raid team afloat.
During July, I decided that it was time to purge our roster, something that our GM had failed to do effectively in the past. Within a few days of scheduling that, the Guild Master contacted me via Remote chat, and told me that I wasn't allowed to kick anybody that hadn't logged in for 6 months or less.I asked when he planned to get back on WoW, but he never gave me a response. I haven't heard from him since that. My purge of inactive people took the guild from 900 people down to 570, but, most of the remaining 570 were inactive, leaving us with a core base of 150 or so players, counting Alts.
Soon after the purge, the other officer had a serious injury, and hasn't been able to log in since, leaving me in control of the guild. Due to real-life events, I can't lead a raid team, nor do I have the knowledge and experience to do so in this expansion. Guild activity has dropped over the summer... I've tried to schedule events, and some people sign up, but never come. Some of our talented players have been recruited by other guilds, due to the lack of raids that happen, and our most social players hardly log on at all. ...
At the time of this writing, it's a month since my GM has logged in, and due to the changes that Blizzard made, Guild Dethrone won't happen for 60 more days. I've tried to recruit, but there's very little allure in my guild, when it hasn't progressed very much in Throne of Thunder. Among the remaining guild members, there is speculation that the Guild master has abandoned us, but when they ask me I have no answers for them. I've asked some of the few active people for help, but many of them don't want to assist me with running the guild and scheduling activities.
I've been with this guild for 3 years, and I don't want to see it die, but I can't see any solution to increase activity and replace my vanished GM. Can you offer any help?
Hi, FL. That's really an unfortunate turn for your guild. It's a testament to how crucial active leadership really is, and how a leadership vacuum can suck the life from a guild. I give you credit for trying to keep it going solo.
However, I don't think you're doing anyone any favors by trying to downplay the guild leader's absence. Everyone can see what's happened. If they are asking you about it, then they've noticed.
I know that your instinct is to make it seem like everything's just fine for as long as possible, because you don't want to lose more members than you already have. Sometimes, when you know a fix is on the way, it can be better to hide the background problems.
In this case, though, you have no fix. You need help from your current members if you're going to turn the guild around.
Step 1 is to come clean. Tell them exactly what's been going on with the other officers, especially the guild leader.
You need help. You can't possibly sustain a guild of this size on your own, even if you could lead the raids. Without promoting some officers or just finding members to pitch in, the guild is slowly going to deteriorate.
The decline of a guild has its own momentum. Once it begins, it's difficult to turn that around and build momentum in the other direction. The longer you wait to ask for help, the harder it's going to be.
Yes, your revelations may cost you some members, but the immediate quitters, by default, are the least committed members. You need to appeal to the members who actually want to save the guild.
Step 2 is to find those members who are willing to help you. If no one wants to help, if your pleas fall on deaf ears, if everyone collectively shrugs their shoulders and goes on about their day, well . . . In that case, the guild isn't worth saving. It will be a painful truth to learn, but it's better to find out now than after months of hard work on your part. It's not worth killing yourself for a community that doesn't care.
The guild leader's shadow
The guild leader probably won't like any of this, but he doesn't have to. He hasn't been fulfilling his responsibility, and he hasn't even had the courtesy to reply to your queries. When you get down to this point, the only officers who matter are the ones who are working to save the community. His opinion is irrelevant.
I'm glad you went ahead and did what you thought was best for the guild with the roster cleanup, despite your absentee leader's express "order" not to. You have to act as if he's not coming back until you receive any evidence to the contrary.
That raises an important question for you. If you get the help you need, do you want to build your current guild back up, not knowing whether the guild leader will return? Or should you reform under a different name? I suppose it comes down to whether or not you want to be the guild leader, or if you're content to hold the fort until (and if) the old leader returns.
I will warn you, however: you could put a lot of effort into saving the guild, only to have the old guild leader come back and start making sweeping changes that undermine what you've built. It's happened to other officers. A missing guild leader is a wild card in situations like this. He could return only to balk at whatever changes you've made and then tear apart the whole thing. Until those 60 days are up and the active leaders gain full control, the shadow of his possible return will be cast over everything you do.
You should also consider his past decisions. One of those cost the guild its PvP team. His priority is clearly raiding, over and above anything else. Is that the kind of guild you want to be in? More importantly, is that the kind of guild your members want?
Of course, reforming the guild has its own risks. Will members follow you to a new, Rank 1 guild when the first one didn't have much going on? You'll have to convince players that you have a vision for the new guild and you'll do everything in your power to help it succeed.
If you decide not to reform, I would highly recommend demoting any and all absentee officers as soon as you're able. You don't want an awkward situation when they come back, and there's always the outside chance their accounts could get hacked.
Once you have officers or volunteers, you have to stop the bleeding and begin the rebuilding process. In this case, you could continue to serve as the PvP officer. You'll need to find a raid leader who's committed to getting a team up and running. Then both of you, along with whoever is willing to help, has to go out and find the players you need to make the guild an active community again, on both sides of the game.
Whatever you decide, I wish you luck with it!
Officers' Quarters keeps your guild leadership on track to cope with sticky situations such as members turned poachers or the return of an ex-guild leader and looking forward to what guilds need in Mists of Pandaria. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.