Win the internet
It's hard enough to admit it when you've screwed up, but it's even harder when you're running an in-game guild. The culture of the internet dictates that you never cede a point to another person, and the day you see the words "I was wrong," are probably the day the internet will implode upon itself. Any time two people have a disagreement, whether it's on a forum or in-game, discussion degenerates into incoherence, and everyone who participates ends up doubling and tripling down on their points, even if they're clearly wrong.
Guild leaders sometimes fall into that trap as well. They might have made a bad judgement call on something, and end up spinning things to justify the decision or digging in to defend it. Leaders often get pushback, and they need to be prepared to hold their ground when they feel they're right. But there will be times when a leader knows he's wrong, and wishes he had the chance to do things over. Those are the times when doubling down can actually do damage to the relationship between the leader and the members.
Admit it honestly
There are times when a leader makes a mistake, and everyone knows it. Those are the times when the best thing to do is own up to it and admit that you erred. It's very hard to do that, because there's a fear that if you make a mistake and admit it, the guild will lose faith in your ability to lead. If you're making mistakes left and right, that's one thing, but if you have been running things with a clear vision and an even hand, it's not the end of the world (or guild) to fess up and announce when you were wrong. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. If you've made a pretty obvious error and fail to acknowledge it, members will cling to it and become more wary of any controversial decisions you make down the road. Admitting it allows you and the guild to get over it faster.
It's tempting to try to mitigate an apology with a bunch of excuses, but it's best to avoid this tactic. The apology is the most important part, and chances are that those affected will understand the reasons for the decision anyway. As soon as you say "I'm sorry, but..." you're watering down the apology and you risk sounding insincere. It's better to address what went wrong and come up with a plan of action to make up for it.
Fix it if you can
Usually, it's hard to reverse a call. Just like a baseball umpire, guild leaders usually can't undo a decision. You can't fix a bad loot call by taking the item away from the one who received it. You can't rewind a battle to get a do-over on a poor command. It's great if you are
able to reverse a call, but in cases where you can't, perhaps you can make up for it in other ways. If you can fix it, make sure to follow through and do it. But even if you can't, there's a good chance that your ability to admit your mistake and your apology will be enough to maintain the trust of those affected.
Really good guild leaders aren't perfect, because no one is perfect. The best guild leaders are the ones who have the courage to admit when they've made a mistake, and work towards righting the wrong. Trust is a big part of establishing a successful guild, because if members don't trust the leader, they'll leave in an instant. Even the best leaders get it wrong sometimes, but they are willing to own up to it and do their best to fix it. Members come to understand that the leader has the best intentions and is doing what he thinks best for the guild, and they can accept a few bumps in the road along the way.
Running a guild is a tough task because there are plenty of times when there's no black and white and no clear path. Luckily, there are more and more resources available to help share tips and advice on running a guild. But the role of guild leader can often feel like you're making it up as you go along, because each situation has its own set of circumstances. It takes courage to admit an error, and the best leaders are the ones who are able to do just that.
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.