Firstly, I'm pretty sure (say, about 90%) that no one will have a problem with me taking over. I get along with most of the people I'd be delegating the everyday things to anyway, (they've already volunteered to do it under the current regime). I know where I want the guild to go. It's probably going to involve a merger or an alliance, so it's not like I'm going to be GM for long (unless I end up in charge of the whole shebang, eep!). With the GM's permission I've already started seeking guilds to look into this aspect.
My question is, if I do end up with the mantle, how do I ease the transition? I'm a very different person to our current GM. They're pretty relaxed and groovy. I'm more of a missile seeking the goal type. I'm a bit no-nonsense, let's get doing, which the guild is unused to, and I don't want to rub anyone up the wrong way. I also don't want to meander any longer!!
I've left this guild and come back already for the people, because they're what make the game fun. I don't want to leave them in the mire any longer!
It sounds like your guild is in a pretty bad spot, and it is fortunate that you and at least one other person want to take on the responsibilities of ultimate leadership. When a guild leader quits, it can mean doom for a guild if no one else wants to lead it. You certainly seem motivated to help your members accomplish their raiding goals, and you have a plan for doing it. All of that is certainly to your credit.
However, it sounds like you are making some big assumptions here. The first thing that stood out to me is that there is another person interested in the job. He may not be a "missile," but he may be the preferred choice of the membership. It doesn't sound like you've consulted anyone about it. "Getting along" with the members isn't necessarily enough. Of the two people seeking the position, does one of you have the former leader's blessing? That would make a big difference in how you are perceived.
Something else that concerns me is that you've already quit the guild once and then returned. What were your reasons for quitting? How did that go over? When a guild is struggling and people quit, leaving the remaining members to their fate, they aren't often looked upon kindly, even if they regret it later and rejoin. Are you certain that there isn't some lingering resentment about that?
Finally, I have some reservations about the direction you intend to take the guild. You plan either an alliance or a merger, and you seem fine with the fact that the merger might simply mean disbanding the guild and joining another one. You say you've had the leader's permission to begin making inquiries toward this end. However, is joining another guild an outcome that the members would favor?
Step back for a moment and look at your situation from another perspective. There may be members who see you in this light: Here's a member who left us at one point, but now has come back, and who wants to take over the guild in order to disband it and merge us with someone else. It's a grim viewpoint, and potentially somewhat exaggerated, but you must consider that there may be members who feel this way.
You wrote to me, "I know where I want the guild to go." But is that where everyone wants it to go? Before you simply assume leadership, touch base with the average members and find out. Would they have confidence in you as the guild leader? Do they want to merge, or would they prefer an alliance?
If there are two of you who want to become the guild leader, how about letting the members choose between you? It's an election year here in the U.S. -- why not hold your own? Present your respective visions of the guild's future and let the members decide who they think would be best for them.
I would guess that you'll probably lose some more members no matter who takes over in the end. But this way at least you'll know you tried to do what's best for the majority and have a chance to retain the larger portion of your current player base.
The only way to ease the transition of a new leader is to know ahead of time what your players want. If you aren't the person who can provide that, or you disagree fundamentally about the direction of the guild, you can't possibly succeed. Being the guild leader isn't about what you want. It's about what the guild wants!
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!