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Officers' Quarters: Suffocating in a leadership vacuum

Scott Andrews

Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

A few months ago, I wrote a column about replacing a guild leader who disappeared without naming a successor. This week, the problem is slightly different: The guild leader named a successor who turned out to be a poor replacement, and the remaining officers have all but disappeared. In light of this leadership vacuum, a member of the guild wonders whether he should step up and bluntly ask for the top rank.
Hello Scott,

For close to a year now I've been part of a large social/raiding guild with a very healthy and active player base. In WotLK everything was fine, raiding went great and the guild chat was always full with friendly players so basically the guild was at its best and a great home for everyone. Probably this was very much thanks to the capabilities of our guild leader ... She was liked by many and formed the heart of our guild easily.

One day I logged in to hear from some officers that the guild leader was going on a long break to sort out real life issues. Only a few people knew how long this would take and they refused to share this information with the rest of us to respect her privacy. Before she left, one officer was appointed to lead the guild in the meanwhile. Problem was that this was a very unreliable player (he used to disappear for months without notice because he suddenly grew bored of the game) and before he hadn't been an officer and was only given the role because he was the only one to volunteer.

The only officers were personal friends of the guild leader and with her leaving they started logging in less frequently too, leaving the guild practically in the sole care of the substitute guild leader. At first he did fine, but since he had no backup from officers he became easy to push around. A new raid leader stepped up and claimed the raiding team for his own purposes: the raids never appeared on calendar anymore, he would just whisper the best geared players in the guild and pug almost half the group because he thought we were not good enough to play. This went on for a few weeks before everybody started complaining and the issue was more or less fixed.

Paradoxically, as soon as raiding was opened for everyone, nobody showed up anymore because they were too irl to make it (including me I have to admit). The raiding fell flat on its back which made recruiting extremely difficult, also because the raid leader started pugging again and new recruits were left out in the cold with the rest of us.

And that's how it's been for the last few weeks now. ... Probably the stupidest thing is that there's still a large group of officers (I think the officer ratio is 1 to 3 players right now) who have remained silent all the time since they were too busy irl to even care about raiding, let alone the trouble others were having with it. Lately though they've been talking of throwing out the current guild leader and raid leader (who's been applying with other guilds anyway) and just making clean ship and get the guild back on its feet.

Problem is that they haven't increased their activity in the guild, so I'm afraid that we'll just be stuck without any leadership ...

Now before you say "Abandon ship you fool! Run for the hills and make sure you burn everything behind you so they can't follow your trail!", I deeply love this guild. I've had plenty opportunities to leave (many of my friends joined better raiding guilds who'd like to have me) but never wanted to. And I don't even know why, because the state it's in almost depresses me. ...

Now comes the ugly part: I honestly think that I would be the best choice for leading our guild at the moment, because I love it deeply and hate to see it in this state. I've been a longtime member (and been officer/classleader for a while until, during a break, my role was given to the guy who now is our guild leader) and people know me, except for some newbies who would probably wonder where the heck I came from. Since I was officer before I know the other officers and would be able to work with them again and appoint a few new, more active ones on top.

Problem is: our guild has a strict hierarchy and it's very much frowned upon to just demand a higher rank. I don't even dare suggest to other people that I would consider taking up the leader role until the old one returns. If they take it badly I'll have no other choice but to leave. I honestly mean it when I say that I would gladly give the leadership up again once the real leader comes back. I just want to see things set right again.

Maybe right now you think I'm a jerk for trying to take over a guild that's already on its knees, and I wouldn't blame you because it would be a huge jerk move since it would involve removing a few people from their ranks ... Do you have any advise on what I should do to help out my guild to the fullest?
Your guild is in a tough situation here for sure, one that has become all too common these days. For many communities, guild leaders are incredibly difficult to replace.

My question for you is this: What do you want out of this guild?

Make it happen

Identify what you want the guild to provide. Then go out and make it happen, regardless of what your rank is. If you want to raid, start putting together raids. If you want to run dungeons, post on your guild's forums and set a night for running dungeons. If you want to just be social and encourage other people to be social, start chatting it up in /g, offering to help people with achievements, farming, and so on.

Too many players think that not having an officer rank means they can't be proactive in the guild. Sure, sometimes it can lead to officers feeling like you're stepping on their toes. Just a few weeks ago, we saw the case of a player who started an alt run and incurred the ire of one of the officers. However, when none of your officers are doing anything for the guild except waiting around for the original guild leader to return, they don't really have any toes to step on.

True leadership is action

Leadership should always be earned rather than given. Volunteering for it does not make you qualified for it, and your current guild leader is a perfect example of that.

I don't typically recommend asking for an officer rank, let alone the guild leader position, unless the officers are specifically requesting volunteers. Instead, support the guild however you can. If and when you make some truly valuable contributions to the guild, the officers should recognize that -- and eventually offer you a higher rank. Of course, there are always notable exceptions.

More often than not, the people who make the best officers are the ones who, when promoted, have other members saying to each other, "Huh? I thought that player was an officer already."

Whatever you do, stick with it. A lot of players who step up don't have the persistence to see things through. They suggest a new raid, try it for one night, and then give up when it doesn't work out the way they hoped. A weak attempt at making things better can actually backfire and push morale even further downhill.

It's going to be hard work to turn this guild around. You won't be able to do it all on your own, but you can try to make something happen and hope others will be inspired to do likewise.

Rank means very little next to real accomplishments. Be a leader in action and the recognition will follow.


Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to

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