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The Guild Counsel: What makes a guild leader miserable?

Karen Bryan

Guild-leading can be a very enjoyable and rewarding activity, but it's not always a walk in the park. In many of the columns here and the discussions that follow, the most common theme is how leading guilds is both the best and the toughest role in the game. When things are all falling into place and everyone's clicking, it's extremely satisfying to see it all come together. But when it's not, it can be extremely frustrating and stressful.

We've often looked at the benefits of running a guild, but in today's Guild Counsel, let's look at a few areas that can sometimes make guild leadership almost seem not worth it. Hopefully by discussing and recognizing these moments of misery, guild leaders can find some solace in knowing that they aren't alone, and members can help make life easier for their leaders.

Losing trust

You can do all the planning and pep talks you want, but if you're an ambitious guild leader, you'll usually want to take the approach of "go big or go home," and that can lead to some moments when the outcome is very much in doubt. Even the most seasoned leader can sometimes make a decision that will be questioned by the members (and even officers), and it's a very lonely feeling to be sitting at the keyboard and know that people don't believe in what you're asking them to do. It can happen with any guild endeavor, from raiding to a construction project to a planned PvP offensive to an ambitious tradeskilling project. I'll always remember certain raid encounters not for their spectacular loot or fun script but for the fact that they were mobs that the guild didn't think we should try -- but against which we succeeded anyway. It was a rush to see the mobs fall and to see and hear the celebratory cheers afterward, but I'll remember them more for the doubting tells and suggestions that we do something else instead.

When you have one of those moments, it's easy to feel like you can walk away gloating, but I try to use those moments and learn from them. After all, I felt like we could do it, but could I have done things differently to convince everyone else that it was doable? And it's important to take into consideration any previous trials and failures to see whether there were any similarities. Understanding your guild's comfort level really helps when you're trying to establish a pace of progression. The ability to say "I told you so" isn't worth the lonely feeling when your guild doesn't trust your decision.

Sending someone away

Unless you're one of those kids who stars in My Super Sweet 16 on MTV, you probably don't take much pleasure in telling someone that he can't be part of your guild, raid, or group (if you are on the show, you probably take sadistic delight in doing so). It's not easy, but it's something that leaders constantly have to do. When it comes to recruiting, they have to tell potential applicants when they don't fit the guild. When you're raiding, and you only have one spot but really need a healer, it's hard to tell all those rangers that they're benched. I'm the kind of person who would gladly step out and give up my spot to someone else because I want my guildmates to be there when we succeed in doing something together.

Saying goodbye

Guilds wouldn't be guilds without a modicum of attrition, and it's hard to ride the ebb and flow of members as they come and go. I used to occasionally close recruitment because the guild roster would feel full enough that we could sustain ourselves without adding more, but every time I did, it was almost a guarantee that we'd lose a few members and have to open it up again. Suffice it to say, I don't close recruitment anymore (although I do vary the amount of active recruiting I do).

It's hard to be part of a guild and not get to know and like the people around you. And as we discussed before, it's even harder for a guild leader to have members tell you that they're leaving because it's almost impossible to not take that personally. But seasoned guild leaders get used to member departures, even if it's someone they're particularly close to, and those who have been around for a while even get to see some of them come back. It's a balancing act because you end up building friendships, but you also have to be aware that players come and go from the game. Some friendships will actually last beyond the boundaries of the guild, which is terrific, but for those that don't, it's sometimes hard for a guild leader to accept.

Calling a raid

If it were up to me (and if I didn't have a family or any real life responsibilities), I'd always say yes to "one more try," and I'd keep going at it until our gear had been ground into dust. But since I can't afford to do that, and because I don't want to ruin the lives of my guildmates, I call that hard stop at our pre-set times, no matter how close we are to victory. But probably the hardest thing to do during a raid is call it when you have just wiped to the mob at 1% and you have the focus and momentum to win on that "one last try." It's easy to say "We'll definitely get it next time," but that next time, you might not have the same raid force assembled, or your main tank might be nursing a cold and dulled by the effects of medication, or your raid might have forgotten some of the tricks of the script that everyone had seemingly mastered the last time. Picking up where you left off really isn't the reality, and guild leaders know that you usually start off a raid two steps back from where you last called it. Given that fact, I know it's extremely tempting to go for that "one last try," but it's just not worth the lost sleep and potential resentment from members who went on the raid with the understanding that you wouldn't keep them up late.

All in all, guild-leading can sometimes be difficult (although I still content we make it a lot harder on ourselves than we need to!). But you can't have the satisfaction of achieving guild goals without some measure of risk, some amount of doubt, and a chance that some will choose not to stick it out. And you also can't take everyone all the time, although I still can't quite accept that and won't give up until raid and group caps go the way of the dinosaur. But the challenges that guild leaders face are more common than you'd think, and hopefully knowing that others have weathered the storm will make it easier in the long run.

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.

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