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The Guild Counsel: What to do when the old guild leader returns

Karen Bryan

So often, a guild's success revolves around a good guild leader. In fact, we've talked before about how a guild tend to take on the personality of the person who's running it and that when a great leader leaves, there's a risk that the entire guild will break up afterward.

But what if a guild leader leaves and then returns to see that his guild is doing fine or that it's even better than when he left it? Apart from the obvious "awkward" moment, let's consider a few potential issues in this scenario, from the perspective of both the returning guild leader and the guild as a whole. Power struggle or cause for celebration? This week's Guild Counsel will tackle the subject!

The sky didn't fall

On the surface, you'd think a returning guild leader would be happy to see that his guild is doing fine without him. On the other hand, it's understandable that he'd be somewhat let down. After all, leaders like to think that their efforts were a big part of why the guild was successful, so when everything's fine without them, that puts into doubt whether they were really that responsible in the first place. It's not that a guild leader is rooting for the demise of the guild; he's just worried about how much of an impact he had and wondering what his role should be going forward.

Furthermore, the returning guild leader can feel like a stranger in his own home, so to speak. He used to be the go-to guy, the one everyone went to for questions and needs, the one who could rally everyone toward a common goal, the one who made the tough calls that hopefully led to success. Now, someone else is in that role, and that's not an easy adjustment. It might be tempting to try to gain back that leadership role, but if you force it, you can cause enormous strife within the guild, and at its most extreme, you risk becoming a backseat driver. Even if you feel out of place, it's better to come back slowly and wait for opportunities to make use of your leadership skills in a way that helps the guild rather than divides it.

Who should lead?

From the guild members' perspective, they have probably grown used to following the new leader, but there may be some confusion about who should lead going forward. And the longer the former leader served, the more difficult it is to determine the answer. The longer that doubt lingers, the more of a strain it becomes on the guild. Members will begin to scrutinize and compare how it was done under both the old and the new leader, and every time they favor the way it used to be, it hurts morale and makes it harder for the new leader to keep the trust of the guild.

Ultimately, it's best that both leaders discuss it as soon as possible, and whoever isn't chosen needs to rally around and fully support the other. Also, the guild needs to know who's leading and why to prevent any misinformed gossip. In theory, if the guild is going well, it should be up to the current guild leader to decide what he wants to do, but there are many factors involved, and what works for one guild might not work for another. It's best, though, to avoid a dual leadership structure if possible because it's more likely to lead to problems when the two leaders don't see eye to eye on a tough decision.

The Guild Counsel  What to do when the old guild leader returns
Strengthen the guild

Ultimately, the returning guild leader should remind herself to be happy with the success of the guild while she was away. After all, she was the one who recruited smartly and built a solid core of players with a team mindset, and she was the one who had a leadership structure in place to fill the void when she took a break. The guild deserves a pat on the back for keeping things going, but the former guild leader deserves one as well for putting the pieces together and helping to establish a culture and organizational structure that can stand on its own.

Overall, great guilds are ones that don't over-emphasize ranks. Sure, there needs to be someone to make the final call, but it's a team effort, and there are plenty of times when a member, not an officer or leader, will be instrumental in outlining a plan to help the guild succeed. If your guild has the mindset that it doesn't really matter who deserves the credit in the end as long as the guild is happy overall, then it's really not important for the returning guild leader to have that official tag. If the former leader ran the guild for any length of time, chances are he's natural leader, and even if he isn't running things, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to rise to the occasion and use those leadership skills to help the guild.

It's hard to run a guild for years at a time, and it's perfectly understandable for a leader to need a break or to leave the game for a time because of real-life responsibilities. If you have a good leadership structure in place and you do a good job of helping that transition go smoothly, you should be happy to return to a guild that's getting along just fine. You might feel awkward at first, but it won't take long for players to appreciate your leadership skills, regardless of what rank you carry.

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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