Leading is hard. Whether it's a sports team, an office of workers, or a guild, there are many challenges that all leaders share and make even the toughest person want to walk away. And because running a gaming guild is less of a job and more of a hobby (or at least, it should be!), it's hard to get good people to step forward and run things. We're all here to have fun in game, after all, and if leading a guild detracts from that, it's not surprising that some shy away from it.
But running a guild isn't always about taking power and making hard decisions. In fact, there are plenty of successful guilds that have rejected the top-down mentality. Can leading a guild really be that easy?
You can't run a guild without a vision. Everything revolves around it, from recruiting to event planning to day-to-day management. We've explored many potential problems that result from lack of vision, but on the flip side, having a clear vision gives everyone in the guild something concrete to work with every night. Because guildies shares in that common vision and the goals that come from it, they can go off and work toward those goals independently, knowing that others are doing the same thing. And the guild leader doesn't have to constantly spend time prodding or nagging people to work together because they're already doing it voluntarily.
Once that vision is set, a leader should provide tangible ways for members to achieve guild goals. Look at sports teams, for example: It's clear that everyone on the team wants to win, but a coach can't just say, "Go out there and win the game." He has to put the structure in place that puts the team in the best position to achieve those wins. A guild leader must do the same thing. Whether they're completing endgame content or building a guild hall, the members are certainly capable of doing things, but they need direction on what each of them should do. Once you organize and coordinate your members' efforts, you can let them go and not have to handhold.
Mentor others to lead
Chances are, there are members in the guild who can handle responsibilities of leadership but might need a little guidance on actually being in a leadership position. Some guild leaders are afraid to let others in on the management process, but by giving up the power aspect of leadership, you're making it more of a team-minded atmosphere, and you're giving members some freedom to help move the guild in the right direction. You can still be a leader, and chances are, you'll emerge as a stronger leader because you'll be the one whom members go to for assistance with things they're trying to do.
There's a lot in MMOs that can't be accomplished without numbers. And one of the most important roles for a guild leader is helping build those groups to get things done. It's both silly and sad to watch five or six players announce that they're looking for a group in an open chat channel, only to see each of them ignore the others' messages. All it would take is for one of them to send an invite to the others, and they'd have a group set for the night. But because no one takes the initiative, time is wasted and groups never form. Even in a guild where members are familiar with each other, there are plenty of times when there's an opportunity to group but no one wants to make the first move. Guild leaders can be the ones who help make that happen. Some guilds have nights devoted to grouping, while others use the forums to help members connect with each other over shared goals. The guild leader is the line of communication who links players together and then lets those groups go off and reach their objectives. He doesn't have to run the groups, just provide an easy means to assemble them.
Lastly, guild leaders should be extra vigilant in making sure things are fair. If you're going to be more of a hands-off leader, there will be times when players will test the waters to see what they can get away with. If you don't enforce the rules, you set a precedent that allows others to do the same later on, and almost instantly, your guild atmosphere shifts from trust and teamwork to suspicion and division. The good news is that consistent enforcement of the rules means that you'll be tested less and less often over time as players learn that you won't allow it. After a while, the players police themselves, and you won't have to.
There's no doubt that running a guild can be difficult and even frustrating, but sometimes, leaders try to shoulder the burden too much and end up making things worse overall. There's a tendency for guild leaders to assume a micro-management style of leading because guild leaders need to be visible and active in order to preserve the trust of the guild. But there's a difference between being hands-off and being inactive. You can lead from a more passive position, and by letting go of some of that power, you're allowing the guild to try new things to achieve guild goals, and you're also giving your members the ability to help out with daily guild management. At the end of the day, you're still the one members will turn to, but you won't have to let the role of guild leader consume all of your game time.
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.