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The Guild Counsel: How to share power (and live to talk about it)

Karen Bryan

Many guilds rely on a set structure of leadership, with a chain of command composed of officers and a guild leader at the top. But it's no easy task for one person to handle all of the responsibilities of management, and sometimes, a guild will instead use a system of co-leadership to make things work.

It's a delicate balance, but having more than one person as a leader can be an effective way of running a successful guild. Let's look at what enables this unorthodox leadership structure to work well in this week's Guild Counsel.

Buck stops here

Co-leadership doesn't necessarily mean that two people share equally in every decision made in the guild. In fact, for many guilds, co-leaders are simply two players who each oversee different aspects of the guild. The most common co-leadership scenario is a guild leader and a raid leader (or a war leader, event planner, etc). One person will oversee the day-to-day functions of the guild, like personality issues, recruiting, and resource management, while the other will take charge of plotting out strats, coordinating events, and being the main decision-maker during guild events.

Running a guild often feels like a two-person job, so it makes sense to have enough hands on deck to handle everything. It also means there's a greater chance that one of the two leaders will be online even during off-peak hours for the guild. Guild drama has a funny way of popping up when the guild leader goes offline, and with no leader on, it goes largely unchecked and can major trouble. So having more than one leader keeps the guild on an even keel and handles the bulk of the day to day issues.

Pulling rank

One of the biggest potential problems with a joint leadership structure is confusion over who's really the one to make the final call when things get tough. Some members will try to exploit that by playing one leader off against another or claim that one leader is better than another. There's always going to be a tendency to question one leader over another, and that can lead to division within the guild.

The leaders themselves can begin to doubt each other as well. One might feel he's doing all the work while the other is more of a figurehead, which can lead to resentment and conflict. It's impossible to divide all tasks equally, and some responsibilities are more difficult to manage than others. Because of that, it's tempting for one leader to eventually claim that he should be the sole leader of the guild, which can be a potential guild breaker.


What makes co-leadership work is a strong bond of trust between the two leaders. They don't always have to agree on everything, but once a decision is made, both leaders need to be supportive of it and defend each other from naysayers. Each leader will have a different personality and leadership style, and while that might seem like a potential problem, it can actually be good for the guild if the two leaders trust each other. Teachers often need to teach and present material in a number of different ways because not every student learns the same way. It's the same for guild leadership. If there's a difficult decision to be made, more players might be willing to get on board with it thanks to the different ways the co-leaders introduce it. One might have a more gentle approach, while another might go with the "suck it up" philosophy, and one might work better with certain members than the other. Knowing the right approach helps the two leaders better connect with everyone in the guild.

The Guild Counsel  How to share power and live to talk about it
Mom and dad

Co-leadership is a good way of diffusing player complaints, but again, it requires the two leaders to trust each other. A kid who was told "no" by dad will immediately go to mom and make the same demand. The same will happen in a guild with two leaders. But unlike guilds with one leader, a two-leader guild makes it much harder to continue with a complaint if you've been denied twice. However, both leaders need to be consistent with their decisions and not allow themselves to be played against the other by members. The "good cop, bad cop" relationship is an effective way of running the guild, but not when it's the members who are pitting one against the other.

Guilds who do go with a co-leadership structure really are making a family of sorts. And with all families, there are bound to be challenges when two people are at the helm. But two leaders also means two great minds, twice the ideas, and twice the eyes to analyze and evaluate common guild issues. With trust, leaders can see beyond the temptation to pull rank and look at things in an unbiased way to make the best decision for the guild.

Co-leadership requires the two leaders able to look past the title because it's not about the power as much as it's about sharing in the many daily responsibilities of managing the guild. Those who have the right approach often make the best leaders because they're not in it for the status but rather for the benefit of the guild. It's not always easy to share leadership, but when it's done right, it's the recipe for a long-lived and successful guild.

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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