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Follow the Leader

Jul 25

Written by:
7/25/2012 7:43 PM  RssIcon

This week we’ll be looking at the role of guild leader, what it takes to do the job well, and what benefits you may get from putting yourself through putting the extra effort in.

Why do you want to lead?

The first place to start for any potential leader is to work out exactly why they want to lead. For all the potential riches it rewards (usually not financial ones), guild leading is a time sink, can be drama ridden (despite all the best intentions and actions) and you’ll have to make hard choices along the way. So what is your motivation for putting yourself through all that?

For most they want to bring a group of people together to work towards a common goal. What that goal is, is mostly up to you. It could be PvE, PvP, some mix of the two, something entirely different or just bringing people together for the sake of itself. You’ve probably heard the expression of “like attracts like”, and this is the basis of our voluntary interactions with communities as a species. Generally, you stand a better chance of making a successful guild if you know what it is that you want from one and it will help you keep motivated through the tough times. It will also help you to convince others they want to be part of your guild when you believe what you’re telling them!

What to Expect

The leader of a community (like a guild) has a special role to play and you should expect to put a significant amount of effort and time into the guild to make it a success. At a very minimal level, you need to be able to connect with people - this is the basis of community after all! Continual input is required to maintain these relationships, so you’ll need to be active. When you get a group of people together inevitably there will be a disagreement about something, so you need to have some conflict resolution skills. 

Some of the more interesting dynamics of guild leadership come when you introduce the expectations members have of their leaders. In an unscientific attempt to remove my own experiences from the equation, I asked my twitter followers for the qualities they look for in their guild leaders. The same sort of words kept cropping up: kindness, understanding, caring, fairness, organisational skills, friendly, social. Fulfilling these expectations can lead to some of the best moments of being a leader, and also cause the most headaches! 

On top of that, being a gaming community brings additional expectations. People expect you to be knowledgeable (but not necessarily a guru) about the game or if you’re making a focussed community, knowledgeable about a specific area of the game. As these communities are usually focussed online rather than geographically, some people will expect there to be some kind of non-live communication platform (like a forum) to communicate on, so having a basic working knowledge of web development is a huge boon but not a requirement.

Don’t worry too much if you look at the above and think you fall short; you’ve been learning how to deal with people since you were born and lots of the rest need to be learnt on the job!

Doing the job well

Describing how to do the job well without knowing exactly what kind of guild you want to deal with is tough, but I'm going to try to give a few pro tips on how to achieve a good output.

In my experience, the main aspect of leadership that new leaders underestimate is the amount of time running a guild can eat up. If nothing else, you need to maintain relationships with your guild members which takes time, possibly organise events and do the other things you enjoy in life (plus work or school). Requiring this constant level of time input can be really restrictive so it's best to look to ways of spreading the load and getting ahead of the curve.

Where possible, be proactive rather than reactive and be organised. Where you can, cut out talking to lots of individual people and throw around a survey. Call meetings sparingly and with as few people as are needed. Get others involved in helping to run the guild as it grows - not only will it give you some time back, but people like being involved. Use internet based tools so you can give a job to someone else easily - I love Google’s Calendar and Drive services personally.

When it comes to leading, walk the line between making decisions for the group to get things done and get input from others to make them feel involved. Consider what others besides yourself want when making decisions, but reach a solution that most people can be happy with. You can't please everyone.

The Prize at the End

It’d be easy to think that guild leading was completely without satisfaction but it’s really not. Working on bringing a group of strangers together for a common goal and achieving it is a great feeling, especially when no one else appears to offer what you’re looking for in a guild.

In addition, you’ll probably learn some new skills along the way that will see you well in your professional life. A report by IBM highlights the value of MMORPG leaders and guild leaders noting “Gaming leaders are more comfortable with risk, accepting failure, and the resulting iterative improvement, as part of their reality. Many of these leaders are able to make sense of disparate and constantly changing data, translating it all into a compelling vision. And the relationship skills of the best gaming leaders would put many Fortune 500 managers to shame.” However as they also note; “it should not be assumed that just because an employee has demonstrated an aptitude for leadership in one set of circumstances, that same person will be an effective leader in all circumstances.” In other words, don’t flash the guild leader badge and expect to be on the executive board.

However it’s not just IBM taking note. Technology magazine Wired ran an online article in 2006 highlighting how the then senior director of engineering operations at Yahoo!, Stephen Gillett, benefitted from being a top guild leader in World of Warcraft; of course, he was technically qualified for the job as well. As our hobbies become more mainstream, people will see the benefit of hiring guild leaders. In the meantime the skills you learn along the way will shine through and you may find yourself in line for a promotion!

Don’t do it Alone

All the above can sound hellishly daunting and even if you’re really motivated, it’s hard to get the confidence to dive in. The good news is that you’ve been practicing the basics of leadership most of your life - getting to know people is a big one. The rest of the skills can mostly be learnt on the job or are instinctual, and while there isn't a 10 point plan to being a good leader there are things to help you along the way.

As MMO players, we’re used to community managers being our window to the world of our favourite developers. While the action required by the roles may be different, there are a lot of parallels between what is expected of a guild leader and a professional community manager. They have tricks for stimulating discussions, engaging members, dealing with disputes and throwing events, all of which may be on your plate as a guild leader. I highly recommend that you start looking for and reading material designed for community managers. Not everything written will be applicable to you (notably you won’t be worried about how to prove your worth to an employer) but a lot of it will.

I’ve put a couple of sites I’ve found useful in the Useful Pages section on the left hand pane and I’ll be referring to various websites throughout all posts - after all, who better to learn from than the professionals. It’s also worth talking to other guild leaders to find out how they would approach a dilemma. Remember you can always pop into the Dragon Season forums and discuss any problem you’re having with your guild with other guild leaders.

What you can do

So there we go, a run down of what to expect of your time as a guild leader and the benefits of putting yourself through the ordeal. If you’re still keen, or are currently running your own guild, here’s an exercise that will help you which we touched on at the start.

No matter where your guild is in terms of its age, size, focus or game, having a clear idea of what you’re all together for is really useful for keeping focussed and recruiting. It’s really hard to convince others that you’re worth joining if you can’t explain what it is you’re trying to achieve! So spend a few minutes and write down what it is you want from your guild. Be as descriptive and specific as possible. Avoid words like “nice” and “friendly” and think of the problem from as many angles as possible.

When you’re done and if you feel like sharing, you can pop them in the comments for others to get inspiration from!

Next time I'll be talking through how to start up a guild before a game is launched and the options before you when it comes to building a guild website.

Categories: Articles
Location: Blogs Parent Separator Guild Matters

6 comment(s) so far...


Re: Follow the Leader

very good read !

well many times i think all these (ok half of these) and i want to avoid to become guild leader ... sadly there are a lot who dont think nothing of these and they make guilds and spend the time of other players who believe them ..!

"So spend a few minutes and write down what it is you want from your guild. Be as descriptive and specific as possible. Avoid words like “nice” and “friendly” and think of the problem from as many angles as possible." my favorite part ..!

By Loulaki on   7/26/2012 5:29 AM

Re: Follow the Leader

kindness, understanding, caring, fairness, organisational skills, friendly, social axaxaxaxaxaxaxaxa

By xxxxx on   7/26/2012 9:23 AM

Re: Follow the Leader

Another excellent addition to the Guild Matters Blog! Your articles serve as a very valuable source of information for me. :)

To the point though, i think that the right Guild Leader for me would be the one who is capable of controlling well enough each and every situation that pops up here and there. I don't really care of his know-how. Being helpful when someone is in need though, would truly complete the whole package.

By Tilion on   7/26/2012 11:06 AM

Re: Follow the Leader

Darn, I wish I could write this well in English!Another excellent read, so full of down-to-earth advice and handy tips. Those of us who never cared or dared to become guild leaders know now what they'd been spared from! And those who aspire to become one - or have tried and failed, but they want to make it right now - have this guide to get them off on the right foot!

By thevalliant on   7/26/2012 10:44 PM

Re: Follow the Leader


Since you're laughing so much, well it seems that you like your leader to be rude, selfish, messy, hostile and generally a dumba*s towards you and others. Ok, I can understand that.

By Layl on   7/29/2012 2:05 PM

Re: Follow the Leader

There aren't any right or wrong answers here. There will be people who disagree with the opinions of those who decided to share on Twitter. I disagree with some of them but it goes to show the wide variety of folks who do play MMOs and get involved in guilds. More the merrier.

To get started on the "homework" here's what I've got:

I want to be part of a guild that is welcoming and competent. I'd like to get to know the people behind the avatars and achieve all of my in game goals with them. Timescales aren't that important as long as we're having fun and hitting the milestones eventually.

By Tasha on   7/30/2012 12:21 PM

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