Putting your Guild Leader on a Pedestal

Being a guild leader isn’t an easy job.  It’s often a thankless dance trying to keep the peace between warring individuals or factions, and the best result you can hope for at the end of the day is that nobody’s ready to quit, at least until morning.

It takes a special breed of person to do this job day in and day out.  Often, a guild leader ends up taking on more than they should for various reasons – perhaps they can’t find active officers, or they don’t trust anyone else to do the job the way they want it done.

Given the amount of work that such people do, it’s not surprising that members of the guild look up to them.  But when this goes too far, guild leaders can be elevated to a dangerous position in the guild.  When the guild leader is the only one who can solve a problem, and when the officers aren’t willing to solve a problem without the guild leader’s blessing, then you’re headed for danger.

No matter how dedicated a guild leader someone is, eventually life is going to call you back.  This might be a family emergency, accident, falling into or out of love, or just plain old burnout.

What happens to a guild in the absence of the guild leader is a great measure of just how high the pedestal was.

_Just to make things clear, this article is not in any way shape or form a criticism of guild leaders who have to take time away from the game.  Such is life.  The point I’m trying to make is that you should expect and be prepared for this so that it doesn’t put the guild at risk.

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How do you deal with recruiting?  How about forum moderation?  DKP or loot systems?  Raid Planning?  How about changes to policy?  Do the officers have permission and remit to make such changes?  Has the guild leader used a reasonable set of permissions in all aspects of the guild setup, or are things locked down to the point where the officers are able to little more than invite, kick and talk amongst themselves?

How Things Can Go Downhill

I recently experienced this in my last guild.  When I joined, the guild leader had been semi-absent for a while, but completely disappeared for a couple of months.  The guild was doing Naxx-25 at the time.  Signup for raids used a plugin for eqDKP, but the officers didn’t have permission to create new events.  Officers could moderate some of the forums, but not create or modify posts in the policies section.  Officers didn’t have permission to update the guild information pane.  Only the guild leader could grant access to the forums, which was a prerequisite for posting an application, so nobody could follow the instructions in the recruiting posts floating around on the net.

Because new events couldn’t be created, the officers moved signups to threads on the forum.  People didn’t sign up regularly, a few heroic runs were scrapped, and a few people left.  Now unable to run heroic raids, we scaled back to 10 man.  One officer decided to start using the Group Calendar addon, but the remaining officers didn’t enforce its use – if you showed up without signing, you’d still probably get a spot if one was available.  There was no incentive to sign up and no disincentive for not signing up, so people didn’t bother.

10 man loot had always been distributed using /roll, whereas 25 man loot was DKP-based.  But since we weren’t doing 25 mans, it didn’t make sense to continue in this vein, so I suggested using EP/GP.  The same officer who had pushed Group Calendar on us liked the idea, but he couldn’t put it into action because he couldn’t edit the guild information panel.

The GM was the only person who was able to withdraw items from the guild bank tab where we stored our enchanting materials, so no raiders were able to get any enchants until an officer started storing the sharded results of our runs in his personal bank.

Eventually, all but two officers left the guild.  Unfortunately, one who left was the one who “owned” the events on the raid calendar.  When he /gquit, all the events (which were being scheduled several weeks in advance) disappeared.  The officers who remained scheduled the events for the next day after the current raid finished.  Anyone who has used Group Calender for any length of time knows that this doesn’t work because events don’t get distributed widely enough.

The events that were on the calendar had inconsistent times – sometimes the event showed invite times, sometimes it showed pull times.  Our long-held schedule of starting early on Sunday was scrapped without any formal notification.  Members changed mains without going through the posted process.  Only one person in the guild had the ability to edit officer notes (the other couldn’t run any more addons due to his computer), so if he wasn’t present, we couldn’t do loot properly.

In short, things fell apart because the GM didn’t provide enough power to the officers to run the guild efficiently in his absence.  The party line from officers was basically “when the GM returns, everything will go back to normal”.  Rather than trying to keep the guild going themselves, they sat by and watched what was a fairly successful MH/BT heroic raiding guild in TBC reduced to an Ulduar-10 guild that had to bring in non-raiders who couldn’t be bothered to read strategies.  Raider morale suffered.

How Things Should Have Happened

Looking back, there were many things that should have happened differently to prevent this mess, and most are steps that should have been taken by the guild leader in advance of life asking him to take a break.

  • all guild websites should have had officer-level access enabled.  An officer should have been able to upload DKP strings, create raid events, modify guild policy posts and grant /remove forum access
  • guild controls should have been set up so that officers could withdraw a reasonable amount of gold and materials from all bank tabs.  If your officers can’t be trusted to manage the guild bank, you need better officers, not more restrictions
  • ideally, guild controls would have been set up in such a way that the top rank (the one that can’t have any restrictions placed on it) was not the rank that the guild leader used for day-to-day activities.  That should have been the second rank, which should have had all permissions enabled and reasonable withdrawal limits on it.  When the guild leader realized that he would be away for more than a week, he should have promoted an officer to this rank.  This would have solved many of the problems getting EP/GP up and running
  • the guild leader should have taken a few minutes to designate a temporary GM rather than remaining silent on the forums.  If you hand a job to a group of people, you only guarantee that none of them will do it

Most importantly, the guild leader should have given the officers the responsibility for running the guild in his absence, not just for keeping the seat warm.  There’s a subtle difference.  Guilds are dynamic things.  Policies need to be modified to adapt to changing circumstances.

There’s nothing wrong with changing a policy, but there is a problem with changing it and not telling anyone.  The officers were left in a tough position here – they couldn’t update the “public” copy of the policy, even though they knew that it didn’t reflect reality.  This lead to confusion and anger among the members when it appeared that unilateral decisions were being made.

Instead, the guild leader allowed himself to be put up on a pedestal, and when he returns he’ll have a much smaller guild that he must attempt to rebuild to its former glory.  Unfortunately, he’ll probably repeat all of the same mistakes.

/sigh

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