Guilds are not Businesses

Guilds in these online games are completely voluntary, at-will organizations of people. This creates a strange dynamic when it comes to leading.

When I was GM, a good friend of mine in the guild–we'll call him Angus–was excellent at leading groups and raids. He wasn't shy about grabbing a couple of our more passive guildmates and making good things happen like attunement requirements, gear upgrades, and all the rest. In real life, Angus is a confident leader who runs his own business, with employees. His company is successful! I thought, "Wow, he'd be a great officer, maybe even GM!" So he got the nod as officer, and while he was gruff at times, he proved a great asset to the guild.

Over time, I learned that Angus had really been eager to take a shot at leading the guild. We frequently had open conversations among the officers regarding whose turn to lead was coming. So eventually, Angus got the nod.

The problem–and it took months for us to learn this–is that his ability to lead a successful for-profit business involves a completely different skill set than leading a successful voluntary, at-will organization. Angus turned out to be a good boss, but not a great leader.

He wanted things done his way without fail and people who didn't agree got on his crap list very quickly. He wasn't much of a negotiator, and was really terrible about hearing other people's point of view. I gather that at his business, Angus's employees do what he says or he, you know, fires them. This can be a great way to run a business, because if you can get a group of people who believe that you're the benevolent dictator, they'll just do what you say… this can even work in guild leadership situations.

However, his leadership style was based on tangible rewards that came from his authoritative position, in the case of his business it was a job and benefits and pay. In the guild, it was raiding and zomgepics. In his eyes, it was fine that he was gruff and no-nonsense and all business all the time, because the guild was a raiding engine and you were either fuel or you were baggage.

The problem with that outlook is that everyone's paying the same money to play, and so too-strong, demanding, unyielding personalities either become internet phenomenons (nsfw) or end up leading a guild of four alts who never log on. Every single time I play and spend any amount of time in a capital city, I see new guilds recruiting, usually one right after the other. Endgame raiding guilds, casual guilds, leveling guilds, pvp guilds, on and on. There are just too many other guilds out there, why waste time with a jerk?

So we had more and more discord with Angus at the helm, with an ever-increasing amount of social management being done by the other officers and veterans of the guild, trying to hold it all together. Finally, the guild's leadership had a frank conversation, without him at first, and then again with him, about a change at the top. We never stopped liking him, we just didn't like him at the helm. Someone else stepped up, and the guild moved on. Angus's leadership brought about a Fall season for our guild.

(We followed this up with a Winter season and now a Spring/Summer, which I'll relate another time. Two more articles!)

After a break from the game, Angus is now a happy and helpful officer and ocassional raid lead. We just don't talk about his time at GM.

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