Everything is Always Moving

There’s a funny thing hap­pen­ing in my guild.

I logged on late the other night to hope­fully luck into a quick instance run (didn’t hap­pen), and there were four peo­ple from my guild on. I didn’t rec­og­nize any of them. I vaguely remem­bered read­ing someone’s app from a lit­tle while ago, but that’s all. I mean, I’ve seen them around, but this is the first time I had ever logged in and not known any­one who was online.

“Well, new guildies are good for the guild,” I thought.

How­ever, these peo­ple were chat­ting with each other over /g, and they all seemed to know each other pretty well. Even though I didn’t know them, it was obvi­ous that each of them was a good fit for the guild. We have a strange and fun guild cul­ture, and it was obvi­ous that they were steeped in it.

It felt like walk­ing into my liv­ing room and find­ing four very friendly strangers there.

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Some GM Advice

I read a great arti­cle over at the excel­lent Chick GM about offi­cer lead­er­ship styles and what makes a good offi­cer. It made me think about what I val­ued in GMs and offi­cers, and what I learned as GM.

It took me a long time to come up with my online lead­er­ship style, and longer still to iden­tify pieces of what I was actu­ally try­ing to accom­plish. I’ve been a leader in mul­ti­ple non-game places, but the MMORPG space is dif­fer­ent. My guild suf­fered a bit while I learned, but even­tu­ally I got the hang of it. When it was time for me to hand the reins over, I came up with a list of direc­tives and shared it with the sub­se­quent GMs of my guild.

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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.

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