Build Your Own Guild Part 4: Leadership

Build Your Own Guild Part 4: Leadership

If you can, dear readers, stretch your reflective faculties for a moment and recall the first article in the Build Your Own Guild series, in which I urged future GMs to start forming an officer corps. This entry will delve a little deeper into the question of leadership and show you how to construct and maintain your guild’s hierarchy. The principal lesson here is delegate, delegate, DELEGATE! This article will show you how officers and GMs work together to govern the unique virtual organizations we so casually refer to as guilds.

History Lesson: Getting Medieval

I would like to meditate for a moment on the word “guild” and its history, as I think its origins are rather instructive for MMO players. A guild, in the medieval sense of the word, is an association of tradesmen, artists, or craftsmen. Guilds oversee the production and distribution of material goods, and they regulate both practitioners of a trade and the larger market in which that type of product is bought and sold. My favorite guild example dates to cinquecento Italy. Imagine Renaissance Venice, her canals a-stink with the smells of a thriving fishing industry, her now-white palazzi ablaze with murals in every color of the rainbow. Somewhere in the Serenissima, probably next door to the leather-curers guild or the paper-makers guild, Tiziano Vecellio runs his own workshop. He sees himself as a craftsman, rather than an artist, producing goods for sale. He is the Master, and his is the signature on most of the products. His employees, however, are also craftsmen, some of them as talented as the master, and Journeyman and Apprentices work together to create great pieces of art. Sure, Tiziano himself may be the one to sketch the Madonna’s face, but what about her hands? Guess what? Renaissance art was a cooperative enterprise, and just look at the product. Pretty fantastic, eh?

Why the long excursus into metaphor, you ask? For you, the prospective GM, the setup of your guild is your masterpiece–the way you do things at the beginning will prove to all your members that you are a capable leader, someone they can trust. But like Tiziano, you can’t go it alone. You will need help, and the end “product” that you create–namely, excellence in raiding–will be a group effort.

Choosing Officers

If you’re contemplating setting up your own build, you probably have a few people in mind for officer positions. Make sure, however, that your officer corps is not composed entirely of your best friends and your significant other. For a raiding guild, you need a balance of power, and this means bringing people into leadership positions who represent different constituencies and have different perspectives. You will also need to limit the number of officers to a manageable size–too large, and every member who’s not an officer will start to feel left out. The following are my quick tips for forming a workable officer corps.

1. Size

If you plan to focus exclusively on 10-man raid progression in Wrath, your optimal number of officers (including yourself in this number) will be three. That means that there will always be a tiebreaker vote. The percentage of officers to members will still be rather high, especially if you are a niche guild and limit yourselves down to 20 or so players. I think this model will be extremely workable in Wrath. The good news is that if you form a guild of this size, your work as GM will be much less, and you will not need to define each officer’s role to the nth degree. The three of you would each probably be capable of handling any questions your members have, and all members will know the officers personally.

For the 25-man size, the task is more difficult. I suggest either three or five primary officers (including yourself of course). Three will be just fine if you plan to also have class or role leaders to do some of the work, but if you do without them, expand up to five so that you can cover all the necessary tasks. I actually recommend against having class leaders. That model worked better in Vanilla WoW, when specs were less differentiated and there were more people to manage.

2. Diversity of Talents

All of your officers should not excel at the same aspect of the game. They should not be three healers or three dps. You should include your primary Raid Leader in the officer corps, but the other members do not have to be your best players or best strategists. One of them, at least, should be computer-savvy enough to build and maintain your website, if you cannot do so yourself. Try to find people with different interests. And yes, sometimes this means looking beyond your immediate circle of friends. Caution: it may seem attractive to a new GM to appoint as an officer someone who has been a GM in the past. Be careful–this person might be so used to leading that he chafes at just being an officer and effectively undermines the officer corps’ decisions. Have a very thorough talk with any officers with GM backgrounds so that the guild hierarchy–whatever it is–is clear to them.

3. Diversity of Perspectives

Your guild is a raiding guild, so most of your officer conversations will be about raiding, and almost all of your planning will be dedicated to raid progress. You do not, however, need to find officers who agree 100% with your vision. It is best, in fact, if officers to some degree serve as checks and balances for each other. For a real life example, in my guild, raiding is important to every one of our eight officers (yes, too many!) but within that general category, our priorities fall under several subheadings. For some real-life examples, in Collateral Damage, our Raid Leader wants everything to be well-organized, transparent, and planned out ahead of time. The officer who manages our Loot system wants all policies to be fair and all goods to be distributed equally. Our personnel officer focuses on the human side of things–she wants to make sure that no one feels left out. And me? Believe it or not, I’m always the one pushing for faster progress and stricter requirements.

4. Open Positions

When you introduce your brand-new guild to the world, you probably won’t have the perfect balance of officers yet. I suggest starting out with yourself and one other person (or for the large guild model, two) and promoting the rest of your officer corps after you actually begin raiding. You need to see how people operate in their new guild context, but you can’t do all the work alone at the beginning.

Your Management Hierarchy

Let’s imagine that your guild is up and running and you’ve identified and promoted four other people to work with you. Now what do you do? I have seen guilds flounder at just this juncture. People become officers, but it’s a vanity position. There are no clear duties and no opportunity for leadership. In practice, the GM runs the guild by himself. Or worse, no one runs the guild. No events are scheduled, and people associate with each other only in guild chat. Here are 5 ways to avoid the no-leadership quagmire.

1. Weekly Officer Meetings

Schedule a meeting at a mutually convenient time, and hold a meeting every week. Believe me, you’ll have a lot to talk about–some of CD’s run upwards of three hours, and they were longest at the very beginning. You should at the very least check in with the guild’s progress, set the raid schedule for the week, and vote on any potential recruits. This is also a good time to talk through the inevitable member complaints and make plans to address them.

2. Give Each Officer a Specific Task

You chose officers with different talents for a reason. Assuming you’re a large guild with 5 officers, here’s a sample breakdown. As GM, feel free to snap up the role you like best, but if it’s your name at the bottom of the guild panel, expect a secondary job as QQ filter. Your five officers could best divide into the following roles:

a. Raid leader and strategist
b. Loot system manager (if you use Loot Council, this person tracks drops received)
c. Personnel officer (this person takes attendance and tracks raider status/performance)
d. Recruiting officer (woot! This is what I do)
e. Website manager (don’t underestimate this one–it’s a TON of work)

As GM, you need to funnel any specific questions or complaints to the officer who specializes in that area. People will want to talk to you too, but if you get a loot-specific question, pull the loot system manager into vent with you when you talk to that player. You will find that your officers will become experts in their area of expertise.

3. Strive for Consensus

When there is a decision on the horizon, particularly if it’s an important one, don’t just flex your GM muscles and make the call yourself. Discuss any decision that has far-reaching implications in the guild meeting, and let each officer present his or her opinions. Very likely, some of you will disagree on any issue that’s halfway worth talking about. As GM, you may feel tempted to go with your own opinion after nominal discussion, but I urge you to wait it out and let people make full arguments, especially when they feel passionately about something. There should be give and take. If two parties disagree, have them propose compromise solutions until each of them can live with the new policy.

4. Hold Votes on Important Issues

Your officers can only serve as checks and balances for each other if you give them power. Try for consensus first, but what you may find is that not everyone speaks up every time a new policy is on the table. If everyone cannot agree after a reasonable amount of discussion, as GM, it is your responsibility to call for a vote. Except in dire circumstances, abide by that vote. Remember: if you have power as GM, it is only because others entrust you with it. Allowing them a voice will convince your fellow officers to stick around and support you. My guild–which has no GM, only officers–has just now put in a voting policy. We felt that compromises were sometimes worked out only among the most vocal officers, and in any case sometimes we would have 12 hours of discussion over many weeks with no solution reached. We’ve decided to hold votes after 2-4 hours of discussion on a topic when we can’t come to consensus. I am in full support of this idea–even though I’m one of the loud people! If you never vote, you may create a situation in which one person can veto any idea by holding out on the compromise. That can lead to guild stagnation, particularly if it’s a regular occurrence. Sometimes your officers will have to agree to disagree.

5. Know When to Play the GM Card

If you’re going to be the first among equals, you have to know when to step in and put an end to debate. Maybe votes are inconclusive too, or your officers just can’t come up with a decision. In those cases, use your best judgment and lay down the law. Don’t do this too often though–a GM whose attitude screams: “It’s my guild and I can do what I want with it!” won’t be in power for long.


It’s not very fun to be the Supreme Emperor of a nation of one. If you want a happy, healthy, resilient guild, you will need a power structure that puts some of the authority in other people’s hands. Build trust with your officers, and always treat them with respect. They are both your friends and your work colleagues, and the relative unity that the officer corps presents to the guild will determine your success or failure in endgame raiding. People want to feel that their leaders are both well-organized and fair. Use the GM/officer dynamic to create that feeling, and you’re well on your way to climbing up the rankings on your server.

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  1. It doesn’t matter how competent any of your officers are in their assigned tasks, whether social cheerleader, loot officer, or raid leader. Being capable of handling those functions is a given. If the member corp of the guild doesn’t like an officer, they aren’t a good leader themselves, or don’t have desire to follow them they won’t. Either they will ignore the officer, which weakens you as the GM, or they will leave.

    Warcraft guilds, unlike their mideval counterparts, are comprised of highly mobile, easily replaceable members. That includes the officers and the GM. We found guilds, lead them, or join them for the simple reason we beleive we can accomplish our individual objectives better with the guild than with another or solo.

    Delegation only works when you have the carrots and sticks requried to ensure the person you are delegating to will do what needs to be done. The only carrots and sticks you have in WoW is satisfying a persons in games objectives.

    Therefore when selecting your officers you need to ensure that the guild you are offering to share leadership with accomplishes their personal objectives. If not they will not be a good officer for your guild.

  2. My observation, from having been an officer in a couple of guilds, is that you don’t actually “get anything” out of it in selfish terms.

    What you get is responsibility, and some people enjoy that (no really, they do). I find that the people who stick with leadership positions over the long haul and do well in them have something of a caretaker personality. They don’t want loot/power/adoration–they just want to do something the right way.

    I think that’s why my fellow officers haven’t left for more progressed guilds (we’ve just now cleared T6) even though they certainly could. Players who make good officers tend to be idealistic in a sense–they want things to always be better, more fair. But they’re also disciplined enough to actually do a little work. Usually, they are people who manage others in real life, large or small-scale (parents, teachers, businesspeople, etc) and have picked up a sense of how well-run organizations function.

    I also don’t think, bearcat, that you’ve got a good fix on the medieval guild concept. Perhaps I should have explained the comparison a bit more clearly. It’s kind of the point that every guild member’s work is interchangeable and indistinguishable–so each craftsman is in a sense mobile, and “journeymen” did in fact move around a bit. The masters dictate the style, not the individual artists working for them. There’s a good reason there’s so much stuff labeled “workshop of Palma il Vecchio,” etc. in museums. The hand of the individual is extremely hard to trace.

    I believe that it is the job of the guild master to dictate the style in which the guild runs itself, but that it also the job of the GM to share around the decision-making with other well-informed responsible players. Otherwise, if the GM gets a bad cold and is out for a week, the whole structure might crumble.

  3. I think you missed my point, “What you get is responsibility, and some people enjoy that (no really, they do). I find that the people who stick with leadership positions over the long haul and do well in them have something of a caretaker personality. They don’t want loot/power/adoration–they just want to do something the right way.” That may be their objective. If so fantastic.

    As for mideval guilds, the work by the craftsmen were interchangeable, but the members themselves were not mobile and it was very easy for the master to control ones ability to perform their work and earn a living. That said, craftsmen and guilds were the extreme minority as the typical person lived in a villiage working the land for someone else hoping that they would leave enough of the harvest to make it through the winter. As for my comment on replacable, there are dozens of players that can fill whatever roll you fill in a guild. In mideval times, if a craftsmen departed for whatever reason, it took years to replace their talent. Bob dies to the plauge and Tom can do his work, but you are still one person short and overall production declines.

  4. Medieval guilds sound interesting. It may be a bit basic but I wrote a guide about how to make a guild and thought that me useful to people reading this series.

    wowbloggers last blog post..Stuck in the World of Warcraft

  5. *might – fingers can’t keep up with my mind 🙂

    wowbloggers last blog post..Stuck in the World of Warcraft

  6. Omg – *might be
    Ok I think my post is error free now…
    Pathetic really – and I call myself a blogger 🙂

    wowbloggers last blog post..Stuck in the World of Warcraft

  7. @bearcat: It sounded like you were advocating “paying off” the officer corps with loot or special advantages to keep them around. There’s no way I would support that sort of thing. WoW guilds are essentially volunteer organizations, and of course they have their own politics, but the leadership is usually pretty idealistic (except in the case of corrupt or bad leaders…who maybe deserve their own entry in the series).

  8. [quote]What you get is responsibility, and some people enjoy that (no really, they do). I find that the people who stick with leadership positions over the long haul and do well in them have something of a caretaker personality. They don’t want loot/power/adoration–they just want to do something the right way.[/quote]

    This sums up my feelings in a nutshell.

    When it comes to guild leadership, unlike real life, I find it best to have ONE person making the calls. Keep an open democracy as much as possible, but that single entity (GM/Raid Leader or whatever you deem it in game) needs to be calling all the shots.

    As you can see with today’s current struggles in the US and world when too many people have a say in how things are run, chaos ensues…

    Keep an open mind, but be firm and just with your decisions (as well as consistant).

  9. My guild is a laid back raiding guild, and while we’ve been having relative success with our progression I feel our leadership is a bit weird. Like all but 2 of my previous guilds on WoW, we have class leads.. I’m not strongly against it, but aside from during raids it does make the different sections of our guild (dps, tanking, healing, as a broad example) less united.

    I don’t have anything against our GM, but I don’t get the impression that he’s particularly approachable. In that if I ever had a problem with the guild, the first thing I’d do would be to speak to my Hunter class lead, because from where I am to where the GM is there’s a pretty big gap of sorts.

    The Hunters in the guild are all pretty close-knit, but perhaps because of the class lead system we end up needing spokespeople for better communication. On the exception of the folks I’ve befriended during my stay in the guild, I don’t know the other class leads very well either.

    It’s probably just me, but almost all of the successful guilds I’ve been in have GMs that are main tanks, most often a Warrior. And they all have the mount from Attumen. And an Amani War Bear. ….

  10. Syd I can see how someone might think I’m advocating “paying off” the officer corp. Thats certainly not my intention. I’ll use myself as a case in point. Around the first of the year my ability to raid was limited to 2 nights a week for 3 hours at a time. The guild I was a co-GM at the time needed me 5 nights a week for much longer hours. I was not able to meet the guild objectives, nor was it able to meet mine. Rather than bend the entire guild to my desires I left gracefully and moved on to another guild that was happy to take me as a raid leader for 2 nights a week, 3 hours at a time. This new guild was able to meet my personal objectives. I don’t think I was paid off, but I did recieve special treatment in the fact that I wasn’t expected to be on unless I was raiding. I stayed with that guild for 8 months untill there were a number of changes with the rest of the officer corp and once again they needed me to raid most of the week. Since that was not in line with my own objectives (RL comes first for me), I helped them find and train a new RL and tank that could fit their needs and relinquished my role as RL

    We both know that officers are in it for the power or the phat lewtz the guild is not likely to be successful in the long term as the members realize there’s two tiers of players.

    Lastly, I fully agree that WoW guilds are volunteer organizations. That places emphasis on my point that if you don’t keep your players and officers happy they will move on. The trick is finding those leaders who can be happy with the way you run things.

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