Written By: Adam Fitzgerald
So you’ve decided to form a guild for Star Wars: The Old Republic. You’ve picked your side, your server type, set up your guild website, and you’re all lined up for BioWare’s Pre-Launch Guild Program. You’ve managed to attract a solid group of guild members, and everybody is eager for launch and for the beginning of the adventure. But wait! Before your guild goes off to save (or conquer) the Galactic Republic, there are some common errors new guild leaders should be aware of. As someone with over 8 years of guild management experience at the executive level across two game platforms, I hope the following will be helpful to new Guild Leaders. This list is by no means exclusive – I’m sure one could think of other potential pitfalls – but these ten items are, in my estimation, the most serious.
1. Don’t ask anything of your troops that you yourself are not willing to do.
By sharing the risks and dangers with your troops, you will earn their respect. This is the reason why generals in the First World War – pejoratively named “brass hats” – were disliked by the rank and file, who suffered in the trenches while the high command sipped champagne in their chateau headquarters, miles behind the front.
2. Uphold the Rule of Law.
The rules you write as a Guild Leader (GL) should also apply to you, for if you break or ignore your own rules, why should anyone else feel obligated to comply? If circumstances require a rule to be bent or broken, that is a GL’s prerogative, but it should be made clear to the troops that it’s an exceptional circumstance.
3. Beware of nepotism.
While having family members and loyal friends at your side as guild officers can be a great benefit, there is a downside. Sometimes such officers turn into “yes men” (or women) – they may tell you what you want to hear so as not to jeopardize the relationship. Additionally, the troops may feel there is a lack of “social mobility” – that regardless of their hard work and dedication, they’ll never be made an officer because they’re not family or a close friend. Such promising officer-candidates will most likely leave to find a guild that has greater opportunities for advancement.
4. Making the mistake of not having a formal complaint process.
If your troops are having a problem, and do not have a direct line of communication to the leadership, the problem will fester and become worse, and their complaints will end up in Guild Chat – or worse, general chat. A complaints process may be as simple as an open-door policy or may be more elaborate such as a website-based form that members can fill out. It’s important to allow anonymous submissions as well; if not, it may discourage your troops from coming forward. Such complaints should be taken seriously and one should do one’s best to resolve the issue.
5. Beware of cliques.
Sociologists tell us that in any organization that has more than about 20-30 people, cliques will inevitably form, a legacy from when our ancestors lived in small hunter-gatherer groups of around the same size. The greatest danger is when an officer forms a clique with certain members of the rank and file, which will compromise their objectivity as they will “play favorites” when adjudicating disputes. To a certain extent, a GL must accept that this will happen – especially in larger guilds – but there is a way to mitigate the effects of cliques with guild-wide activities like contests and World PvP.
6. Criticizing or “dressing down” your officers in public.
This will embarrass them and will undermine their authority. For if the Guild Leader doesn’t treat his officers with respect, why should anyone else? If an officer steps over the line, that’s what Officer Chat is for. Speak to them privately about the situation; otherwise you may log in the next morning to find you’re short an officer. It’s possible to avoid such a situation entirely if your officers know what they can and cannot do, and otherwise know the mind and intentions of you, the GL.
7. Allowing your guild reputation to suffer because of the actions of a single individual.
A guild’s good reputation can take years to build, but can be destroyed in a single night. A good reputation not only makes for good neighbors, it also can be valuable when recruiting. Make it clear to your troops that you expect them to act like guild “ambassadors” when dealing with the larger community and that there will be consequences if they act recklessly. Take steps to investigate, and gather as many facts as possible so as to avoid a he said/she said situation. Do your best, within reason, to satisfy the injured parties, which may include a statement on how such behavior is not acceptable in your guild, and that you have taken steps to deal with the situation on your end. This may include removing the offender from the guild, for no single individual, no matter how valuable they are to the team, is worth losing your good guild reputation over.
8. Acting like a tyrant.
Avoid ultimatums if at all possible (“Do it, or else!”), and remember that your troops are not your slaves – they are volunteers, here of their own accord. Treat them otherwise, and they’ll leave. Instead of seeing the troops as serving you, look at it the other way around – that you serve them. Ultimately, a good GL will understand that they rule with the consent of the governed.
9. Being too nice.
If item #8 is one extreme, this is the other – a GL who is unwilling to step on toes or to confront problematic players directly. Remind yourself of the expression, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” A good leader should always be just a little bit ruthless, and understand that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few: do not be afraid to do what must be done (but see #10 – it’s a fine line to walk!).
10. Taking a course of action without first consulting your officers and/or the troops.
An ounce of consultation can save a pound of drama! This isn’t to say that if your new idea is not met with universal approval, that you should not proceed: sometimes, the GL really does know what’s best for the guild. But even if you proceed with an unpopular course of action, the troops will likely appreciate that you at least asked for their opinions and feedback on the matter.
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Tags: Adam Fitzgerald, Bioware, EA, Electronic Arts, Galactic Republic, guild master, guilds, LucasArts, officers, Star Wars: The Old Republic, SWTOR, TOR