On Leadership

If I was the leader of a political party, or the leader of anything at all, and I heard “general non-specific allegations” of serious misconduct about a member, they would not remain general and non-specific for very long. They would either become very specific indeed, and dealt with accordingly, or they would be disproven. Those are the only two acceptable results.

While my current ire is directed against Nick Clegg, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, for his attempts to weasel out of responsibility for what Lord Rennard has been getting up to under his leadership, it’s something we’ve been seeing recently in every part of society, from the well-paid chairmen of global banks, to the leaders of the Catholic Church. When evil-doing is going on within the organisation that you supposedly lead, you don’t get to shirk that by saying “That is an ecumenical matter”.

We’re all part of various organisations or groups, be it as employees, industry representatives, or guildmembers. Our first responsibility is for our own actions, of course, for those are the only one we have complete control over. However, to the extent that we have any agency in the matter, the actions of the groups we are part of reflect directly upon us.

This is one reason why I very seldom join MMO guilds these days. It has become increasingly difficult to find gaming guilds which do not tolerate some degree of bigotry against some group or another. While there are often perfectly nice people even in the worst of guilds, I am unable to perform the necessary ethical gymnastics to stay part of such a guild while still believing my hands to be clean. If nothing else, the presence of hateful behaviour can have a poisonous effect upon the soul. Manners of thinking can be as contagious as any bacteria, particularly when they are supercharged by the opiate of group-belonging, and it is a matter of self-preservation to not bathe yourself in the thoughts of those who hold bigoted ideas in those conditions.

While it is nice to think that it might be possible to stop hateful behaviour within a guild once it has become established, in practise it is almost impossible. The existing members have already come to accept it, and a new member who complains is far more likely to be told to get a sense of humour than to achieve anything useful. No, the only way I have ever seen succeed is for the guild to start off with no tolerance for bigotry, and then for it to guard against it ever-on. And guard you must, for it is all too easy, especially if you care about growing, for new members to start to try to push the boundaries, and for it to be tolerated for fear of causing trouble or driving them out. Once the cancer has found a hold, it will grow roots and metastatise, and you end up with just one more casually misogynistic guild. At that point the only real option is for the non-bigots to leave and try again with a freshly made guild.

Being a leader is not about being popular all the time. It’s about standing up for the ideals of your organisation, whether it is popular or not, and sometimes this will mean that you have to tell a member that they need to stop what they’re doing. Nick Clegg and the other leaders I mentioned earlier have failed because they did not take responsibility for the actions of their members. Turning a blind eye is never leadership, whether you’re a bishop, a managing editor, a pro-gamer team leader, or a guildmaster.

2 comments to On Leadership

  • so in your opinion, what are some qualities that are essential for successful guild leadership???

  • To an extent, it depends on the sort of guild. If it is a very driven guild, a raiding or PvP one perhaps, then you’re going to need some organisational skills.

    Mostly though, it’s the same sort of social skills that serve someone well in any part of life. Willingness to listen, to not show favouritism (something that often rips guilds apart), and to inspire people to work together towards a common goal.

    There are many styles of guild leadership. While I’m not personally comfortable in the more dictatorial varieties, they can work, provided they are seen to be fair. I always preferred a more laid-back consensus-based approach, though even then there are times when you must put your foot down, such as in the case of bad behaviour, as I wrote about above.

    Also, it does depend on what success means. There are many outwardly successful guilds which are based on exploitative practises. These may serve the leader and his close circle very well, but I prefer the idea of everybody within a guild profiting from the experience, and feeling comfortable.