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Officers' Quarters: How to replace an absentee guild leader

Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the high rate of burnout among officers and guild leaders in particular. Lately I've been hearing about a lot of situations where guild leaders have stepped down or outright vanished. Not all such decisions are the result of burnout, of course. Sometimes, real-life obligations get in the way.

Regardless of the reason, losing a guild leader can be absolutely devastating to a guild. If the community was already on the rocks, the disappearance of a guild leader can be the last straw. How can the remaining officers make the transition to new leadership with their guild intact?

Gone, baby, gone

When a guild leader has simply stopped logging in without telling anyone why, players often feel helpless. That person has access to all of the most crucial guild controls and settings and in some cases is the only player who can withdraw from certain bank vaults. It can be difficult to get things accomplished without that access. To accompany these concerns is the worry that the guild leader will suddenly log in one day, rob the bank blind, and disband the guild.

The first step here is to attempt to contact the guild leader and find out his or her status and intentions for the future. Does he or she plan to return at some point? When? Does he or she expect to remain guild leader during that time? If you can get some answers, then you can discuss the implications among the officers. This column assumes that you can't.

If your guild leader has been MIA with no communication for some time, you should assume that he or she is never coming back. Waffling on this point will only accelerate the decline of the guild. Guilds live and die by their leadership. If no one can fill the void quickly, then you're headed for hard times.

In the meantime, talk to your members about what's happening, even if you have no concrete answers yet. Otherwise, speculation and rumor will run rampant.

Reassure members that control of the guild can eventually be reassigned. Unfortunately, you must wait 30 days since the guild leader last logged in before you can petition a GM to reassign control. Make every effort to contact your lost guild leader before you move ahead with the petition. During that time, it's also crucial that you identify a replacement. That player will have to be the one to open the ticket.

A new warchief

Replacing a guild leader on short notice can be a harrowing ordeal. For some lucky guilds, the successor is obvious and willing to take the job. Congrats! You have a new guild leader.

For many other guilds, however, the issue is much more complex. Perhaps there are no obvious candidates. Perhaps there are obvious candidates, but none of them wants to wear the guild leader hat. Perhaps multiple candidates want the position, but the officers can't agree on whom to choose. Or perhaps there's one obvious candidate who wants the hat, but he or she also wants to change fundamental aspects of the guild as part of the deal.

It's rare in any of the above cases that a solution can be reached without compromise, so be prepared to make some difficult choices. Every situation is different, but here are some guidelines to help you select the right player for the job.

1. The promoted player must want the position. You can nudge an officer toward the role, but don't pressure him or guilt him into taking over. Guilds with reluctant leaders rarely succeed in the long term. It's far better for the health of the community if the guild leader is excited to lead than if he or she feels obligated to.

2. Be careful with voting. Voting can seem like the most elegant solution, but I recommend caution when using such methods. You can opt for an officers-only vote, or you can have the entire guild help with the selection. Involving the entire guild is certainly democratic, but guild-wide votes all too often turn into popularity contests. The most well-liked officer isn't always the best candidate to top off the totem pole.

One way to include members without allowing them to control the vast majority of the vote is to count the nonofficer voting majority as a certain amount of officer votes. For example, if the majority of members vote for Officer X, then you could count that as two officer votes. Then say you have six officers who each vote for a candidate. Three vote for Officer X, and three vote for Officer Y. The nonofficer vote breaks the stalemate, and Officer X wins.

Regardless of how you decide to vote, don't leave the field wide open. Announce specific, officer-approved candidates to vote on, and be doubly certain that these candidates do in fact want the responsibility.

3. Talk to nonofficer members about the candidates. Whether you're voting or just debating until there's enough agreement to pull the trigger, make sure to talk to your members about each of the potential candidates. Try to feel out how people would react if that person is chosen. If you find that the candidate is so disliked that players would actually quit the guild when he or she is put in charge, that's a fairly obvious red flag.

In most cases, you won't hear anything so blatant, but you can still gather some valuable information about the membership's perception of the candidates that can help to guide your decision.

4. Agree to allow the new guild leader to make changes -- within reason. If you're having trouble finding willing candidates, promise some leeway to change the guild. Don't expect someone to assume all that responsibility but have no say in the policies that they'll have to enforce. Maybe he always disagreed with the loot system and wants to change it. Maybe he thinks the criteria for new recruits is setting the bar too high or too low.

You don't have to agree to everything, especially if the candidate's ideas will drive players out of the guild or completely change the nature of the organization. However, do keep an open mind about such changes. Even if you have reservations about the new policies, sometimes the alternative is much worse.

5. Consider sharing the role. Many guilds operate just fine while having two guild leaders or even three. If none of the candidates seem ideal, then consider allowing multiple players to share the responsibility.

Another possible solution is to divide up the duties of the former leader among all of the remaining officers. Discuss options before any major decisions are made, and avoid making any choices that any single officer is completely against. It's not the most efficient way to run a guild, but it can work, as long as you don't have officers who constantly disagree about the direction of the organization or its methods. If you can't find anyone who wants the guild leader position, then this could be your last resort short of disbanding.

In any shared-leadership situation, someone will still need to be named the guild leader -- there's no option in the game's software to appoint more than one person. (Note to Blizzard: Make it happen, please.) I recommend choosing the officer who is the most trusted and level-headed of the group to satisfy the game's single-leader limitation.

I'd love to hear from some officers who have managed to keep their guild together during this kind of transition. How did you choose a new guild leader? Did your choice turn out to be the right choice? Tell us below!

/salute

Recently, Officers' Quarters has examined how strong new leadership can create a guild turnaround, the pitfalls of promising more than you can deliver, and lessons learned from Scott's own guild demise. Send your own guild-related questions and suggestions to scott@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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