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Officers' Quarters: Walking away

a woman walks toward a distant skyline
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.

Marriage or ... your guild -- it's a fairly straightforward decision! However, it's not an easy thing to walk away from a community you've spent so much time leading and developing, even when you're feeling burned out on the game. This week's email features a guild leader who is simply torn up about the prospect of leaving the guild to another officer.
Scott,

I've been putting off writing this for a long time, but I don't think I can any more ...

During the days of Vanilla I came across a player (we'll call him "Dan") who helped direct me to a great guild ... The guild was small, close-knit, extremely helpful and the most at home I've felt in a gaming community in ages.

Through the years I worked my way up the ranks, eventually earning a spot as one of Dan's officers. Several years later, when Real Life go the best of Dan, I was chosen as his successor. There were other officers there longer, but Dan felt I understood his vision for the guild better than anyone else. I was honored, and have done my best to carry on the guild in the foot steps he left behind.

We're not the biggest guild on our server, or the most advanced raiders, or the best PvPers, but we're good, and we're well known. Our guild name has always been synonymous with quality people, and we let our members know that we value quality of character above all else. When guilds on our server fold, their members clamor to join us, and we're careful about who we let in. We've been around for over five years now, and I am damned proud of everything we've accomplished.

Don't let my glowing self appraisal fool you.
We've had no lack of drama, and we've come close to losing it all our fair share of times. We've had incursions from malicious players, mass exoduses, stalkers, abusers, even incidents requiring forced removal of Officers and regular members alike. But we've always come through it shining ...

Just thinking of what we've accomplished, and the memories I've formed with these people brings a smile to my face. I'm proud of what we've done, and I'm proud of the job I've done leading them. I'm proud to call these people my friends. And not just online friends, real friends. I've met many of them, and keep in touch with several members who haven't played in years. And that is why I have such a hard time coming to terms with this.

I'm tired of WoW.

And unfortunately, many of my officers are too ... We stick around, leading, out of a sense of obligation to our members. Then there are those I envy the least, those who still love leading, and playing the game. They're the ones taking on the ever increasing work load as we lose active officers.

My successor is clear, and I know he'd do a fine job with the same level of support I had at the start, but he won't have that, and I'm scared for the future of our guild.

I've been trying to mold replacement officers, but doing so at a rate at which we're losing them has proven difficult ... Many of our players who I was convinced would be great officers don't want the job, or have folded under the weight of Junior Officer responsibility. I fear that we simply don't have enough suitable replacements. Don't get me wrong, they're all great people, but great people don't necessarily make good leaders.

I'm preparing to be married soon, and the planning time and energy required for that has left me too drained to manage the guild properly. Even when the wedding is past I don't think I'll have the time I used to any more. I find myself resenting the officers leaving, myself for not being able to make up for it, and pitying the officers staying. I'm still playing at this point out of a sense of responsibility to my guild, and an attempt to not disappoint Dan, who rested his baby in my arms.

I'm too worn out to play, and too dedicated to walk away.

I don't know what idea haunts me more; the idea of the guild being failing completely, or it continuing on as a shell of it's former self. I can't shake the idea that either fate will be my fault.

Any advice, wisdom, or encouragement would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Yours truly,
A Terminally Dedicated Guild Leader

Hi, ATDGL. My advice is simple: You can't do this to yourself. You just can't.

Believe me, I tried for a long time to hold my guild together when the officer support wasn't there. In the end, I didn't accomplish much besides giving myself a whole lot of unnecessary grief, and the guild still closed up shop for good. I don't regret any of it. Even so, I look back at the hardship and I have to wonder what might have happened if I had walked away sooner than I did.

What a guild needs

You're not doing anyone any favors by forcing yourself to continue when you so clearly don't want to. A guild needs a leader who is active, motivated, and able to put in the time to lead. Let's be honest here: You're not any of those things right now.

It's admirable that you've put in so much effort to ensure a smooth transition to a new guild leader. It's also admirable that you're reluctant to turn over the guild when you know they're going to have a tough time managing it.

But the bottom line is that the guild will have to stand on its own without you at some point, just as it did without Dan. Given your current situation, the guild will likely be better served with a new and enthusiastic leader at the helm.

Perhaps he or she will have an easier time finding officers. It's possible that your own WoW burnout is actually sabotaging your efforts. Many players have a sixth sense for burnout, and it can be disheartening to see it in your leadership, especially for someone who is new to an officer role.

You can't blame yourself

The new guild leadership will have to solve the guild's problems, just as you did. Either they will solve them or they won't. Either they will find new officers to help them or they won't. In either case, it won't be your fault (or your victory if they succeed), because you won't be the one making the decisions.

If the guild fails after you leave, your decision to step down won't be the only factor in that outcome. The death of a guild is never one person's fault (unless of course the guild leader simply goes off the deep end). It takes some genuine apathy from a huge portion of the membership to let a guild die.

And my question to you is: If no one wants to step up and help run the guild, is it really worth saving? If the members care about it as much as you do, someone will take up the cause. If they fail to do that, then the guild's collapse is just as much their fault as anyone else.

It's time

When you took the reins of the guild from Dan, you didn't promise to remain the guild leader until the end of time, to vouchsafe the organization indefinitely to the detriment of your own personal life and your own happiness. You did your best, and from what I can tell you did a pretty darn good job, too. But now it's time for you to walk away.

Certainly you can give the new leader whatever support you're able to and whatever advice he or she will accept. You don't have to cut all ties and disappear. You can still make a difference, but in a supporting role rather than an active role.

Don't underestimate the endurance of the real friendships that you've made. You don't have to give those up just because you step down, and they will last long beyond any potential point when the guild is no longer active.

I know how difficult it can be to let go, but you must -- and soon, both for the good of the guild and yourself.

/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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