Are Your Guild Officers Fit to Lead?
Disclaimer: This obviously controversial (and long) blog post is not directed at any specific guild officer or leader I know. I have been a guild officer and council member myself on a few occasions and the observations in this post are based on my experiences as a member of approximately 15 guilds across 4 MMOs over the last 6+ years. I know I will get a lot of flak from guild leaders and officers, who might or might not know me, but at least consider yourselves warned.
The question in this blog post title is quite a touchy one. Questioning the leadership of anyone in any position of authority can always lead to trouble, criticism and partisanship. In MMOs we call that drama. There are many leaders in our lives, and whether they are politicians, presidents, mayors, company executives, team leads, volunteer group leaders, or guild officers, there is are two fundamental stances I want to take:
Not everyone is fit to lead
Not every leader is a good leader
Based on these two assumptions, I ask the question: Are your guild officers fit to lead?
In order to discuss this, I'd like to analyze a few social realities that can easily categorize the various people we deal with in terms of leadership:
Do they want to lead?
Do they lead in RL?
Do they have good leadership skills?
1. Do they want to lead?
Not everyone wants to lead. Some people simply want to do or follow their whole lives, and that's ok. You cannot just have Chiefs, you need Indians too. Non-leaders sometimes prefer doing/executing rather than managing, and any leader needs to respect as well as acknowledge that if we had only leaders, we'd be left with no one willing to do the work. Non leaders can be amazing performers and team players. By not being bogged down with the responsibilities and time sink of leadership, they can perfect their own selves to be the best contributor to a group effort.
Then you also have the situation where some people want to lead in certain situations but not in others. If someone already has a lot of responsibilities in one leadership role (e.g. company executive), they might not want to spend the time or energy to be a leader in another forum (e.g. condo board president or guild leader).
2. Do they lead in Real Life?
Whether or not someone is already a leader in real life can sometimes affect whether or not they want to lead in a game, and also if they have the skills (see below). You could argue that being a parent is a form of leadership, and it certainly is, but leading adults vs leading children is very different. Some great company executives make lousy parents, and some awesome parents can also be really bad managers. For the purpose of the question here, let's push parenting aside, although I have to acknowledge that with the number of kids we have in MMOs, sometimes it takes a good parent to keep them in line.
If someone is not a leader in real life, it could be because they do not want to, they never got the opportunity, or they do not have the skills, and therefore tried and failed.
3. Do they have good leadership skills?
This is the controversial one that is open to debate and opinions. Assessing a leader also means assessing who is being led. Since there can be many levels of leadership, you can have a team leader answering to higher organization leader. For example, a company director might lead an entire department, but still has to answer to a Vice-President, who in turn answers to the President and/or CEO. With guilds, officers can lead various class groups or raids, but ultimately answer to the guild leader. Guild councils usually represent co-leaders but in this post I want to focus on individual leadership aptitude.
Because of the chain of command, one leader might be perceived as bad wheras another might like them. For example, if someone prefers to receive very specific instructions, they will like the type of hands-on leader who likes to micro-manage. Me personally, I prefer a leader who delegates, leaves me alone and asks for a weekly status. Micro-managers drive me nuts.
MBTI Personality Types
Next, allow me to dig into recognized personality studies such as the MBTI Personality Types from the Myers & Briggs Foundation. Anyone who has ever attended management classes has read about those. I'll give you the high level gist of it here but you can read more at http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics.
MBTI splits people across 16 personality types, each built from a combination of the 4 following preferences:
Favorite World: Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
Information: Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
Decision: Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
Structure: Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)
My analysis here does not rely too much on the MBTI personality types, but I will refer to them here and there. In any case, if you have any interest in leading people, I highly suggest you read more on MBTI. In the interest of full disclosure, the following description applies to my personality type (ENTP, with a strong slant towards ENTJ):
Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.
Frank, decisive, assume leadership readily. Quickly see illogical and inefficient procedures and policies, develop and implement comprehensive systems to solve organizational problems. Enjoy long-term planning and goal setting. Usually well informed, well read, enjoy expanding their knowledge and passing it on to others. Forceful in presenting their ideas.
The 16 types are described at http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.asp but it's usually a good idea to take the test to find out your type, instead of guessing by reading the descriptions. I took the test a couple years back and my results were exactly what I anticipated.
Based on these 16 types: the ones that are best for leadership roles are usually ISTJ, INFJ, ESTP, ENTP, ESTJ, ENFJ, and ENTJ. Other personality types can make leadership work somehow, but it's not exactly how they are wired. As you can see, there is no one preference that makes anyone a leader. While most leading personalities have a preference for extraversion, some leaders can also prefer intraversion.
Lastly on this MBTI topic, any leader of any personality has to recognize that the people they will lead can be of any of the 16 personality types. You cannot lead an ENTP individual the same way you deal with an ISFP. A good leader is someone who recognizes who they are, which personality type fits them, what their preferences are and how to interact with the other 16 personalities. This is not easy and that is why true leadership can be a lifelong pursuit.
Leader Type Combinations
Ok, now that I've established my 3 leadership questions and the 16 personality types, where am I going with this? Let's analyze some combinations:
Good Leaders Who Want to Lead
This combination is a no brainer. Whether or not they lead in RL, these people are good at it and want to do it. You want these people as officers and guild leaders. However their RL responsibilities might make it hard for them to find the time to be a dedicated officer, and their level of involvement can fluctuate over time.
Personality Types: ENTP usually cannot help themselves and want to lead. Some, like me, already have a lot of responsibilities in life and might not want to assume guild leader positions due to time constraints but would still like to pitch in as officers. ESTJ make awesome raid leaders. ENFJ players are probably the most dedicated and non-selfish guild leaders you can find, cherish and support them. Like ENTP, ENTJ folks make good strong leaders, however can come across as a bit forceful. Those that respect strength will follow with no issue, others with strong egos might clash with them though simply out of pride.
Bad Non-RL Leaders Who Want to Lead
This type of leader is also a no brainer. These are often the people spamming trade chat to advertize their guild and recruit anyone willing to join. They just want to lead, no matter what, and have no idea how to do it. They are easy to avoid and you can spot them from a mile away. If you end up in a guild where the guild leader and/or many of the officers fit that bill, just /gquit and don't look back.
Personality Types: I hate to peg any personality type in that category because you can find good leaders in all of them. You typically do not need a psych profile to spot these people though.
Bad RL Leaders Who Want to Lead
Like the previous type above, these people somehow ended-up in a position of power at work despite a clear lack of skills, and now they seek to reproduce their narcissistic power grab in an MMO guild. These can be the worst because they are bad leaders but think they are good leaders and will cite their real-world position as proof. Avoid at all costs!
Bad Leaders Who Don't Want to Lead
These people are usually a non-issue, just do not force them to become officers and do not transfer a guild to them. They can be a problem when they are part of the initial founders of a small guild, and are given officer status as such but do not want any responsibilities. The guild leader might keep them on as officers if they are friends, but the problem is they set a bad example for other members and officers as the guild grows and the officer roles become formalized. This can also happen when guild leaders start a small family-style guild but end-up growing beyond their expectations. Once the guild gets too big, their small leadership skills become capped but they do not want to step down since the guild is "their baby" and they have a core of "officer friends" supporting them in their self-serving bad leadership. They will typically treat all non officers as second class citizens, creating a culture of "Do what I say, not what I do". Very bad.
Personality Types: Hard to peg anyone here, but INTJ and INTP can fit the bill. ESFP can apply here but they would recognize the need to step down as officer once they realize the guild needs more dedicated officers.
Good Leaders Who Don't Want to Lead
Typically these will be people who are already leaders with lots of responsibilities in real life and who just want to play the game to have fun and relax. What can happen is because they are usually so helpful or naturally inclined to lead, they get promoted to officer status as a reward and can risk letting people down because of their lack of time to dedicate to officer duties. You can also find "diamond in the rough" leaders here who never had the opportunity and therefore do not step up on their own.
Personality Types: Any of the aforementioned leadership types can fit here if their schedule is too busy and their play time limited. They usually end up more often in casual guilds since their obligations can prevent them from following the rigorous schedule of hardcore raiding guilds. The "diamond in the rough" types will usually be ISTF or INFJ, slanting more on the introvert type but sitting on untapped potential. It usually takes an ENFJ leader to encourage and support these future leaders to step up.
So why did I tell you all this crap?
If you're already a guild leader or officer, or want to become one, take a long hard look at yourself and see in which category you fit. I would also recommend taking the MBTI test if you can, it might even help you to pursue a career in management in your line of work. If you realize this is not your place, then gracefully step down, explain your reasons and everyone will respect you for having the balls to put the greater good of the guild above your own.
If you are dealing with difficult personality types in bad leadership positions, hopefully this post can help you realize why they act the way they do and give you insights on how to deal with them. I recommend a diplomatic approach over whispers or in a private voice chat channel instead of a confrontation in guild chat. Note that sometimes it will still fail if the leader's ego is too strong and the pride factor kicked in. Unless you can get support from other officers who agree with you, the only option is to /gquit if you know you cannot change anything. Keep your best guildies in your friends list and leave on a good note. Do not burn bridges on your way out.
If you are blessed with good officers and guild/raid leaders, support them and fight for them. Their job is not easy and sooner or later they will have to deal with drama and rotten apples. Give them some input, some support and remind them that you respect them for the role they fill, no matter how hard some decisions might be sometimes, and that you'll be there to back them up. Leadership can be a lonely position sometimes.
And remember: Yes, it's just a game, but you're dealing with real people behind the avatars.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post and the leaders you have encountered over the years as MMO players. Please send your comments to me via Twitter at http://twitter.com/ActiveNick.