“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Since January of 2007, I have held positions in World of Warcraft guilds as a “leader” of sorts.  Granted, there’s a huge difference between the Raid Leader and the Guild Leader, but that will come a little bit later.  Truthishly, leadership is a tough job.  It’s a balancing act.  It’s being a manager, a cheerleader, a manipulator, a parent, and a teacher all at once.  The last part is hard to do when you play a game where people think they are the best at everything they do.  It’s hard to teach through a monitor how to do something: you cannot see what they’re really thinking, or doing; their inner mind is untouchable.

I mention this because as an educator of percussion in a high school facility for about six or seven months a year, I can tell what each of my students are thinking.  When I tell them something, I immediately see a few things… whether they’re actually internalizing my words, whether they actually want to change something… sometimes, it’s just a “yeah, I’m gonna phone it in and see if it works”.

Unfortunately for the kids who do the latter option, I utterly destroy them with words most teachers you might have had in school would probably never say (BUT it gets the job done… please don’t do it for reals, aspiring teachers).

So here are some basics to leadership in general.  Feel free to follow them or change them, but know that for the most part, these things work:

  1. The Crap Sandwich – You might have heard this before: essentially, you start off on a “needs improvement” area.  Then, you compliment them on what they’ve done correct that evening.  End your discussion with a “I know you can do better”.  To be honest, most guild leaders I’ve seen that aren’t effective are ones that never compliment their guildies, even when things go wrongMorale is your duty as a guild leader or raid leader; when morale falls, so will performance. You cannot control the external factors of raiding (e.g. school, parent aggro, girlfriend aggro, etc), but you can control how they feel in-game, and that is your strongest tool.
  2. Never Be Abrasive – Yes, yes.  Don’t be abrasive is a given, right?  Wrong.  Passive aggressiveness in leadership is quickly seen and heard by members.  Just because you’re a leader does not mean you’re instantly more brilliant than your guildies.  Your responsibilities as a leader are your responsibilities– you’ve chosen that you want to have more responsibilities than a normal member and thusly, you are a guild leader. These people that play with you will know you through your words.  If you become overly aggressive in any form, you will quickly lose having any sort of comradrie or confidence through your guild.
  3. Confidence – I heard this once at a leadership seminar, and I will never forget it.  When you are confident and you are present and you are “out there”, you are a leader.  Technically, there is nothing that binds you to be a leader: it’s when your guild members listen and take direction and follow direction that you are one.  When they don’t, you got nothing. Never forget that some people may look up to you as a guild leader or raid leader and aspire to be at that level one day.  This kind of confidence is amazing when done correctly; I rarely see it in guilds these days.
  4. The Trust Factor – In both of the guilds I’ve led in, we use the loot council system.  It has been a success for the most part because of the transparency we allow in our decisions; granted, there have been a few people who believe it was “favoritism” that got loot for some people.  It’s a given that most guildies, some new and some old, will be paranoid about the loot system (or any system at all— there simply is no loot system that keeps corruption out 100%).  Establish trust early, introduce yourself, be a little personal. This game is supposed to be fun.  When you are always in a state of distrust and second guessing, you probably aren’t having fun (unless you’re a sick, SICK individual).
  5. The Ivory Tower – Most of us have done this.  I know I’m guilty of it.  If you have a voice communication software, like Ventrilo, you might have an officer channel.  Try not to hide in it all of the time, be in the public channels, talk to your guild members. If anything, create a bind so you can have an alternative button to press to talk to officers.  But don’t hide in a channel all the time, people get a little restless if their only means of leadership communication is locked in an ivory tower!

I hope some of these words of wisdom will enable you to become a better leader.  I’m sure I’ll have more to add as I only wanted to put five points up for now.

The next installment of “Lowered Expectations” will be about some heroics, and maybe about that relationship factor of recruitment!