Is there an Educational Context?
I have watched Guild leadership in Everquest II with growing interest over the last couple of years. With my recent interest in the use of Second Life as an educational tool, i have reflected on the learnings inherent in EQ2 that occur without the tacit knowledge of the gamer.
The Autocratic Leader
The role of Guild leader is a pivotal one for any guilded gamer. The leader sets the vision and direction of the guild and should embody the values and behaviours that are expected by members.
I spent the full 70 levels when I started this game with a Guild on Najena server (dominantly Australian membership). I joined a guild that had a number of real life friends and was in a state of turmoil. The previous leader had left the guild leaving a variety of logistical and social issues behind him.
In context of leadership style (while I never met him) this particular leader was from all accounts highly autocratic and dictatorial about how people should spend their game time. His interpersonal skills were lacking and frequently the cause of tensions and friction within the guild community. It turned out that several senior members left the guild to join others. This is a clear example of a very strong and abrasive leadership style, lacking in emotional intelligence and empathy almost singularly being responsible for the dismantling of a previously stable community.
The directionless leader – without influence or strategy
One individual who remained in the guild offered to take over leadership. His leadership style could not have been more different. Very relaxed and laid back. He appointed a couple of officers to assist, whom, did not take on a lot of operational responsibility.
While some players came back to the guild during this period, the leadership was not strong, decisive, and setting direction and having goals for players and members. This was a continual source of frustration for remaining and new members to the guild. The leader began creating other characters and playing them regularly. Several of these were guilded with his leader character, and thus leadership became less and less visible.
Attrition grew to such a point that earlier this year, I went 2 entire weeks spending a lot of time online and did not see a single other guild member log in. A very lonely place indeed to be, when community involvement is more than half the attraction of the game.
With reluctance about 9 months ago I shifted to another guild.
The Emotionally Intelligent Leader with Personal Influence
Wow – some difference. A 25 year old guild leader with interpersonal and social skills, The difference in leadership style and the resultant impact on the guild community was noticeable.
There was a large number of guild members whom would walk over hot coals for their leader and everyone wanted to be involved with him at some level. A vibrant and thriving period.
Over a 6 week period however a remarkable thing happened. He was unavailable to be online due to family crisis and in this period, instead of stepping up to the plate to assist, many officers and senior guild members overtly left the guild, to the point where it was a shell of its formal vibrant self. The removal of the presence of that single person had a devastatingly negative impact, to the point of few people logging on regularly.
I had numerous discussions with him out of game during this period and he as a burnt out, tired and jaded young man, to the point where he was considering either leaving the game altogether or moving to another server more appropriate to his time zone.
He came up with a model of making 3 of us guild leaders in the interim. What he was doing without realising was creating a distributive leadership model. As well as having 3 guild leaders, we also have a large number of officers that have very clear and accountable responsibilities. There is now generally always a guild leader on (one on each continent of Australia, America and Europe) and a raft of officers.
A communication system between the leaders and officers has been set up and the burden of leadership and administration is now shared between approx 8 -9 individuals who are all committed.
The guild is growing weekly by about 10 players who go through a formal probation process, and our guild community is bigger and more vibrant than ever. Why? Clear leadership; setting direction; clear values and behavioural expectations; emotional intelligence; willingness to take advice; empathy; and the creation of a fun place to be.
To conclude: the success of a guild in EQ2 is pivotal around the leadership model.
I am not entirely sure this young man really understands the leadership behaviours he models or if they translate into his real life.