I didn’t intend to be topical today, but I think Njessi heard I was going to write something about guild leadership and so stole the idea and beat me to the punch. The good news is that, although I fear I might not be able to articulate the thoughts in my head as well as I would like to, this is at least taking a different look at the multifaceted beast that is guild leadership.
Specifically, I’d like to talk about what I feel my greatest weakness as a leader is. But to do that, I need to first talk about how I see it as a strength in other people.
My WoW GM
I still dink around in WoW and was able to get into an amazing guild that has a tremendous raiding program. They are a 10′s hard mode raiding guild and, even better, a decent group of people who treat each other well. The guild leadership structure has been described as a benevolent dictatorship, with the GM being the absolute authority and with no officers helping to carry the load.
I’ve done the solo-GM/no officers thing, and I don’t think I did it well because I lacked a crucial element: honesty. I don’t mean that I went around lying to my guild, but I would hold back from being real with them in times of conflict. But more than that, I would hold back from being real even in times of ease.
Then there’s my GM in WoW, who I don’t have a lot of meaningful chats with – especially these days – but I can say I know exactly where I stand with him because he doesn’t hold back. He is always honest in his word choices with me and makes no bones about the fact that he tells things just like they are. This has been true in everything from our talks about my joining his guild:
come hang out with us! no one will talk to you and we will likely never invite you to a raid, but we won’t be mean to you either
And even the way he phrases invitations for me to join in on a raid that they have an open space for:
looks like a firelands alt run
you’re welcome to tag along
I admit, at first I was a little burned that he said “tag along” as though I were someone’s kid sister and only being tolerated because the older kids didn’t care enough to try to keep me from dragging along behind them. At least, until it became perfectly clear that that pretty much honestly encompassed the reality of the situation. I was worse than useless, unless you count my contributions towards soaking up loot they would have otherwise sharded.
But I do want to be clear on this. Although it was honesty, there was nothing brutal about it. No one made me feel unwelcome or like a pest. We had a good time and I marveled at their ability.
So my WoW GM? He is doin’ it right.
Then there’s me
I recently had a conversation with a guild mate in SWTOR that was honest. It was refreshing and – probably – long overdue. I didn’t initiate it. Coming away from that conversation, I wondered how much easier the past few months might have been if I’d had the honesty required when the issue we discussed had first come up. I said just enough at the outset to give this guild mate an idea of where I stood, but not enough that they could know absolutely how I felt and what I was thinking.
I hate that about myself. I hate that I will avoid being real because it’s difficult. When I look at myself with unflinching honesty, I have to admit I am often a coward.
There have been several times where I’ve had to have The Talk with someone and I have chosen to address it from the standpoint of having heard a lot of complaints about a specific person or issue. While, strictly speaking, it was true when I said, “Listen, I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about X situation,” I was never honest enough to add on, explicitly, that I also had a problem with it. I suppose it could have been inferred from the fact that I was having the conversation, but I look back and I see only that I hid from being honest.
That thought collided with a… discovery? observation?… I’ve recently made with regard to my presence on Twitter. The short version is that when I had the opportunity to change guilds in WoW, I cut off some people in Twitter because I finally could. Because I wasn’t their GM anymore and I didn’t feel the need to play nice. There’s no real drama behind that decision. It was a personality conflict that was never expressed but that always lurked just beneath the polite surface I adopted.
Cutting them off in Twitter was an outlet for all the pent up frustration I’d hauled along with me because I never had the wherewithal to say anything about it. I understand from third party sources that my actions came as a bit of a surprise, which in turn surprised me. I thought it was obvious that I only just barely tolerated what I viewed as a steady stream of nonsense.
Apparently, not so much.
Even in writing this post, highlighting my ugly flaws yet again and wondering how in the hell to get past this issue – because it has cropped up before – I have so much difficulty in being honest. In telling the pure truth to you and even to myself.
And in awkwardly looking for a way to sum this up and put it out in the world as another testament to the fact that I shouldn’t be allowed to hold a GM position, I guess I would say that while I have not regretted the ultimate outcomes of the situations I’ve mentioned here, I do regret that I failed to be honest. And if I could go back and find a kinder way to end an association, I’d do it.