Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

16 August, 2018

What makes a good community leader?
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 11:48 PM

For today’s post I want to take a closer look at leaders of community, specifically of MMO guilds. What does good leadership require when you’re dealing with a loosely organized group of people who are doing something like playing a game “for fun”?

Let’s dig a little deeper into this, shall we?

I’ve written some posts about leadership in the past, although with an eye toward leading groups doing work. But some of the same lessons apply, I think. Especially thinking about motivating people.

And these don’t just apply to the guild leader, they can also apply to guild officers.

A leader manages

I wrote a post about management before. This is kind of the nuts and bolts of leading a guild: herding the cats and trying to keep them in line. The difficulty of this depends on the nature of the community. Someone running a raiding guild is going to have to do a lot more work than the person who started a purely social guild for offline friends. The raid leader has to do something that requires a lot of coordination in the game. This isn’t to say that social groups don’t need management as well, because drama can still happen in a purely social group.

Part of management is also delegation. Knowing who to trust to get some of the work done is important. In raiding guilds this might be “class officers” who guide people to doing their best with their classes. Or it might be having someone coordinate schedules. And in the social guild there can be someone who plays the “good cop’. There’s often work that can be delegated to others.

A leader plans

When people join a community, they often want something from the community. Raiders want to raid, RPers want to RP, socializers want to socialize, etc. This means the leader has to do what they can to make sure people are taken care of and that goals are reached. Raid leaders need to organize raids and plan when raiding will take place. RPers need to set ground rules for the community and help organize events to get people RPing, and socializers have to plan to do social things to strengthen the bonds of friendship between people.

Sometimes this element works best when people don’t see the inner workings of the planning. When raids just get organized and happen, when events are run without a hitch, when people just show up to watch a movie together… these things can seem to happen almost spontaneously. Even if the individuals in the community take over some aspects of this, it’s a reflection of the leadership that people take care of things without being lead by the hand.

A leader listens

This seems like one of those obvious things that has a lot of subtlety to it. Of course you should listen to people! But this can be surprisingly hard, especially in a large group. Making sure everyone has a voice and that voice gets to you can be hard. Sometimes when you delegate things, feedback gets filtered in ways that make it easy for some of that feedback to not reach you. This is why picking good officers is really important.

Of course, listening doesn’t mean acting without thinking. Someone might sincerely believe they deserve more attention or more loot drops than other people in the guild, but that can be damaging to the rest of the group. So it’s important to show that you are listening because you want people to feel they were listened to even if you don’t do what they request.

A leader nurtures

This element gets overlooked too often in my opinion. A good leader should help people become better. A raiding leader should do what they can to help people become better raiders. This might be by picking officers that can help directly, by giving advice directly to people who need it, or even by providing an example for other to follow. In a social guild this usually takes the form of care of a friend. Finding out how people are doing, letting them talk to you if needed, even offering advice or help when you can. Of course, this is tricky if you help someone who might really need professional help of a therapist. But we can all help others.

I like to think this is a natural extension of being a human, though. The world is full of enough terrible people who tear others down, be the person who helps lift others up and help them. Be the person who helps others and make the world a better place.

A leader leads

This is another thing that seems obvious. Leaders lead by definition, right? But someone can appear to be in a leadership position without leading. This causes all sorts of problems as people wait and rely on the leader without actually being lead. A lot of time this leadership comes in the form of motivation: how do you motivate people to contribute to the group instead of being selfish? How do you get people to play nicely together when there’s a problem?

In most MMO guilds leaders lead by example. The leader of the raiding guild is a raider, often someone central to the raid like a main tank. The leader of an RP group is an RPer who understand the needs of the group. The leader shows others what to do by example. But even when they don’t, they should understand the needs of the group to help others. A main tank raid leader should know the basics of other classes to help others, or at least have trusted advisers who can step in. If there’s an issue between people, the leader needs to step in and resolve the problem, often by being a good example of good behavior themselves.

At the end of the day, people want a leader to lead. Make sure your community has a good leader if you set yourself up to be the leader.

What do you think? Are there other qualifications for a good leader?

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