Today I begin an investigation of how to build a successful guild, with some pictures thrown in to show off the exciting process of house building I'm experiencing IRL. Now I will say that I've only spent significant time in one guild, but over the course of 11 months in the game I have acquired stories and knowledge from other folks as to what makes guilds work. I'm also positioned as a member of the largest Alliance guild on my server: The Illuminati, as well as the largest Horde guild on my server: Alea Iacta Est. Both guilds appear to be stable and managing their big size well because of a few key factors in each guild.
Note that AIE has 1600 active members (and 4800 overall) according to Wow Census and The Illuminati has 187 active members (347 overall), so each presents a whole different scale of size. The Illuminati would only be the 6th biggest Horde guild on the server, but the fact remains that these two guilds top the population charts and that presents some unique challenges, especially considering both guilds are obviously geared towards all kinds of players. Each guild has hardcore raiders, complete casuals, PvP gurus, etc. So that's the background on the two guilds I will use to illustrate examples of my point.
Building a successful guild is like building a house. Each process has many things to take care of, else the guild/house crumbles beneath you. Each process take a lot of time, and a lot of work to do correctly. Yet if everything falls into place, the benefits are fantastic.
The first step of building a home is setting a proper foundation. Without the proper building blocks in place, there's no way anything of substance can be supported over a long period of time. In the World of Warcraft, a foundation of a guild is the guild leadership. This encompasses a good guild leader as well as the officers/assistants making up the core leadership group with the guild leader.
A good foundation of a house handles the weight of the house with strength of materials and great care in the placement of supporting beams and columns. A good guild leader handles a successful guild by having strong fellow leadership around him and great care to understand where support of more officers is needed for his guild and putting good leaders in those positions. Without this strength and great care, a certain section of the guild could collapse for lack or organization and leadership, leading to a possible exodus of players that could cripple a guild.
While the foundation of a house is not something people generally show off or praise, when the foundation begins to break, it becomes a huge problem for all the details people do care about (the rest of the house). Guild leaders are a special breed because they not only have all the qualities I just listed, but they also don't mind having all their hard work be ignored while people enjoy everything built above them. That's not to say guild leaders get no credit at all or love from their guild members, but they certainly don't get as much credit as they deserve generally.
When the guild leader bolts from the guild or crumbles by not taking care of his responsibility, everything else falls apart because the foundation is no longer there. Sure, it may take a bit of time for the house walls to break or sink into the soft earth, just like it may take a bit of time for the guild to spiral out of control and break apart...but losing a good guild leader without a replacement foundation will eventually lead to guild disbanding.
In The Illuminati, the primary guild leader is Vowain. Vowain embodies all of those foundation-like features one could hope for in a guild leader, and it shows in the growth and stability of the guild only 1 year into its existence. Vowain deals with guild issues head on, and he is not afraid to be strong and make the hard decisions when necessary. Vowain has surrounded himself with some officers, including a "second-in-command" Magus as well as a handful of Regents or guild officers. This core leadership group is properly sized for the guild and takes on additional important roles we will cover in later installments of this guild-building experience.
In Alea Iacta Est, the primary guild leader is Maui. Maui also embodies all of the foundation-like qualities of strength and care that you wish for in a top officer. AIE operates on a whole different scale, but Maui has placed a proper amount of officers around him to manage the load of the nearly 5000 members. There are Imperators, or a set of 4 other guild founding members, as well as 4 Praetorians, which are the core leaders who manage guild resources and policy issues since Maui cannot be expected to handle all of them in such a large guild. The day-to-day operational leadship is handled by a group of 32 Centurions. More Centurions are added as the guild grows in active membership so that someone is around to handle conflicts and other guild necessities. Maui and this leadership group keeps the behemoth guild running smoothly.
So while putting together the foundation or group of officers may not be the sexiest thing to start off with when building a guild, not taking the proper steps at the early stages of guild development will produce cracks or weaknesses in this foundation that may eventually lead to the whole guild crumbling into nothingness. Next time, we'll discuss guild membership and outside appearances.