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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 17th day of Eating, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 62 > Articles > Guide to Guilds: Leadership and Council

Guide to Guilds: Leadership and Council

by shidi

FIRE FAERIE VOLCANO - Leadership can be, at times, one of the most positive and enriching experiences you will ever have. At other times, however, it can give you quite a headache. The key to effective leadership is balancing things so that the majority of the time you are enjoying that uplifting happy feeling, while things are running as smoothly as possible. Fortunately, when it comes to guild leadership, you have help in your quest for an efficient and happy guild the Council. Choosing a council wisely is extremely important, but we'll get to that in a moment. First, and foremost, let me explain to you something that may be disturbing to those of us in free countries, but is entirely true:

Guilds are Not Democratic
Just say no to democracy. Believe me, for guilds, it doesn't work. If you needed approval of the masses for every guild-affecting decision, you would soon find yourself in the midst of an administrative nightmare. Guilds are, by their very nature, set up in a hierarchy of power, with the guild leader being at the top of the little power pyramid. This means it is your sole responsibility, if you are that leader, to ensure that the guild is running smoothly and that the rules are fair and reasonable. Even though this isn't a democracy, no one likes a dictator. You don't want to deal with a mutiny or rebellion.

The Rules
The first, most important thing you can do as a leader is to set up a firm set of rules that you will tolerate no violations of. These should include such basics as, 'All guild members must follow the Neopets Terms and Conditions', and any specific rules that pertain to your guild. My guild, for example, prohibits chat speak on the message boards for clarity of content and comfort of all the members. We also ask that members play honestly, and do not post or use cheat sites. Think carefully about the rules that you set up for your guild, and remember this point: As a guild leader, you must follow all of your own rules. Never, ever, require something of your guild members that you are not willing or able to do yourself. The only exception to this is restrictions, such as 'only council members may call a guild meeting', for example. Post the rules clearly, either on the front page of your guild in the welcome message, or on a Web page, so that all members can read, comprehend, and follow the rules. You may also wish to post what will happen if they do not follow said rules. For example: "If your post uses chat speak, you will be warned. Continued violations will result in the deletion of your posts."

Setting Up Council
Choose your council wisely. I cannot begin to stress how important this is. Never choose someone for a council position just because you are friends with them. Make sure that, in addition to being your friend, that person also has good leadership qualities that will be beneficial to you and your guild. Then and only then should you make them a council member. If you have open council positions, members may apply for them. Read the applications over carefully, and interview your potential council people. Ask them about what they would do in situations that are likely to come up. Look over their shop, lookup, and pets to try and get some idea of their general character. Council members should be trustworthy and responsible. Unless you know your council members very well, do not give them full administrative capacities to start out with. Get to know them, and give them administrative abilities over time.

One of the most important points of leadership is knowing when to delegate authority. If you have a large guild with many projects going on, you can feel overwhelmed and stressed. Your council can, and should, be given the responsibility and duty to help you with some of these projects. For example, a council member who is particularly good with HTML might be in charge of coding the guild Web site, while another who is good with graphics might do the guild layout and make some adoptables for shops and pages. Members, too, should be encouraged to participate where they can. Even though this is not a democracy, limited power of decision-making can be given to members via the guild poll. For example, if you want to change the colours of the guild layout, you may wish to give members the option to vote on what the new colours should be. The most popular colour choice is then used. Members should also be encouraged to send in their suggestions for the guild to the guild leader, or specified members of the Council.

Activities and Services
Be very careful when providing activities for your guild members, because a lot of what you see other guilds doing is actually a violation of the Terms and Services of Neopets. Check over things carefully before you post any activity for your guild! If you find out that something you are doing is against the Terms and Conditions, you should remove it immediately (particularly if you receive a warning). Mistakes happen, and correcting those mistakes as soon as possible is the best way to deal with that. Some nice safe activities you can have include making a guild Web site with help and advice for those new to Neopets, adopting pets from the pound and sprucing them up before dropping them back in, writing a guild Newsletter, creating a guild Neocircle, and making shop dolls or animated adoptables. Use your imagination, and guild member suggestions, and you will come up with some good activities in no time.

As far as services go, you might want to offer a Neomentor program that pairs up an experienced player with one who is new on Neopets and in need of help and advice. We have found this to be vastly successful. You might also want to consider having an exchange shop - a place where members can use the trading post to trade the codestone they have for the codestone they need in order to complete a training course. An Art or HTML service might be set up to help members beautify their lookups and pet pages. The possibilities are endless, and depend on the preferences of the guild.

Promotion and Demotion
When to give out promotions is often a problem for inexperienced guild leaders. While you can make up your own promotional system based on any criteria you like, I find that it is best to give promotions as rewards to those members who are being active, friendly, and participating in discussions on the message board in a productive manner (as in, not just posting 'Hey, wazzup?!') Occasionally, someone's behaviour may merit a demotion. This should be used sparingly, and only when truly needed.

Sometimes a leader will have to boot a council member out of their position for various reasons, most commonly because they are not doing their job properly. If you have dead weight on your council, do not hesitate to jettison it and place a more active, helpful member into the position. Nothing personal is involved - this is just the most effective way to run your guild. Only the most helpful and useful members should be on the council, at all times. Even if someone was once useful, and is no longer so, it's time to move on. Situations change for everyone. A conscientious guild leader will send a Neomail thanking the person for their service to the guild, and explaining the reason for the needed demotion.

Leadership Challenges
Ah, those special moments in which someone questions your authority. They will come up, and like it or not, you're going to have to be prepared to deal with them. When someone violates your guild rules, you must firmly and fairly deal out the consequences for their actions. In the case of someone who is violating the rules to the extent that they should no longer be a part of your guild, it is up to the guild leader and/or council to remove that nuisance from the guild by banning them permanently.

Leaders and authority figures will also have to occasionally step in to arbitrate a dispute between two guild members. Be sure to mediate fairly, and be objective. Hear both sides of the story and help them to reach a peaceful conclusion wherever possible. If one of the parties is at fault, its up to the leader or council member who arbitrated the situation to decide what the appropriate action should be.

Occasionally, even the best leader will make an error in judgement. We had, near the beginning of our guild's history, appointed two council members who seemed nice and helpful. Of course, they were only being this way so that they could absorb knowledge on how to run a guild, and then try to sneakily recruit members to their own guild that they were forming. While situations like that occur more frequently than one might like, the best thing to do is just ban the people involved, choose better council members, and move on with your life. Bad people are everywhere in the world, and getting angry and vengeful over it doesn't help you at all. When a breach of trust like that occurs, consider it a somewhat painful lesson, but a lesson well learned.

Inter-Guild Relationships
Many guilds like to form lists of their allies or sister guilds, and perhaps even list an 'enemy' guild or two. I am not in favour of this general practice, as it seems to promote hostility and competition between guilds where none should exist. While occasionally there is a reason to connect two guilds with a similar interest (For example, one guild with a Harry Potter theme might wish to link to other guilds with that theme), enemies are definitely something that should be avoided. It is never acceptable to have guild 'spies' who join other guilds just to report back on what they are doing, and what their policies are like. This is something that should be avoided at all costs. Guilds are not a competitive sport, nor are there prizes for having more members or destroying other guilds. Avoid welcome messages that include things like: "The best guild ever!" or "The Kewlest gurl guild around!" or "The ultimate Dragon Ball Z guild!" Remember that 'the best' is always subjective. Your guild may be just perfect for some people - but others may prefer a different style entirely. Respect other guilds and their leaders, and they will tend to respect you.

Never join a guild to try and recruit their members to your guild, or send invites for your guild to people who already belong to a guild. This accomplishes nothing other than making you and your guild look very bad, and irritating a lot of people.

Occasionally, the leadership of two guilds will come into conflict or consultation due to a common member, a common problem, or a common interest. Care must be taken in these situations to mediate fairly and discuss the issue objectively, with the interest of both guilds at heart.

Author's Note:
This series on guilds will be taking a brief hiatus so that I may write a Halloween-themed article for issue 63. The series will be concluding the week after that with Guide to Guilds: Guild Features. As always, if you have a question, comment or complaint about my article or anything else in Neopia for that matter, feel free to Neomail me.

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