The 5 Traits I Want in a Leader

Sitting on the fence, trying to figure out what I want from my gaming, now that I almost have the time to play and play hard, I’m constantly asking myself the question: “What do I want?” The answers used to change depending on my mood, but lately they’ve been converging.

I want in a guild:

– A project. Or rather, the opportunity to become involved in a project. I’m not vain enough to expect, or even want, to waltz in and take over an established group. But I do want to eventually be actively involved in pushing a group forward.

– A leadership team I trust and enjoy working with.

Why I want this:

I’m a good second. I’m not a visionary, I’m not a dreamer, I’m not someone who sees big. I am, however, easily influenced by other people’s visions and big dreams. I also really like planning, sorting, organizing. I like making dreams, other people’s dreams, a reality. (I missed my career calling, I should have become an investment consultant.)

I’m also not a passive player. Oh, I’m a little passive when I’m new, or when I don’t intend to commit. But once I’ve claimed a home, I’m one of those people who need to speak their mind, need to know everything and need to have a hand in everything. I don’t expect to control everything (despite being a bossy pally), but I’m at my happiest when in the eye of the storm. I lose interest very fast in “This is how things are and this is how things are going to be” environments.

Looking back at my guild-dating history (following my decision to regard my relationships with guilds the same way normal people regard their relationships with significant others. Not to be confused with dating-guildies. Which I swear I have never done and don’t plan on doing. Flings in foreign countries and Blizzcon dates don’t count. Yes, I like starting rumours.), what seems to have made or broke the relationships was always whether I subscribed to The Vision. If I could find A Vision.

I use the general word leader intentionally, instead of GM/GL, officer, healing lead, tanking lead, raid laid. To me, a leader is someone with A Vision and the ability to conjure that Vision in others. Sometimes leaders have official titles and roles, sometimes they’re just a face in the masses who happens to communicate good ideas well.

So then I pondered about those leaders I wanted to follow, those leaders who I followed then stopped and those folk who I never really thought of as leaders. What makes me believe in a leader?

There are a lot of bloggers who are guild officers and who offer advice from their experience. But you don’t often get followers who explain which traits attract their respect and, um, follow-ship. So here are the things that make someone a leader to me:

1- Communicates Well and Regularly – This is Number 1 for a reason: I can’t support something if I don’t know what I’m supporting. I constantly need to know what’s going on, not because I want to be annoying (while I do quite enjoy being a pest, my curiosity is not driven by my pestyness). It’s that in order to decide whether I’ll support and believe in an idea, I need to know the what, how and why of that idea. The leaders who’ve earned my respect are those who can answer those questions, and use those answers to convince me that their idea is a good one.

2- Sets Clear Expectations – I want to know what’s expected of me and of those around me. I want to know what my role is supposed to be. I have a pretty good sense of initiative and will jump in when I see a need, but it’s very difficult to be on the same page if I don’t know what the page is. And beyond that, in regular day-to-day guild life, I like consistency, I like when policies are enforced. When I don’t have to worry about expectations, I can focus my energy on things, like, oh I dunno…having fun.

3- Honesty and/or Integrity – I know when I’m being bullshitted. I might fall for it once. Twice if you’ve got that politician twinkle in your teeth. But after that I’ll figure it out. Most people pick up on lies quite quickly and on fake even faster. To be believed in, you need to be trusted. To be trusted, you have to be honest when it comes to matters relevant to the guild (luckily most people don’t care enough about your personal life to keep tabs on those lies unless they’re huge. Note: it is possible to tell the truth and be gentle at the same time!) and you have to practice what you preach.

4- Knows How to Say No – Saying “no” properly has two components. One in actually delivering the refusal and the second is delivering it a way that makes the receiver say “thank you“. Developing skills for both those components is pretty crucial to earning respect. And it’s especially important in dealing with people like me. I offer a lot of suggestions and a lot of feedback. I expect to be listened to. I expect to be listened to, but I also expect to be told “no” when I’m wrong, when I’m unreasonable and when someone has a better idea. It’s also pretty hard to respect a person who lets others walk all over them, who runs from conflict instead of solving it.

5- Enthusiasm – You know those shock value blogs that consist of guild or raid leader bitching about their guilds? And those GM’s who’s #1 advice to new GMs is “Don’t do it“? I love reading those bloggers, but I feel sorry for everyone in their guilds. And I’d never consider joining their guilds. Now I understand temporary frustration and I don’t mind being a shoulder or a pep talker (in fact, I actually really enjoy it), but I want a leader with a generally positive attitude. A leader is someone selling me a Vision. I won’t buy the Vision from someone miserable. If you want my subscription to your leadership, then show me that you’re worth my energy, that you enjoy what you do and that I won’t have to spend my game time nagging you to do your job.

And those are the 5 traits of the leaders I want to work with. I wrote in a gaming context, but I think it applies to just about every group-related part of my life. I tried to avoid the word “like” as much as possible, since respecting and liking are two different things. Generally I’ll like the people I respect as a leader, but there are many individuals who respect people they don’t like. I can, however, like someone whom I don’t think of a leader.

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19 Comments on “The 5 Traits I Want in a Leader”

  1. Anaora@Drenden-US Says:


    I’ve always done my best work as an aide as well.

    When we started a fraternity, I wrote the bylaws and I was the wall that ideas were bounced off of by the President.

    When we took over the writing academy on some forum, I was the guy who did the administrative work of changing groups, permissions, organizing threads, bringing mentors together with students, while the guy with the ideas kept pouring them on.

    When we wrote a collaborative story, I was the one reflexively responding to the other writer’s threads to make sure they gained momentum.

    Damn it, I want the same damn thing in my WoW guild – a leader who has a plan, a plan that I want to see happen, and a plan that needs my help. I will organize the trash raid that precedes your Shannox raid, I will clean your bank, auction your purples, and make sure the right people get the right messages. I’ll drive your stupid friggin’ bus, just so long as you pic up the mic, day in and day out, and you tell the damn tourists about the damn island!

    Unfortunately, I think that is too much to ask for, and that’s why I went the way of Tobold and cancelled my WoW sub.

    May your bubbles serve you well, fellow paladin, and may you find a guild leader worthy of your bus driving (unless you’re already there, in which case, may your bus navigate all the way from the Firelands to whatever the next patch brings).

    • Ophelie Says:

      Yep, sounds exactly like me! We could be twins!

      I don’t have trouble too much finding good leaders. I’ve been lucky enough to come across some very inspirational people (when the going gets tough IRL, I still sometimes stop and ask myself “What would Wild do?” in honour of my first raid leader.). What’s hard is maintaining those relationships. The internet, and human nature, being what it is, people change, surrounding change and it’s tough to stay satisfied. Plus, people like us tend to get taken for granted. Which is what happened to me in both of the guilds I got really involved with. But I can’t seem to run from my personality. I sulk and lick my wounds for a few months then jump into the next adventure!

    • judgeomni Says:

      What a great read! It is exactly how I feel. Been going thru a tough time in my guild lately. We just got going raiding after 6 months of getting a team together. Now the GM is only on for the raids. Doesnt want to help with anything and really the guild has no direction. 1-2 people on at night we dont raid. Tonight will be the first night of a new raiding leader and I dont have my hopes up since he is the one that made the team almost break up in the first place by wanting to jump in to firelands and leave us behind. What makes it worse is he is the GM’s husband. After all the work we as a team have put in to get a solid group together he wants to leave and just do what he wants. Tonights his chance he is leader now. Some will log once they find out the news.

      On the plus side I have made friends with most of the others and we hope to push on somehow. Kind of impossible to form a new guild this late. I will always keep my head up looking for a leader like the one you described that values ones like us that dont mind putting some work into achieving a final goal.

      Love your work – Omni

  2. Awryt Says:

    I love your blog and have always thought about how much I would love to have you as a member of my guild, but I also know that my guild wouldn’t meet your progression goals. I would never be so vain as to claim I am the kind of leader you’re looking for (no matter how much I try), but I can say that I love my guild and being their leader. I will definitely use this list as a reminder of what I am working toward. Even after almost 5 years, there is always more to learn and improvements to be made. 🙂

    Good luck in your search! I hope you find what you’re looking for and I look forward to reading about the adventures.

    • Ophelie Says:

      No one’s ever perfect ^_^ It sounds like you really care about your guild even after many years, which is amazing! I’ve found that with leaders who are happy and proud of their teams, the rest just kind of happens naturally.

      Thanks for dropping by and best of luck to you and your guild!

  3. Stubborn Says:

    I would be so vain as to claim I’m the type of leader you’re looking for, if I was in any way a leader in the WoW sense. If you were still a kid (which to some bloggers you may be), you’d probably like my classroom a lot, but I haven’t been a leader in WoW for my last two major guilds.

    Let me be clear that since I’m not leading any thing I’m certainly not trying to recruit you to my nothing, (that reads a bit confusingly, doesn’t it? I think it gets the point across, though) but when I WAS a raid leader (in times gone past), I think my style would have fit well with yours. I always had my second, my buddy (though to him I’m sure he thinks I was his second), so I can certainly appreciate the importance of the role.

    A few comments on your five characteristics. I think you’re a little harsh on number 5; I only know one person in-game who’s aware of my blog (and it was incredible that he found it), and we’re not in the same guild any more. While I admit in our large blogging circle there’s a lot of people whose guilds know about their writing, some people blog privately and use the blog to vent their feelings so that they can return to their guild and put on the strong face to benefit everyone else. I certainly understand the point you’re making, that a leader’s attitude greatly affects the guild’s tone – for good or bad. I think every leader feels the heavy burden of that leadership and deals with it differently. Some become micro-managers, some send pictures of their nether regions to women on Twitter (a picture’s worth 140 characters?), and some blog about it.

    That said, I think that you’re dead on about the communication, and that’s the largest foible I’ve encountered in my wanderings. I’ve always had motivated, enthusiastic leaders with clear expectations, but they never seem to be really honest about things; there’s always a level of secrecy shared with the “ins” of the guild (probably officers) that may or may not be shared with the others. That’s partially why I proposed having no officer chat or officer forums in a guild were I to run it, which was received with mixed feelings from various bloggers, but simply based on my experiences, I think it would do a lot to make numbers 1, 3, and 4 happen.

    Great post, and as you can see it made me think quite a lot.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I think there’s a difference between ranting and having a negative attitude. Just like there’s a difference between having a bad day and being a drama queen. I can totally empathize with “sometimes its tough, but I still love what I do”. But when the message is “the only reason I’m still doing this is because I feel too guilty/proud”, I get turned off. Leaders are supposed to motivate us, not discourage us. I don’t want to work with someone if I have to nag them constantly to do their job.

      On the blogging thing, I think we all have our moments. But when the public rants become frequent or serious, there’s something else at play. Burnout maybe. Or the inability to address problems and resolve conflicts.

  4. Dahrla Says:

    Wow. As a non-leader myself, it’s like your post took the words right out of my mouth – these are EXACTLY the same things I look for in a leader and, ultimately, a guild.

    I do have to say that my guild is not the perfect fit for me, as those qualities you listed aren’t exactly in place in my guild, but it’s pretty damn good anyway. Sometimes you might have to settle for a “mostly good fit” guild and be happy with it.

  5. zwinglisblog Says:

    As someone who leads a small non-profit organization; I find this very valuable. I promise to reread, and significantly apply it to my RL situation.


  6. […] The Bossy Pally discusses some thoughts on five things that make a good guild leader. […]

  7. Susan Reed Says:

    This is a thought-provoking and sensible article. As a former GL, I found that communication is the key – however stellar the leader’s vision may be, however careful & consistent the day-to-day running, it all counts for nothing unless everyone in the guild knows about, and supports it. And that means the newest recruit as well as the seasoned, long-term veteran. And enthusiasm has to filter down from the top and infect every member – whether for raids or fishing 🙂

  8. […] should definitely head over and read the full article!!! Categories: 10 man raid, 25 man raiding, Cataclysm, Guild Management, Raid Management, Warcraft, […]

  9. Quori Says:

    Perfectly stated and something we should all read as players and gamers. All too often though people cannot filter properly everything you have said and communicated and end up hearing only what they wanted to hear. I find myself all too often saying, “You didn’t listen to ALL of what I said did you.”

    Selective hearing is great for parenting; not so much for guild leading.

    Keep up the great posts and sharing. Hopefully these are lessons we all learn sooner rather than later!

  10. Borsk Says:

    I give the “dont do it” advice often.

    But when I give my “don’t do it” advice, it’s in relation to starting a new guild from the ground up. I’ve inherited my guild/raid leading position with well established structure and systems (which I’ve changed many times). Just thought I would clarify for my own sake 😛

    Leading, like healing or tanking, takes a specific skill set that not many people have. Commanding respect (and returning it), is number one.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I’d admit I purposely exaggerated my criticism of “don’t do it” a bit. I quoted it in a literal fashion while it often tends to mean “don’t do it unless you’ve sure you want to make this kind of huge commitment, and if you screw it up, you’ll have wasted a lot of time and energy and let a lot of people down.” Which in that context is good advice, no one should start a guild unless they’re dedicated.

      Your view of it is one that hadn’t occurred me to all. It makes a lot of sense and its not negative at all.

  11. Kimboslice Says:

    Basically you want me

    and that is totally understandable

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