A trip in the time machine
Back in 2006, Dr. Nick Yee did some research on guild leadership, and he uncovered an important trend at the time. Based on his results, guilds tended to be created by younger players but eventually were led by older ones. In addition, two-thirds of the guilds in the poll did not have their original guild leader running things. If those trends both hold true today, it means that it's fairly common for guilds to successfully transition from one leader to another. It's also interesting that younger players tended to get things started but that older players were the ones who eventually took over and ran the show.
Based on Yee's research, it's hard to know how many of those guilds replaced their leaders out of necessity (if the leader went inactive) and how many replaced the leader forcefully. In fact, an inactive leader is a common reason for guilds to switch leadership. It's led games like World of Warcraft to patch in an automated system that lets high-ranking members take over leadership if the leader doesn't log in for a set amount of time. In the past, we've looked at the issue of turning over a guild to another player, but it's hard for a leader to make that decision because once you do, it's hard to regain leadership if you change your mind. But inactive leaders leave a guild in limbo, and without a clear understanding of who's in charge, it can often lead to the drying-up of the guild.
Follow the rules
Inactivity is a cut and dried reason for replacing a leader, and other than the process of adjusting the ranks, it's pretty hassle free. But what about a leader who's active and visible but who you think should be replaced? At the heart of the matter is what should be considered grounds for removal, and the best place to start is a look at the guild rules. It's surprising how many guild leaders make rules and then don't end up following them, and when someone feels he's above the rules, it's a valid reason for removal.
One thing that needs to be considered is that when you take away leadership from someone, you're taking away more than just the rank. If the leader is the person who created the guild, you're also taking away his right to the guild name, and you're nullifying his overall vision for the guild. It might be better to simply start a new guild, although that's not as easy to do when it involves guild bank assets, guild levels, or guild halls. But it might be the best decision in the long run, since it allows you to make a break and not have to deal with the lingering resentment over whose guild it really is.
Who needs to go?
There's a grey area that sometimes bubbles up, and it's usually the one that has the most potential for drama: leadership style. A more casual leader might choose to call an end to a raid sooner than a more intense, hardcore one. Similarly, a more outgoing leader might make a decision and not entertain lots of discussion over it, while a more laid-back leader might have a more patient ear. It's hard to step back and look at the issue without emotions getting in the way, but it's important to try. You might not like a certain leader's style, but it might work fine for the majority of the guild, and in that case, it's not the leader who should consider leaving. It's sad to see a guild forge a clear vision and an established culture only to end up fractured by a couple of mismatched recruits who feel their way is better. Before you declare mutiny, make sure to consider the bigger picture because it affects every single person in the guild, and most likely, those members didn't sign on because of you.
Walk the plank!
Suppose there is a growing chorus of calls for a leader to step down, but he refuses. What now? In many MMOs, there isn't a mechanic in place to vote out a leader or force him to step down, so a mutiny in this sense would look more like a crew abandoning ship rather than locking the captain up in the brig. It's hard to sail a boat without a crew, and it's hard to run a guild with no members, so that bargaining chip is really all you have to convince him to step aside. There are always those stories floating around of players who trick the leader into abdicating his position or who gain access to the leader's account and remove him when he's offline, but is it worth sacrificing your integrity (and possibly risk a ban) to wrestle away that rank? I'd advise sticking to the high road in this case.
Be careful what you wish for
Remember that once you don the leader's cap, you're now in the hot seat. It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but it's a different story when the 300-pound linebackers are charging into you like a freight train. If the leader is someone who's not a bad guy overall, it might be worth it to try to work with him to tweak things, rather than call for a reset button. If the changes you're seeking are reasonable and you have a fair leader, it's a lot better to work cooperatively on a solution because you spare the guild a lot of drama, and everyone benefits in the end.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.