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I completed the quest where you get the Skeleton Key and I don't really want to continue the chain until I've done a lot of the other stuff in the game, since the key is so useful. Brynjolf said before that I would become leader of the guild after everything was over.

Can I become the leader anyway without finishing the Nightingales quest chain? Are there any bonuses for being the leader?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

No, you cannot be named Guildmaster until you resolve your unfinished business with Nocturnal.

Benefits of being named Guild Master include a tribute chest full of (respawning!) loot, the Guild Master armor (an improved version of the Thieves Guild armor you were issued on joining, and a perk giving +25% Armor Rating when wearing a full set of Guild Armor.

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Also, there a couple of quests you can only receive after becoming Guild Master. The most important is bartering with the Caravan network, which essentially places a bunch of traveling fences at your disposal. –  spugsley Dec 6 '11 at 0:48
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You can connect with the caravans without becoming guild master - you merely need to regain respect in all 5 major Hold Cities. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Dec 6 '11 at 1:02
    
cool :) I didn't know that. Thanks! –  spugsley Dec 6 '11 at 2:13
    
fyi The guild master armor is bugged (I forgot where I read that), so you will lose the light armor perk that gives you a rating boost when wearing all light armor –  z - Dec 6 '11 at 16:56
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