I figure this question is useful for moderators of other sites, as well, so I'll give my experience as a moderator of 4 different Stack Exchange sites, none of them with nearly as much traffic as Stack Overflow.
Do you feel that you've gotten a lot more upvotes on your answers since you received your diamond, just because people likely suspect that you are correct since you are a figure of authority?
I don't think so. I don't know for sure, of course, because I'm not in voters' mind. But I would guess that I've had more such blind upvotes from being a very high-rep user than from being a moderator.
Moderators run against the opposite problem — users who are upset with, say having their question closed sometimes go on a downvote spree. These are usually reverted automatically by the nightly serial vote reversal script.
As a public figure, your errors can be over-dramatized and be placed directly into the public sphere. Can you please share one embarassing story that you have while being a moderator?
Over-drama and embarrassment are different issues. When an irate user researches your phone number and calls you at home, that's not embarrassing. (It's happened to at least one moderator who uses his real name in his profile.)
I'll relate an embarrassing story which fortunately ended well. On Science Fiction and Fantasy, I once deleted an answer which was merely a link to the poster's blog where he advertised his book (self-published, if I recall correctly). As I felt that this was not just a link-only answer but borderline spam, I left a fairly abrupt comment. It turned out that the poster was in fact one of the writers or producers of the show that the question was about (I've forgotten the details). Fortunately (s)he took it well and posted a self-contained answer.
When you first became a moderator, did you feel as though the tenured moderators welcomed you with open arms? Or did you feel like you must prove yourself to garner their respect?
I haven't directly experienced this, since in all cases I started out as a moderator designated by Stack Exchange during the beta phase. But I've never seen that moderators have to prove themselves.
Stack Overflow is a bit peculiar because there are a lot of flags. But even the moderators who don't pull their weight aren't ostracized, we just don't see them around much.
If there is a rite of passage for being a moderator, it doesn't come from tenured moderators, it comes from the community: getting your first callout on meta.
Do you think the newly elected should seek out 1 mentor (tenured moderator) to help them down the new path they hopped onto? Someone to chat with when they are unsure of a decision they should make? Someone that they can always turn to for advice?
I don't think that's necessary. Moderators of all sites have access to a dedicated chat room where they can ask for advice. This works better than a designated mentor because there is pretty much always an experienced moderator around in the chat room.
What are some things that are not very well known among the community at large about being a moderator?
It's out on meta, but it bears repeating: moderators do not have access to voting information (with some very very few exceptions that are not publicly disclosed). Moderators cannot remove votes or affect reputation.
When you see a moderator doing something “unilaterally” (e.g. voting, deleting, …), it is very common that they were in fact alerted by one or more flags.
Being a moderator does not give you any advantages. (There's a T-shirt, but you get it merely for running in the election.) Mostly, you get a shovel and directions to the crap heap. The only reward of being a moderator is the satisfaction that you helped make the site better.
Please share some advice for the soon to be elected.
The role of moderators varies somewhat between sites, from low-traffic beta sites to Stack Overflow.
On a young site (especailly during the beta phase), the role of a moderator is in part to guide the community. Flag handling is only a small part. Moderators do things like
- answering support questions on meta;
- commenting on posts and chatting with users to help them improve their contributions;
- promoting the site on other venues;
- providing advice to the community at large (about closing, editing, flagging spam, …)
While any user can perform these actions, moderators tend to play an important role, especially early on.
On Stack Overflow, it's the other extreme. Moderators are pretty much flag handling machines, handling 100 flags on a slow day. There is no time for one-on-one guidance.
On a slow beta site, you can be an effective moderator with ½ hour per week. On Stack Overflow, plan to spend at least 1 hour per weekday.