Who are we willing to be lead by, and on what terms? In our working lives, in politics, in our spiritual lives, who do we grant power over us, and how much power do we allow? It’s very easy to be caught up by the charismatic leader who gets things done without looking too hard at the cost of their achievements. Sometimes the trail blazers leave a trail of burned out people behind them, people whose energy and wellbeing has been sacrificed for the sake of getting things done. Some leaders abuse their power for financial and sexual gains. Some are on a massive ego trip, some will say anything they think you will pay to hear.
I’ve experienced both good leadership and terrible leadership inside the Druid community and outside it. As a self employed person I have the luxury of deciding who I will work for. As a Druid, I’m ever more cautious about who I’ll follow. It pays off, and increasingly I find that when I’m working for other people, I like those people and I like how they get things done. As I’m sauntering gently back towards leading rituals again, I will be watching my own actions carefully to try and make sure I don’t become, by my own standards, the wrong sort of leader.
Good leaders, in my experience, do not consider their people expendable, or as a resource to get things done. A good leader takes care of their people, and does not pressure them into doing things that make them uncomfortable or unhappy. A good leader respects boundaries, and it is possible to say ‘no’ to them. Good leadership also respects difference – this is at its most important in a spiritual context, but has relevance everywhere else, too. A leader who demands total agreement, total conformity, is trying to run a cult, and you don’t want to be part of that. Diversity is good, and makes communities stronger.
Good leadership values criticism. It doesn’t get all up tight and defensive if someone picks holes in a plan or flags up problems. Good leadership values that person greatly – better to spot the pitfalls rather than falling in them. Getting it right is more important than being seen to be right. A good leader can also admit their mistakes, limitations, shortcomings, anxieties and so forth. They aren’t afraid to be human. They aren’t trying to sell themselves as perfect, shiny people.
Good leaders are doing something with their time. If what a person says, writes and does is mostly about conveying how awesome they are, then they’re well worth avoiding. If all you hear is sales pitch, if they talk endlessly about who taught them and how much praised they were as students, if they talk about who is impressed by them, if they name drop a lot, and at the same time are rude and critical about other people in the same field, it’s mostly about self importance. If they bitch a lot about previous supporters/students who weren’t good enough, move away. The best leaders are there because they want to get something done, and they spend most of their time focused on how to achieve what they’re after. Self-aggrandisement is not the main theme.
There are people I am fiercely loyal to – and they get that loyalty from me because they deserve it, because they do excellent things and are worth supporting and because they do not try and use me. There are people I would never consider working with again under any circumstances. Which is another consideration – the leader who has longstanding support is probably one of the good ones. Leaders with a high turnover in overtly adoring and devoted people who don’t manage to stay, are decidedly suspicious.