Tag Archives: leaders

The qualities of leaders

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.

Advertisements

Of service and community

Nothing brings a person’s true nature to the fore like hard times and conflict. In difficulty, we see who is motivated by integrity and who puts ego first. We see who the peacemakers are, who the honourable warriors are, and who is all piss and wind. We see the control freaks, the fearful, the vindictive and the bloody stupid. All that is best, and worst in people tends to show up in the hard times.

Communities are difficult things. When two or more druids are gathered together, there will be disagreements. There will be personality clashes. There will be visions of how the world works that cannot ever be reconciled. This does not mean we can only hope to be groves of one, it means we need to work, and we need to have good and honourable intentions. This comes back to what I was saying recently about facilitating, rather than leading. A facilitator is not running something to massage their ego. A facilitator does what needs doing. A leader, on the other hand, will blithely do things that are not in the interests of their community, for the sake of themselves.

Bards of the Lost Forest had a core of three whose world views were not compatible. We made a strength of it, because it meant that there could be no core dogma, nothing others had to fall into line with. We accepted the different perspectives, and all was well. This was easy because we were collectively there to run an event, not to be important.

I’ve had a lot of experience of organising things over the last decade, and spent a fair amount of time in the company of other people who organise things. If you want it to go well, you have to be doing it for the love of the thing, and not for the desire to look good or be important.

It is difficult when the druid community has an occasion for collective shame. The last thing I want to do is stand up in public and draw attention to these moments. But at the same time, we should cast our eyes in the direction of the Catholic Church and child abuse, to remind ourselves what happens when we pretend not to see. To the best of my knowledge, we aren’t on that scale, and I pray we never will be. But in the meantime, we should not accept any kind of leadership that exists to serve the ego of the individual and not the good of the community.

I’ve been in conflict situations before now. I’ve had to consider what I needed, and balance that against what was going on in a wider context. I had a thorough stabbing in the back from people in my folk club, many years ago. I know what it’s like to be put in an unworkable position. While I did what I had to do to make things viable for me, I also kept my folk club going. I did not let my community down, but I did have some people leave it – their choice, not mine. Often, there are no perfect solutions to these things, but a bit of thought and care for the consequences and some attention to timing and detail goes a long way. I’ve found myself in conflict situations on the druid side too, times when public venting of anger and resentment might have made me feel a lot better, but could have caused untold harm to others. I’m proud to say that I didn’t do what I might have done.

People can, and will vote with their feet when they find themselves encountering ego and bullshit. To those of you who undertake to run things I would say, you are there to serve. If you aren’t there to serve, do not expect support.

To those many of you, facilitators and participants, who are doing what honour demands – in whatever form that takes – who are acting out of care and integrity, I salute you. Hang on in there. You represent the very best of what druidry is, and there are a lot of you.  More than enough to carry the day, to find the good, to make something worth having.

 

I’m not commenting specifically on Druid Camp, of course, having no direct involvement. I wish peace and the best of luck to those people trying to make a go of it, and have every sympathy for those who have felt obliged to step back.


Being a Druid Leader

During my twenties I ran moots, rituals, workshops, meditation sessions and musical events. I also worked as a volunteer for the Pagan Federation and The Druid Network. (All under my previous name). I have dipped my toes in the murky waters of pagan leadership. Yesterday I saw a comment about how few pagans are willing to volunteer to make things happen, and I wanted to comment on the perfectly sane reasons why this is so.

Volunteering is unpaid. You put in hours of your time and a lot of energy just running something simple like a moot. Now, if you have a job, a family, a home, a life, you maybe don’t have lots of spare hours to give. And the people you give to won’t reliably treat you like a hero. Many will make demands, want your attention, expect you to do things their way. It’s always a lot of responsibility to shoulder.

Taking control can disempower others. The less leadership there is, the more scope for things happening organically. And if that means not happening, that may be a good and healthy thing. Letting people grow so that they can create their own magic has its virtues. Where I have run things, I’ve tried to do so with as a light a touch as possible – not least because it makes the workload bearable.

Up until recently, I did not have books to sell. Hold that thought. Most magazines on paganism will not pay you for articles because they can’t afford to. Most pagan organisations cannot pay you to work for them. Most events will not be able to pay you for talks or workshops, you might get some free table space. But, if you don’t have a stream of work you can sell, then ‘service’ as a pagan means just that. You give, and you give and you get paid for the odd handfasting. Running workshops you hope to cover the cost of the venue. Most of us are financially poorer for volunteering, but weren’t in it for the money anyway. No one should feel obliged to take that on. And for the people, like me, who are now doing it as part of the day job ‘service’ is not the word. This is the day job.

Some of us go full time as pagans, or as creatives. I’m the latter. I do a lot of Druid stuff, but my work life includes a lot of editing, and writing in fiction genres too. I am not a Druid as my full time job. But if I do an event, I can carry my books, my bloke’s art, and maybe I can earn enough to cover the train fair. This puts me in a different position to the true volunteers.

But for the first ten years or so of my public, pagan life, it was not my day job, it didn’t pay the bills. I can’t afford to be a Druid full time as it is, and I have to say, I don’t want that to be my job description, either. I like the rest of my life rather a lot.

There are a great many people out there who do step up and run things. I know scores of teachers, celebrants, moot leaders, ritual organisers. Motives vary. I would say with confidence that, whatever the justifications about service, there are 2 things that cause a person to seek leadership roles in the pagan community. For a small minority, it’s all about self importance and the certainty of being superior to everyone else. Generally, such folk are a pain to work with, dogmatic and demanding.  I do not think paganism benefits from such leadership. The other sort, are the folk who need to feel useful. We need the validation of a round of applause. We need to feel wanted and appreciated. We of the raging insecurities who step up to the front in the hopes that someone will love us for it. This is a bard issue too. The hunger for applause that gets many people onto the stage, is a hunger for approval, for a place in the world. It’s underpinned by anxiety, self doubt and a lot of pain.

Still crying out for leaders?

Some of my leadership roles, I actively sought (TDN) most fell on me (PF, moot, rituals, folk club) some I did in answer to requests (workshops, music, meditation). I found it hard to say no, because I was working from a place of tattered self esteem. Some of it did me more harm than good. It cost me high in terms of energy. I got some things back from it.

These days I’m trying to find a better balance, working out what I can sustainably give and what is too much. So, right now, I am one of the many pagan folk who isn’t willing to run anything, and I make no apology for that. I am at the stage of life where I need to just turn up sometimes with cakes, and that be as far as it goes. I shall be attending a few events this year, but organising nothing. This prospect makes me very happy. I get my applause fixes in more viable ways (hurrah for blogging).

It is as important in paganism as in politics to question to motives of those who want to lead. And to question our own motives if we have the sudden urge to be out in front, telling people what to do, making big statements about how modern paganism *really* is…

I don’t want to speak for anyone else. I don’t want to tell anyone else what to do. You lovely people persist in turning up and reading, and that’s very much like a gentle round of applause, enough of a fix to keep me going. I’ve come to the conclusion that I like facilitation more than authority, and that’s what will be guiding me as I amble onwards.