So, in the last post, I was making some notations about Pagan leadership, but as was pointed out to me by one of my three loyal readers – I never really discussed much of what I felt made a leader. That’s fair. So let’s start with defining what a Pagan leader looks like. Wait…I have a picture.
Ok, ok. I’m kidding. I am definitely not what I would consider a Pagan leader. I wouldn’t even say I was a person of any notable status. But. There are aspects of what I do that fall into what I consider to be the arena of a Pagan leader.
See, I am not talking about people that just “do” things, or write books and articles, or even those that sing songs. Those people have some of the aspects of being a leader, in that they get things done, or write their thoughts out and place those where people can read or experience that. Leaders, in my mind, are a lot more than that, and are generally not as out in the public eye. Though, I would suggest that they should be.
For me, leaders are inspiring. They don’t have all the answers, nor do they pretend to. They do know where to start to find the answers, and typically, they are not seeking the answers for themselves. Most leaders shun the spotlight. They place their community and group before themselves. They are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work – even when they are not asked or when they are a guest.
For me, leaders don’t prod people along a path. There’s no need to herd cats. That’s not what being a leader is about. In my opinion, leaders are mentors. They are not trying to create a hierarchy. They are not gathering people to themselves so that there will be someone to hear their words. They are there to help others on the Path. Willing to listen, and offer advice when asked, a leader is a communicator that speaks when necessary.
With that said, I will offer a bit more observation and opinion. I have been in the Pagan community; both as a semi-active member and as an “edge of the circle” observer. I have been a Solo Adherent, and a member of a coven or two. I have seen “group leaders” in social environments, as well as private. Sadly, the Pagan community, by and large, has very few leaders. There are a lot of loud Generals, and not nearly as many of the leaders that I think would be ideal. But perhaps, that’s because these people are so low-key, that its hard to discern who they are with just casual observation?? Perhaps.
On the flip side of all of that, I have met quite a few people that I would consider to be leaders. They are low-key. They are nurturers. They are teachers. They tend to shun the spotlight. Rather, they want their fellow travelers to step up and become the right individuals in charge. These folks lead their church congregations. They serve in positions on national organizations. They nurture individuals that are in their immediate circles when there is confusion on a topic. They write blog posts. They write articles. They write books. They make music. They take time out of their lives to travel, meet others, and teach the values of being a kind, nurturing leader to others. They hope. They dream. They are no different than any of the rest of us. And that is what is most important.
There is no need to name these people. They are easily found. They are easily approached. They will talk with you like any other person. They will laugh with you. They give the most wonderful hugs. They look just like anyone else. And its not the spotlight that they seek. Its not the notoriety. They have no desire to become the Big Name Pagan. They merely want the Pagan community to grow, mature, and nurture itself. If being a leader is about getting your name recognized by others…your priority is way off-base.
What is a leader? Its not the cowboy wrangling a herd of cats across a river. That is a cute commercial, but nowhere near the ideal image of a leader (and it should be noted that the commercial is meant to be absurd, not taken seriously). Your Pagan leadership is around you. Those folks are generally not trying to locate the nearest tv camera crew, nor are they trying to find the nearest beat writer to drop a story. They work tirelessly behind the scenes at your conventions, and gatherings…and if they are good at it, they are unseen by most people attending these gatherings. And like so many people that I have met in these conventions and gathering over the past year, they are no different than any of us. Those that are polytheists are trying to honor their Gods with what they do. Those that are doing other things within their belief systems, are focused on those as well.
Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon for the first time. I met many new faces. Some of whom I had only conversed with online. Some I had never met before. And being the people watcher that I am – I sat on the sidelines and observed. I saw many Pagans, happy to be who they were. And I saw leaders. Quietly being who they were. None of them walked the hallways near the meeting rooms with an entourage walking before them to announce their entrance to the area. Many of them were approachable by anyone…and easily entered into conversations with strangers. Even the strange hippy with the Grateful Dead t-shirts and the thinning long-hair. They were nurturing to others. They were there with helpful suggestions. They listened intently to total strangers that approached them with a story or a suggestion or a question.
When I talk about leaders, I don’t mean people who bark orders at others – and direct people to get things done. Anyone can do that. Leaders are those who look to be the anchor for those that need a momentary harbor from the raging river of Life. Leaders are those who help others to grow. Leaders are those that are there. Sure, decisions can be made by those that show up, but Leaders are derived from those that show interest in others. Leaders are derived from those that try and help a Community grow, not try to gather followers like a friending contest on Facebook.
So, to answer the question – how do I know what a leader is? I know a leader when I see them. Pinning down an exact definition is like trying to nail jello to the wall. But I do know them when I see them. Even if they don’t believe that they are really leaders.