One of the more persistent questions I get is why I am not a leader of a group, or in essence, why I am not a Priest of a group. Its not the first question that I ever get when people talk with me about being a Pagan, but its certainly near the top – typically after the questioning steps into the area of where are the other Pagans…
Part of it, is me knowing my limitations. Another part of it comes from the freedom that I have as a solo Pagan. And yet another part comes from the experience of being a part of a group, quite a few times, in the past.
Groups are wonderful things, particularly when you have leader types that are experience in handling all the small things that come up with a group of folks, all at varied degrees of understanding and experience within a group. Many of those folks have wonderful traits of being nurturing spirits, the kind of person that encourages others. I have some of that quality, but not enough to constantly be there every step of the way, particularly for those that are young on their Path. I have expectations of folks being able to handle the smaller steps of their beliefs, being able to pick themselves up after they fall down, and coming for help when things are a bit more than a skinned knee. The problem there is helping new Pagans understand what the difference is between a broken bone and a skinned knee. I have a degree of patience when it comes to stuff like this, after all I was there at one time in my own walk, but my patience is not infinite. In that respect, I’d be a mediocre leader of folks; definitely not enough to be a sustaining part of leadership or helping the overall growth of the group. Seriously, I know my limitations, and am well aware of where I would fail overall. Now, with others available to help share the load of leadership, those with the ability to handle the roles that I manage so poorly, the narrative changes quite drastically. Its not that I don’t want to share the aspect of leadership, I am not a good leader without some measure of a peer in one or more forms. Me as a singular leader can be a bad thing.
A leader of a group has other responsibilities that can tie down aspects of their freedom, in my opinion. Leadership has to make decisions for others, and sometimes has to sacrifice their own needs, wants and desires for the overall good and growth of the group. In some aspects, I can be quite selfish in that respect. I like to be able to do what I want, when I want, how I want…leadership requires a greater degree of sacrifice than I am totally aimed towards. A lot of this comes from my having been solo for as long as I have. I am not used to compromising and bargaining every step of the way. But a group is not about an individual. A group is about a group of individuals utilizing those bargaining and compromising measures to create something that works to a greater degree for all. When you have been on your own as long as I have, those habits of always getting your own way are difficult to set aside. It would certainly take a far greater degree of self control than I already have for a group to be a 24×7 item for me. Its not impossible, just difficult.
I know all of this looks rather negative on me as a group member. I see it a different way, though. Its a matter of self-honesty about where I currently am in life. Can I work appropriately within a group? Certainly. I know how to handle then concepts of group dynamics and group responsibility. I have watched groups come apart at the seams for the smallest things though. The interpersonal relationships between group members is very strong, particularly when folks really start working deeply with one another. Its not uncommon for romantic feelings to develop in such intimate circumstances. Its also not uncommon for those romantic feelings to unravel, or for jealousy to spring into action, and become the seeds of bad blood between members. Not uncommon because we are just human beings, twisted up with our own feelings of being set to the side for whatever reason. I’ve seen that happen way too often. The same can be said when a single member gets more public recognition from the others. Ego driven issues are another common cause for group strife. I’ve seen that far too many times to just dismiss it as an out-of-the-way occurence.
Personally, I find myself to be a bad example of a leader. Much of that comes from being far too close to the trees to be able to recognize the forest, I suppose. I am my own worst critic, so I suppose that can play a factor as well. But all of that set to the side, one of the biggest reasons (if not the biggest) that I would make a crappy, ineffective leader is my reluctance to be one in the first place. A leader should be strong and decisive in their desire to be at the front of the pack. I might be able to serve as an inspiration for others to want to be the leaders they think I could be…but I’d be really worried if anyone viewed me as a singular leader of any group. I prefer to be one of many, because the decisions would be made together – as equals. But that’s my preference.
Me? A leader? Well, if you say so. But realize, I know my own limitations and faults far better than anyone else does. And that knowledge helps me to pump the brakes on talks like that.