About a week ago, I posted a quote I had gathered from a Twitter account that pushes out Jean Luc Picard statements from the Star Trek: Next Generation episodes (incidentally, which I love).
Respect must be earned. Trust must be earned. A demand for either means the loss of both.
For me, this quote sums up a lot of problems in the world of leadership. Most folks in positions of leadership demand that others respect them for the titles that they hold, having done little to nothing to earn that respect – aside from being promoted or hired into the position. Along with that demand to be immediately respected, seems to come a secondary demand of wanting their word to be trusted above all others. Again, without having earned that trust through their actions, words, and deeds. But there is a secondary catch to all of this as well, where a healthy skepticism turns into an unhealthy ability to trust. When that sets in, such a mindset can be a difficult thing to break.
Respect and Trust Are Not the Same
These two perspectives have some conceptual aspects that are closely intertwined, but they are not really the same thing. Let’s take a look at their respective definitions from dictionary.com.
- Respect – to hold in esteem or honor. To show regard or consideration for.
- Trust – to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something. To have confidence; hope.
Respecting someone, showing them regard or consideration, does not necessarily need to have a degree of trust associated with it. As an example, I do not trust President Trump whatsoever, but I would not lower the degree of respect I have for the title of his elected position. The President does demand that people respect him, solely based on him being who he is. I just cannot bring myself to respect Donald Trump, the individual.
When people in positions of leadership make demands that people respect them, simply because of the title that they hold, as the quote notes – they not only lose respect, but they also lose any trust that may have been engendered to them prior to that moment. When you start demanding respect, simply for existing, there tends to be a severe erosion of trust for that same individual. Perhaps, this is where we tend to have the issues that tend to arise in Pagan leadership.
Respect and Trust Come Through Compassion
When I was in the United States Air Force, the idea of making better enlisted leaders was a very real thing. I was sent to two leadership schools: Airman Leadership School and Non-Commissioned Officers Training School. Both taught me a lot about being a leader, but the better (and more powerful) training that I got was with the Non-Commissioned Officers that were appointed to be my supervisors. I had bad leaders and I had really awesome leaders. The bad ones would lord their “power” over their subordinates and take all the credit for things that were done correctly and in an outstanding manner. The good ones were a lot more helpful, and shared the credit for the triumphs with those of us that worked with them. The correlation did not miss my notice – the good leaders did not want the position of being a leader. They wanted a team that worked together. This was also emphasized heavily in my training via the Leadership Schools. Leaders, the good ones, eschewed the power, and opted for strong communication and the sharing of the accolades. When failure came about, those leaders did not find a single individual to blame. Rather, they asked for the blame to be given to them, as “the team had failed, and the team was my responsibility.” Afterwards, these leaders would not berate the individuals responsible. They would work with those individuals to identify the problem, as well as work together to create a solution to insure it did not happen again.
In our Pagan communities, it seems that the leadership is more concerned with keeping power than practice the art of compassion and seeking to grow others to be leaders for the future. Let’s be realistic for a moment. Someone who becomes leader will eventually have to step down for someone else to take their place. It only makes sense to grow others in skill sets and perspective to eventually take the place in leadership. And people will do as they have been taught. Want compassionate leadership that you can respect and trust? Let them learn how to be just that through others. That means letting go of personal ego, and wanting to do for the overall group. Sadly, this does not always seem to be the case, as many Pagan Community leaders are more concerned that someone from their Tradition, someone from their Path, someone that they hold as a close friend – that these people will assume the mantle of leadership of the Community.
Respect and Trust Are Earned Through Hard Work and Effort
You are not always going to be successful at the things you do for the Community, as a leader or even as a member of the Community. Its how you handle the failures that is going to matter more. if you fail and just stop doing after that, you will be seen as unreliable or just in it for yourself (which you should not be). Sure, you will need to dust yourself off, and get back on your feet. But step back into the Community with another project that someone else is trying to get moving forward. Help out there, and you will be creating that “sweat equity” in being a member of the community. Then, when you try your own Project again, perhaps you have made a strong enough ally to get some necessary assistance. Maybe not. Realize that not everyone is going to be on-board with the idea of helping others. Just realize that building trust and respect is a two-way street. You can respect those people for putting forth something that benefits the community, but that when help is needed elsewhere – those same folks are not likely to be trustworthy enough to seek help from. You have to find your victories wherever you can find them.
Wrapping It Up
Well, I have rambled on enough about the concepts of trust and respect where leadership is concerned. Most of the “code” of leadership that I have was developed by the individuals who were my supervisors in the military. Its not a perfect understanding of the concepts of respect and trust, nor is it a perfect system of being a leader. However, its a conceptual understanding that makes sense to me. Edgar Friendly said it best in the movie Demolition Man: “i’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come along.” Its a perspective that works well for me. It is true that I am not a leader, otherwise I would not be a solo practitioner of my Path. But sometimes, people do come along. And when I do find those folks that are coming along, I do my very best to be there for them…to the best of my own individual ability. If some folks see me as some type of a leader, I can only hope that their trust in me was weighed out carefully before they gave that to me. And I can only hope that I am worthy of their respect. However, I still have to walk my Path for myself. Sometimes people come along.