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Author Topic: Cultivating Leadership  (Read 947 times)

dragonfaerie

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Cultivating Leadership
« on: April 20, 2014, 12:39:28 pm »
Spawned from this recent post on the Wild Hunt blog, that discusses concepts and issues surrounding the idea of Pagan leadership.

What makes a "Pagan leader"?
What skills do we think a leader should have?
How can we, as a community, cultivate and sustain our leadership?

Karen

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2014, 01:08:35 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;145762
What makes a "Pagan leader"?

 
I actually want to back up and point out that this is kind of a problematic question from my perspective.

Not just from the "I'm tired of 'leaders' who claim to speak for me and my religion who don't actually know anything about me or my religion" perspective, though that is very much a large part of it.

I think that to have this sort of discussion there has to be a recognition of the difference between paganism-as-movement-phenomenon and various-pagan-religions.  I can't help but be reminded of any of a score of conversations about the obligation of pagans-in-general to convey appropriate respect and deference to "elders" who may very well be entirely irrelevant to their actual religious practices, regardless of their significance to paganism-as-movement.

Paganism-as-movement figures are not religious leaders, though their reasons for being public-figure personalities are partially religiously driven. (If this is not clear, for an explanatory example: Martin Luther King, Jr. may have had the title "Rev." but he is not revered as a religious leader, but rather as a movement leader.)  Religious leaders are primarily relevant to people with whom they share a religion, even if they also make press statements.

And I don't think the pagan subculture in general has even begun to notice that these are actually relevant distinctions.  And some of this is the whole ... damnit, some people haven't noticed that "pagan" is a subcultural label not a specific religion ... thing, and some of it is a sense that "our religious leaders" are the same thing as "our movement leaders", and.

I want people to think about whether they're talking about religious leaders or social-movement leaders, maybe, a little, y'know?
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dragonfaerie

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2014, 01:30:40 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;145766
I want people to think about whether they're talking about religious leaders or social-movement leaders, maybe, a little, y'know?


That's actually one of the most interesting points of that article, though the author approaches it from the idea that a viable leader need not be all things to all people.

I agree that we, as a community, haven't really had that discussion. The prevailing model has perhaps been "High Priest/ess as everything to a small group of people", but even that doesn't really work on most practical levels. My HPS/teacher is wonderful, but she's not "practically perfect in every way".

So I do think the first step we need to take is recognizing that there are many different types of leaders, and understanding where each one fits. A good HPS may not be able to run a festival, or teach students, or be a media point-of-contact for a community. But each of those roles are leadership roles.

Karen

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2014, 03:05:26 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;145762
Spawned from this recent post on the Wild Hunt blog, that discusses concepts and issues surrounding the idea of Pagan leadership.

What makes a "Pagan leader"?
What skills do we think a leader should have?
How can we, as a community, cultivate and sustain our leadership?

Karen

 
I'm a big fan of the servant leader. A leader exists to serve the needs of his/her constituents. Because of that perspective, I think that a leader must first learn to be a servant.

Regarding what skills a leader should have, it depends on the type of leader. An internal leader (someone who leads a coven or group) needn't be a HP/ess; it can be anybody in the group who others look to for guidance and mentorship. That person needs to have skills in pastoral counseling, mentorship, communication, group dynamics, conflict resolution, and personal development. An external leader (someone who interacts with the public) needs to have excellent written and oral communication skills, a vast knowledge of paganism in its myriad of forms, and (this may seem controversial) needs to be someone who is "media-friendly". In my covens, our public relations person was always a)heterosexually and monogamously married, b)gainfully employed, c)drug free, d)free from any sort of criminal involvement, e)of average height and weight, and f)physically attractive. Sad to say, but the public relations person must be someone who is in every way "normal". You want people to see your PR person and say, "Wow, I had no idea that pagans were so much like me!" But just to be clear - that's not necessarily a "leadership" role. That's a public relations role, and there's a difference.

With all that being said, I do believe that leadership can be taught. There is an essence of leadership - an attitude - that must be CAUGHT, not taught, but there are also many skills that can be learned. Cultivating leaders means that we (as leaders) teach by example, AND that we provide our future leaders with the skills they will need to do a good job.

The other question was how we support our leaders, and this is very important. I see burnout as being a huge problem with leaders in the pagan community. I've seen a lot of wonderful leaders that dropped out of leadership roles because they were simply burnt out. I've stepped down as HPess on a couple of occasions because I was too burnt out.

Running an active coven is a LOT OF WORK! As the HPess (or HP), it's not uncommon to spend 20-40 hours a week on managing the coven and those responsibilities. From teaching to leading meetings to handling the dozens of phone calls you get from one coven member or another, it's not easy. We can help our leaders in a few ways, but these are the ones that stand out the most for me:
  • Doing what we promise to do. When you don't complete your assigned tasks, the HP/ess has to do them for you.
  • Accepting leadership roles according to your ability when asked
  • Showing appreciation to your leaders for the work that they do. They do a lot of work behind the scenes, and even a simple thank you or a compliment goes a long way.
  • Setting a good example for other coven members through your behavior and actions.
  • Being nice to one another. This shouldn't need to be said, but you'd be surprised at how much work the HP/ess puts in just settling differences and disputes among coveners.


And I'm going to add one more thing: If you don't think your HP/ess is a good leader, then either oust them (through whatever methods the coven has set up for such a thing) or find another coven/group. If you cannot abide by the rules of your coven, find another coven that's more suited for you. But if you stay, then you must abide by the policies, procedures, and rules that your coven has laid down.

Jenett

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2014, 03:37:59 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;145762

What makes a "Pagan leader"?
What skills do we think a leader should have?
How can we, as a community, cultivate and sustain our leadership?


I think before we can get into that, I think we need a larger recognition that there are lots of different kinds of roles and that beyond some very basic things (communication skills are generally helpful for everything, really), they require rather different expertise.

A small coven leader or small-group-leader needs to be reliable, to be able to support the goals of a group within that path (which might include ritual design, teaching of that path, etc.) They need to realise that they are an example of what that path produces (which is not to say they should be expected to be perfect, but it does mean that they should be aware of how the focus of their path affects their life, and they should do their best to live up to the implicit and explicit ethics of that path, and admit when they fail to do so in a way approprite to the situation.)

F'ex: I am a priestess in a tradition that has a big focus on transformation. This means that I should not throw a fit when my life shows signs of wanting to reinvent itself periodically, and that I should (by this stage in my work in this path) have some ways to handle that with relative grace. That doesn't mean I don't complain about some of the practical aspects sometimes (job hunting and moving, both exhausting!), but I shouldn't be shocked it's a thing in my life, y'know?

But in general, I don't think a group leader of a small group (of the kind meeting mostly in someone's living room) needs, for example, PR skills in specific - basic general communication skills will probably suffice (of the kind necessary to communicate within the Pagan community and with potential and current group members.)

They don't need to be able to do pastoral counselling for every kind of person or situation: they can focus on the ones most likely to be necessary in their particular context and have some idea of other local resources for the things outside their scope. (For example: I'm comfortable doing basic support for *religious* issues and things that come up in the context of ritual. For larger mental health concerns, I'd refer to someone with substantial training in that area, and/or help someone through the process of finding a suitable therapist.)

They probably don't need to be able to deal with legal requirements, filing for 501(c)3 status or the equivalent, and probably not for handling substantial amounts of money. (A general and transparent conversation about group costs, alternatives, and what people can pitch in will probably do in most cases, even in a group of 15-20.)  

And then there's the personal: I am not the same person as the HPS who trained me in the tradition. But I need, in the ongoing long-term goal of a coven setting, to priestess in a way that works for me.

(Which means one part of doing things in a way that works with my health issues, but even more than that doing things in a way that works with my personality: I warn potential students that I am a geek, that I read a lot, that I am better with ideas than with emotions, and so on. I am also a loyal friend, often really good in a crisis, but I'm more about the practical doing things than the emotional processing. There are people this is a great fit for. There are people it isn't. There are people in the middle, where we can make things work if we're both up front about it. But I am probably not a good fit for someone who isn't generally intellectually curious about the world around them, whatever form that takes.)

In contrast, someone who is taking on a leadership role to make an event happen has different demands. In this case, their personal training, skill, or expertise in ritual and magic are quite possibly less relevant (or only relevant in specific ways), but their ability to get people to cooperate to put the event on, to run a committee, etc. are all extremely relevant. (Their personal practices and choices are relevant, but in many ways, it's probably more about 'do other people want to work with you on this project' than all aspects of your ethics or religious life.)

What specific skills matter will depend a lot on the tasks they take on: someone who wants to be a treasurer needs suitable accounting skills, someone who wants to lead ritual needs to demonstrate they can do that, someone who wants to run operations or programming needs a broad knowledge of the community and the kinds of topics of interest/relevance (but does not need to be an expert in all of them themselves.)

But does everyone running a Pagan event need to be a great ritualist? No. Do they need to be an amazing teacher? Nope. Do they need to be great at coordinating a lot of details? Nope. Do they need to *like* or *trust* everyone else doing the work with them? Nope, beyond the level of trust necessary for the specific tasks. Are they still taking on leadership roles? Yep.

I tend to think that great leaders in the broader community event space are the people who can recognise and support other people's expertise and keep a focus on the success of the event. (And also, who recognise that no given event is going to be perfect for everyone: you cannot be all things to all people.) The actual specific skills of a particular person matter less than the ability to work with other people so that all the needed skills are covered.

The *pacing* is also a different thing, and some people do better with one than the other (or at different points in their lives). Leading a specific event tends to run on a schedule: you can plan for when it's going to be particularly busy or time consuming. Running a coven is a day in and day out thing, and there's both a constant level of things that need doing (planning the next ritual, ongoing teaching, etc.) and the occasional 'there's a crisis and X needs to take priority' that happens in people's lives. And in contrast to both of those, leadership roles like writing or more occaisional teaching can be easier to work around other demands in life, because they can be scheduled for times someone is free.
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Darkhawk

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2014, 08:04:39 pm »
Quote from: ehstemai;145773
In my covens, our public relations person was always a)heterosexually and monogamously married, b)gainfully employed, c)drug free, d)free from any sort of criminal involvement, e)of average height and weight, and f)physically attractive. Sad to say, but the public relations person must be someone who is in every way "normal". You want people to see your PR person and say, "Wow, I had no idea that pagans were so much like me!" But just to be clear - that's not necessarily a "leadership" role. That's a public relations role, and there's a difference.

 
I'm so glad I've never been involved with a religious group that was sufficiently dangerously controversial as to require a "public relations person" in the first place.

But I suppose I'm a nasty nasty deviant and unfit to talk to "normal" people, so I would think such a thing.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

dragonfaerie

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2014, 08:17:06 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;145800
I'm so glad I've never been involved with a religious group that was sufficiently dangerously controversial as to require a "public relations person" in the first place.


Veering off topic (in my own thread, no less!), but it's amazing what weird ideas the mainstream has about paganism.

My wedding was a handfasting. I sent some basic information along with the invitations, so any of our friends/family who were truly going to be uncomfortable with it could opt out. Even out of the ones who came, I can't begin to count the number of pleasantly surprised comments we got about the service and about our HPS who married us (in a black suit with a white collar).

Back on topic, I've not had to do PR as a Pagan. I have had to do PR as a geek, however, for my Star Trek group. And again, it's amazing to me how many surprised comments I get about my Trek geekness... I guess because I'm a woman, and I own a home, and I'm married, and I have a real job, and I bathe, etc...

I suppose that's a good question in regards to leadership. How can we cultivate leaders who can showcase the diversity in our community in a truthful manner?

I'm not going to tag it as "positive", because that word has connotations. I just think it's time for us to stop apologizing to the mainstream for our... less than mainstream practices. We shouldn't have to hide the kink and the polyamory and the non-light-and-lollipops stuff because it makes mundanes uncomfortable.

Karen

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2014, 08:30:21 pm »
Quote from: dragonfaerie;145801

I suppose that's a good question in regards to leadership. How can we cultivate leaders who can showcase the diversity in our community in a truthful manner?


I think part of it is creating diverse *groups* and making it clear this is a desired thing, not a problem.

I mean, I ID as poly (though I've been single for approaching a decade now, and it doesn't come up unless I mention it), and I'm short and fat and geeky.

But I'm also a librarian, which tends to make people in the mainstream think I'm pretty harmless (hah!) I do deliberately dress so that when I'm at work, people in the library I work in feel comfortable approaching me, and I don't change what I wear in public much for weekends, so it comes out to 'librarian what likes comfy clothes and wears a lot of stuff from Land's End.' which reads as fairly mainstream.

But when I've done bits of PR, I don't just talk about me, I talk about other people in the group. And I'll say things like "We value all sorts of different perspectives and experiences: people in our group are therapists and work for the state, we work in education and for local businesses." etc. etc. and when it's appropriate and not being invasive of group member privacy, I'll mention the variety of relationship types and life choices.

It gets the idea across quite well, without having it seem like we have to conform to mainstream assumptions.
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stephyjh

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2014, 08:50:35 pm »
Quote from: ehstemai;145773

 An external leader (someone who interacts with the public) needs to have excellent written and oral communication skills, a vast knowledge of paganism in its myriad of forms, and (this may seem controversial) needs to be someone who is "media-friendly". In my covens, our public relations person was always a)heterosexually and monogamously married, b)gainfully employed, c)drug free, d)free from any sort of criminal involvement, e)of average height and weight, and f)physically attractive. Sad to say, but the public relations person must be someone who is in every way "normal". You want people to see your PR person and say, "Wow, I had no idea that pagans were so much like me!" But just to be clear - that's not necessarily a "leadership" role. That's a public relations role, and there's a difference.

 
So if that's what's required for "people" to identify with your public face, does that mean those who are fat, poly, single, tall, short, unemployed, disabled, or struggling with an addiction or a past aren't people? Because that's what you just said.
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yewberry

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2014, 09:19:01 pm »
Quote from: ehstemai;145773
In my covens, our public relations person was always a)heterosexually and monogamously married, b)gainfully employed, c)drug free, d)free from any sort of criminal involvement, e)of average height and weight, and f)physically attractive.

 
Wow.

Brina

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2014, 09:31:28 pm »
Quote from: ehstemai;145773
In my covens, our public relations person was always a)heterosexually and monogamously married, b)gainfully employed, c)drug free, d)free from any sort of criminal involvement, e)of average height and weight, and f)physically attractive. Sad to say, but the public relations person must be someone who is in every way "normal". You want people to see your PR person and say, "Wow, I had no idea that pagans were so much like me!"

 
Ah, yes, because that TOTALLY describes the MAJORITY of people, right? I mean, being able to speak eloquently about your group has nothing to do with being a PR person -- it's all about them looking and acting like the MAJORITY of people in the population. That is what you're saying, here. (I mean, you're either saying that it describes the majority of people, or you're saying that anyone who doesn't fit that list isn't people. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that you're just referring to the majority of the population.)

So, sources, please. Documented sources with statistics that say more than 50% of the population of the earth fits your list there.

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Re: Cultivating Leadership
« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2014, 10:19:37 pm »
Quote from: ehstemai;145773
An external leader (someone who interacts with the public) needs to have excellent written and oral communication skills, a vast knowledge of paganism in its myriad of forms, and (this may seem controversial) needs to be someone who is "media-friendly". In my covens, our public relations person was always a)heterosexually and monogamously married, b)gainfully employed, c)drug free, d)free from any sort of criminal involvement, e)of average height and weight, and f)physically attractive. Sad to say, but the public relations person must be someone who is in every way "normal". You want people to see your PR person and say, "Wow, I had no idea that pagans were so much like me!"

 
...I do understand where this attitude comes from. Take a person who is as "unobjectionable" as possible- that is, one who conforms to every standard of normal one can be measured against- and use them as a figurehead. "Normal" people will then go, hey, this person seems pretty normal, maybe this one weird thing isn't quite so weird or terrible.

The problem with this is that it further ostracizes anyone who doesn't fit that "normal" mold. "Normal" people will just scrutinize anyone who can't meet those standards and say 'What's wrong with you? Person X can be normal, why won't you?' It reinforces stereotypes and puts an even bigger burden on those who can't or won't conform.

I know very strongly the desire to not wear the Weird hat, but at the end of the day, if being palatable for the masses is the highest priority, one might need to re-prioritize.
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