The discussion around the post, What do we want from our Pagan leaders? was enlightening for me. Admittedly, I have a close, personal connection to the subject, as I’m seeking to discover what it might mean that I am, as a friend told me, “called to lead” in some way.
This comment really stood out to me:
I think that’s one of the basic yardsticks of spiritual maturity: can what you offer to others be about what’s needed rather than all about self-promotion? Or self-effacement, or self-absorption, or deprivation, or justification, or any of the other funky little trips we can run that get between what we have to offer and actually offering it, freely and lovingly, as we’re called to do?
– Cat C-B
Ah…the need. I started out with the want, but the real answer may lie in the need.
Religious leadership can be complicated, I think, especially within a community that isn’t in agreement about our collective identity, our purpose in the greater society, or even if we should classify what we do as religion. By and large, the comments reflected that what we want is a co-creative, egalitarian model of group interaction rather than one which relies on a single leader. We want all of our strengths to be put to good use, we want our fellow coven or grove members to support us as we support them, and we want to experience our community without the sense that we are being governed.
This is what we want. But, is this what we need?
Another commentor, John Beckett, started off with a slightly more active tone:
Any leader has to begin with a vision. Who are you going to lead? Where are you going to lead them? Who and what do you serve?
A leader has to articulate his vision. If you keep it to yourself, you aren’t leading anyone.
A leader has to implement her vision. Talk is cheap – how are we going to do the work necessary to make the vision a reality?
I find this connection between vision and leadership to be interesting, especially in contrast to the idea that leadership functions best when it serves the needs of the community. I wonder if this idea of “beginning with a vision” would be better phrased as “beginning with vision”.
Should the vision of a leader be thought of as more of a quality of seeing; a refinement of one’s faculties of observation? Perhaps we need our leaders to see what is happening in our communities and in the lives of individual with greater clarity. In this way, their “vision” isn’t a noun. It isn’t a platform on which they can run for election. Instead, it is a tool which they use in order to better understand their brothers and sisters.
But then the question is, what do we do when, through our clear vision we recognize a specific need? Is that the moment where leadership begins?
I like the idea that leaders should be teachers, or possessors of knowledge. They shouldn’t be so bookish as to be unapproachable, but I like to think they’ve put in some time learning about the nuts and bolts of their practice or tradition. I also feel that pastoral care should be a primary focus of religious leadership. If we’re going to work in service to the community, we should understand how to serve the real, human needs. I’m talking about skills of compassion and empathy.
To be clear, in all of this musing I’m not feeling conflicted about the subject of Pagan leadership. I just find the discussion to be fascinating. I think there’s value in stepping back and thinking about the difference between what we want and what we need in all aspects of our life, but particularly when we’re thinking about the leaders of our covens, our groves, or our larger Pagan institutions.
Do you see a difference between what Pagans want from our leaders and what we need from them? If you have led a group, have you found it challenging to discern the needs of the group, or did you have clear vision from the start?
This blog is a safe space to unpack your ideas and experiences, and I encourage you to do so in the Comment section.