Lead - Do Not Follow

In the Christian church, the average person is a sheep. That is why they are referred to as a Flock. People are expected to follow their Shepherd everywhere He dictates. The shepherd in this case is the Priest, speaking for God.

For centuries, it was thought that the average person just couldn’t understand the Word of God. This is why it wasn’t until the last century that the Catholics stopped performing the liturgy in Latin.

If the average person can’t understand the word of God anyway, why perform Mass in a language they can understand?

Witchcraft is different. Witches are expected to be leaders, not followers. When I first came into the Craft, it was called the religion of Priests because everyone who came into this Path, went through an Initiation, and was expected to work their way up to being a Priest or Priestess.

Things have changed over the last 20 years. Now there are those who feel that not everyone who is called to the Path should have to do all the work to become a Priest or Priestess. Some just want to be here because it just feels right, but they don’t want to take the responsibility of being a Priest or Priestess.

If you are Solitaire, you must be a Priest or Priestess by necessity. There is no one for you to follow. Somehow though, a lot of those who are Solitaire never seem to do any of the work to become Priest or Priestess. Within a Coven structure, you have teachers to show you what to do, and encourage you to work toward higher goals than just following everyone else.

Just as with every other group you can think of, within Witchcraft, there are the 10% of the people who do 90% of the work. Those are the leaders. Who are these people? How do you find them? They are the people that everyone seems to know. Just as with everything else in Witchcraft, the leaders are not self proclaimed, they are recognized as leaders by everyone else in the Community.

When I first found my Path, I was a follower. Those of us who come from a Christian upbringing, are taught from a very young age to follow the leader…whomever that leader may be. I spent the first several years on my Path, following, and watching. I had a bad experience with my first teacher, and I wanted to scope out the situation, find out who I could trust.

I fell into a leadership role quite by accident. Two weeks before our annual festival in August, I was at a drum circle, and a friend asked me for a favor. I should have known better than to say yes. It turned out that the person running Safety for the festival had a heart attack a few weeks earlier, and was not able to get around well, and barely at all in the mountains of Colorado. My friend asked if I could be the eyes, ears and legs of Safety during the festival.

I accepted the offer knowing that it would define how I was going to be known in the Community. If it was a good festival, I would have a solid reputation as someone who had helped pull it off. If the festival didn’t go well, that too would give me a reputation, but probably not one I wanted.

Having a good festival was by no means a sure thing. The year prior had been horribly run. It was not well attended because people had heard so many contradictory rumors about it being full the day registration opened. One group I know sent in three registrations in the same envelope. Two were registered, the third was rejected because they said the registration limit had been reached.

All three people did end up attending the festival, but that gives you an idea of how poorly it had been run. This year I was being conscripted to help, was run by a completely different group of volunteers. They were untested, and I was untested. I came into the process at the last possible moment, and had no idea how it would turn out.

Was I scared? Absolutely! I had never done anything like this before, but I had enjoyed attending the festival for several years, and it seemed only fair to help out. Now I didn’t come into this role of effectively running the Safety department completely cold. Every festival attendee must work a two hour work shift sometime during the festival. There were several years I had worked safety, walking from camp to camp, checking to make sure people weren’t being stupid, and most importantly, being seen.

As it turns out, the weather was perfect, and the festival was considered one of the best ever. People seemed to like what I did as Safety Lieutenant, and I was asked to run the department the next year. This started what was to become a 12 year commitment to the festival, which saw me work my way up to running the entire festival as Co-Director of Operations, and then get elected to a five year term on the Board of Directors.

Easy, nothing to it, right? Wrong, there was a lot of very hard work involved, and just as much luck. It’s easy to look at those who are leaders and think that they have something that allows them to somehow know what to do, and when to do it. They don’t. They simply found something they wanted to do, and did it. Most of the time they did it because the task needed doing, not because they thought they would be able to find anyone to help them, or because it would somehow raise their status in the Community.

These people are the leaders, not because they decided one day to be a leader, but because they decided to do something. Ask any leader in your Community if they were worried about taking on a specific task, and they’ll say yes. It’s fairly easy to look back after the fact and act like there was nothing to it, but as the project is starting, there are a lot of worries. Always.

I’m not talking just about the people who initiate a project, but all the others involved. None of them really know what will happen. Will the project be a success, will it fail spectacularly? Will it just whimper and fade away? Anyone who helps in any project, puts their own integrity into that project, and feels how that project reflects back on them, no matter what the outcome.

It takes real guts to volunteer for something. That’s why most people let others do all the work, they don’t have the guts to help start something new. There are all sorts of excuses people use, they have other commitments, they don’t know how, or they just don’t have the time. While these are all valid reasons, are they really true?

Sure, once it’s already a success, people are more than willing to help, as long as they don’t have to do much work. They just want to be able to bask in the reflected success. They seem to think that once an ongoing project has become successful, it will somehow run itself. These are people who want to get the glory, but aren’t willing to work for it. They want to have it handed to them.

It all comes back to taking responsibility for yourself. Once you have started to take responsibility for yourself, you’ll find that you’ll want to do more. We all have those times in our lives where nothing seems to go right. As Witches, we find those times happen quite frequently. The job situation, the family, the more you have to work with, the more things can become unbalanced. When these times happen, you sit back, and work on them.

Once your personal life is back in order, you find that you have time for other things. Always work on you first. You are the only thing you have total control over. When things seem to be going well, you’ll find yourself looking around for other things to do. This is the time you start to look at being a leader.

This website is my latest project. I can tell you that my life isn’t perfect. In the last year, I’ve lost my job, my home, and the one woman I have truly loved. I lost everything. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Perhaps I just haven’t learned the lesson I was supposed to, or maybe it’s a new lesson I was supposed to learn. I don’t know just what the lesson was, but I can tell you that I have learned a lot in the last year.

So now things are starting to come back together, I have a good job, and a relatively nice place to live. 2007 was the worst year of my life. I hope that 2008 is better. I am feeling good about myself again, so it’s time to start something new. I’m not suggesting that you run right out and try to start a project from scratch, especially if you’ve never done anything before. I started 15 years ago by helping with Safety. This is the first project I’ve done where I am completely in charge.

There are always groups and projects being done within the Pagan Community. Find something that appeals to you, and volunteer to help. Find something that excites you, that fires your passion. A project that you feel strongly about is always easier to work on than one you feel little or nothing for. Work doesn’t seem like work, when you are doing a project that you are passionate about.

This is why I say that you must work on yourself first. Get you to a point where things seem to be coming together. Take responsibility for yourself. Then worry about taking on the responsibility for other things. Only after you’ve put your own life in order, will you be able to put order to other pursuits. This is also true of issues in mundane life.

Now comes the hard part, putting yourself out there for everyone else to see succeed, or fail. It doesn’t matter if you are initiating the project, or just helping out, whatever happens will reflect back on you. This is a scary thing, knowing that you are a part of something that can determine how you are looked upon by your peers, and worse, those whom you respect. If you are just helping out, you don’t have full control of how things are done. If you are in charge, you have control, but are you really up to the challenge?

This is the sort of thing that scares the crap out of everyone. What happens if I fail? Can I do this? Do I really have what it takes to succeed? What if I do succeed, can I handle everything if this works better than my wildest dreams? People are very good at talking themselves out of doing things. Every self help book published, will tell you the same thing. People are afraid failing, but they are even more afraid of success.

The people who are leaders in your local Community were just as afraid as you are now. The difference is that they tried. Success doesn’t just happen, it takes time and effort. No one (except maybe Bill Gates) just goes out and starts a company for the first time and expects it to be bigger than their wildest dreams. Most people start small, and work their way up to bigger things. Take your time, this is not a race.

Start by volunteering to do something you know you can do. Volunteer to help with an already successful project, by doing something you know you can do. It’s always intimidating to raise your hand. If you can find something that is already working, and you are doing what you already know, your success is almost ensured. This makes starting out easier, but you have to be willing to do what you say you will. If you are sincere, those who are in charge of making the decisions will see it.

Once you can claim a little success, it gives you the courage to try other things you haven’t done, but maybe have seen others do. I never would have been able to run a Pagan festival with 1000 attendees that first year I was asked to help out. I started by helping with Safety, then I ran Safety for a few years. After that I became a coordinator of the group Safety was part of. As part of the coordinator position, I actually ran the festival for a day. It gave me experience, and that gave me the courage to try and run the entire festival. Even then, I wasn’t sure I was capable by myself, so when a friend asked if I was interested in being co-director with her, I felt comfortable with the idea.

Taking on a leadership role, whether in a Coven, or as part of a regional sized Pagan Festival, is all about being comfortable with the responsibilities, and getting experience so that you can feel comfortable. If you have the experience, you will be comfortable. The first step is to take what you already know you can do, and apply it. From there, you will find other opportunities to try. Take it at your own pace, this isn’t a race.

Each success builds to another possibility. Yes, you will fail, it’s inevitable. No one does everything well. Someone who is very important to me has been urging me to start my own business. I’ve never run a business before in my life, but she has. She is very successful at everything she tries. She looks at all the possibilities, and only when she’s comfortable with the responsibility, and the chances of success, does she actually start the business. She has been pounding into my head for the past year that it is better to try and fail, than not to try at all.

You have to be comfortable with failing, in order to succeed. Any male who is known for being successful with women will tell you that you have to be able to handle rejection. Once you understand that being told no, doesn’t reflect on who you are as a person, you have the confidence to attract a pretty lady. The same thing goes for leadership. You have to be willing to try and fail. Others see your effort, as much as your result. As long as you really try, you will succeed, even if your project fails. Once you realize that failure doesn’t reflect on you as a person, you have the confidence to succeed.

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