Socially Responsible Magic: How to lead and let go in your community

Socially Responsible Magic: How to lead and let go in your community June 24, 2015

Recently a friend of mine, who lives on the East Coast contacted me. She’s read my newsletter where I mention the magical experiments community and the classes that occur every month and she was intrigued and wondered if it was possible to create her own chapter of magical experiments. I was pleasantly surprised and happy that someone else wanted to create their own version of the magical experiments community and at the same time, I’ll admit I wanted to think carefully about what to share and how to convey what I consider to be essential about magical experiments. I also sat with the realization that I’d have to let go just a bit and trust someone else as they created a community similar to my own, based on my own, but nonetheless likely to become distinct and different as all such things do.

Marynchenko Oleksandr /
Marynchenko Oleksandr /

One of the challenges of being a leader is knowing when to let go, and also knowing when to step back and let other people take the reins. And in this case, where someone is all the way across the country it becomes a necessity. More importantly though it causes me to come face to face with an essential truth about community: no one person owns it. Instead, we are all part of it, and all of us make it what is. To be a true leader in a community involves a recognition that for it to grow, its leadership must be set up so that one knows when to step aside in order to let the community grow.

I thought carefully about what I should share with this person, and I realized what I needed to share was everything. I needed to share the history and how the magical experiments community came to be. I needed to share the mistakes I made along the way, the lessons I learned, and what I considered to be the fundamental values and principles of the community. Most importantly, I needed to share that I would be happy to help, but I would also trust the judgment of this person as she worked to create her own version of the magical experiments community.

My choice to share everything recognized that in order for my friend to create her own version of magical experiments she necessarily needed transparency from me in order to benefit from what worked and didn’t work with the creation of the original magical experiments community. Part of what makes a community work is the ability of the people involved to be transparent about what is working and isn’t working, so that the community as a whole can succeed. In talking with my friend, I told her a lot about what hadn’t worked and why as well as sharing what did, but I also knew that no matter what I shared with her, ultimately she and her own version of the magical experiments community will have their own experiences and growing pains. I can only hope that my experiences will help her and her community navigate their own experiences.

The creation of a community and the sustaining of it takes a lot of work. It’s a labor of love that defines you, in some ways, and calls on you to step up as a leader in organizing it. At the same time, knowing where to lead and where to step back is also important. Part of what has made magical experiments so successful is that while there are certain ground rules to help organize the activities, everything else is left up to the community to create for itself; everyone shares responsibility for making it what it can be. That’s what makes the community successful. That only happens when the leader knows what to let go of and what to focus in order to help the community be successful.

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