Dandelion Seeds: Leadership When Leading gets Nasty

Dandelion Seeds: Leadership When Leading gets Nasty March 16, 2016

What happens when you know they’re wrong? What happens when they’ve acted like an ass, undermined you, mocked you, and you’re ready to bring it like a Mortal Kombat character?

  1. You pick a character and cosplay your way into being banned from leadership.
  2. You seethe secretly, harboring resentment for the rest of eternity.
  3. You tell all your friends in the group how horrible Person X is.
  4. You struggle with attempting to continue real dialog with Person X

Most of the time I go for door number four. Every once in a while I try the others. It never goes particularly well.

a woman wearing boxing gloves comically punching a man in the face
Ryan McGuire / Pixabay.com

Recently I had an article on leadership transitions published in Shauna Aura Knight’s new book: The Pagan Leadership Anthology. It’s a great book. I totally recommend it. Today I’d like to address techniques for compassionate leadership when you want to play whack-a-mole with your council, coven, grove, or group.

  1. a pencil drawing of a woman holding a seed
    Courtesy of Melissa Hill

    It’s okay to walk away. Take a time out. Let your heart rate slow from that rocketing thumping in your chest. When your heart rate gets too high it’s hard for your thinking brain to work well, more instinctive parts of the brain gain traction and it’s easier to lash out and fall into “fight or flight” reflexes that don’t do anyone any good.

  2. Escape the “I deserve” trap. When we work hard as volunteers it’s easy to build up an idea of who we are and how we should be treated. It’s natural to want recognition for the hard, unpaid work that gets done in pagandom. But it’s easy to think because of all that hard work you deserve to get your way. Make sure you’re not falling victim to being the victim in this argument and not listening to logic because you “deserve” to be right.
  3. Rephrase what you have heard someone say and repeat it back to them by saying “I heard you say…” Sometimes misunderstanding is merely poor wording. Do this part after the urge to destroy has faded.
  4. Help that inner sword-wielding berserker to calm down by focusing on the good things that have come out of the group you are in. Take a moment and think about past happy outcomes in your group. Start with memories that don’t involve the individual that is making you slap happy. Move toward memories that involve the individual in question. This is very similar to traditional Buddhist techniques for increasing compassion. You will most likely find that thinking about the individual in a kind way is hard and irritating. Be patient with yourself. This can be difficult to do successfully. The best part is that by being patient with yourself you build your ability to be patient with others. Talk about two birds with one stone!
  5. Don’t forget to use your magical techniques! You’re a pagan after all! If you have a devotional anchor, use it! If you have a peace candle, light it! Call to your gods and goddesses to hold you in their hands and mean it! It’s easy to say, “Thor, grant me strength.” while you roll your eyes and dive back into the fray. It’s harder to take a short break and have true communion with your deity.   If you don’t have a deity or spirit that you are working with, you can always practice a tree of life or two powers meditation.
  6. Stay rooted in your deepest values and beliefs and move from there. If you don’t know what your deepest values and beliefs are, stay tuned. My next column will talk about how to figure that out.

In the end, you have to pick your battles. Some things you’re going to lose, some you win. You’d better know what’s worth fighting for, and the answer isn’t, “Everything.” Make sure that even when you’re in the front lines of logistics and politics you’re taking time to do the things that inspired you to service in the first place. Meditate, ritualize, speak with your spirits and don’t forget that there are many kinds of service and many ways to serve. Not all of them will suit you, nor will you like all the people who are good at leading. That’s okay. For me, I come back to my personal mission statement:

Sustainability and Beauty in Harmony with the Earth

If my work aligns with that, then I am good. I’ve started a Patreon account, so, dear reader, if you’re interested in supporting the free work I do here on Agora, head on over there and pledge to buy me a cup of coffee, or maybe a little more. May the blessings of the work be on you.

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