This piece was prompted by my coach as a way of working out my next steps. At this point, I was planning to found an online community space for #WitchyQueers, but wasn’t sure how to frame it. Jenn suggested approaching this as an experiment, with a hypothesis and plan for testing.
What do I want to experiment with?
How do I want to grow personally?
I have framed this in many different ways. What feels best to me is grounding this all in my values. The experiment is really the relationship between my values and my work.
I want to:
- Commit to my values.
- State my values.
- Embody these values in my life and work.
- Create work that embodies these values and ultimately seeds and spreads a culture rooted in these values.
These are the things that I personally value and that I believe can change the way we do business. I want to experiment with ways to embody these values in my life and work. I want these values to be baked in to the community space and all that happens there, and thus into the culture of the space, and I want to see how people respond to this space and its culture.
Transparency, honesty and realness
I want to work openly, share my process, share my questions, share my blocks, be honest about fears and failures, celebrate success, and through all this, show up as a human being. I want to challenge the way the internet currently feels – Instagram-able, highly curated, the dirt of real life hidden away. Even the ‘problems’ people share feel curated and tweaked, sanitised to make processes appear linear, always with a soundbite at the end. Everybody knows that nobody is perfect, everybody is struggling with their own *stuff*, yet judging by the spiritual web, everything is perfect and beautiful and struggles are only shared and honoured when they have a neat and tidy ending. That’s not my life, and though I share a little online, I find this perfection/linear healing standard really pervasive and it holds me back from what I share and ultimately what I can learn.
Trust and collaboration
I have shied away from collaboration my whole life, often very proudly so. Now I’m tired of doing everything alone. I want to learn how to open up to others’ ideas, let go of the idea that I have to carry everything on my own. Themes of martyrdom, meritocracy and control-freakery come up here. I don’t trust others to do things ‘right’, and I don’t trust myself to either, leaving me stuck. I have also looked longingly at others in collaboration and thought “I wish I was the kind of person who could do that.” I’m excited about (and terrified by!) the possibilities that collaboration offers.
Distinct from collaboration, I want to work in a way that generates a flowing economy of mutual support (meaning encouragement, inspiration, space-holding, listening, advice/guidance and many other things). I want to feel that there are places I can turn when I need to, and I want to offer that to others in turn and in line with my own capacity. Currently I struggle with an imbalance, where I offer support, but never request any in return – I think because I’m afraid to be seen as fallible. Consequently there’s no flow, and I don’t feel the support I offer is especially effective.
I want to feel that I belong to something, that I am in a reciprocal relationship with my surroundings, my community, my spirituality, nature, everything. I see areas of my life where I experience genuine belonging, and areas of my life where I don’t, and the difference in the way I show up, what I give, how I receive/take etc is so stark. Belonging is tied to being secure in my identity, knowing what is ‘for me’ and what is not (discernment) …and many other things I haven’t explored yet, but want to.
Gratitude and abundance (reciprocity)
I want to operate from a place of knowing I have ‘enough’. That means awareness of what I do have and practicing gratitude, and knowing how and when to say no so that I can maintain that sense of enough. (Currently I swing wildly between feeling abundant and being very free with money/time/resources, and suddenly feeling like everything has run out and having to shut down/withdraw.)
Curiosity, embodiment and intention
I want to make decisions from a place of ‘what if’, exploring and testing with intention, rather than predetermining. Bringing the scientist out of the shadow! I believe in the intuitive wisdom of my body, and that it has much to teach my mind about decision-making, planning and creating. I want to explore what it’s like to place embodied work at the core of the community planning process.
Within the community I want to develop a way of facilitating that does not involve being an ‘expert’ or ‘guru’, instead working with the idea that each of us is our own expert. My role as leader/facilitator is not to offer answers but to create the conditions for exploration; asking the right questions (etc), providing the structures and systems and team, so as to encourage people to explore and discover their own answers.
In terms of leadership this also has to do with distinguishing accountability and the role of holding space from the role of ‘having all the answers’ or being continually available. Instead I put in place what is needed for people to find and offer support and guidance as needed. Lateral rather than top-down leadership.
By this I mean leading from within, rather than from above. I want to explore a kind of leadership that means being part of the community, not separate and higher. Is it possible for a person to lead through being active in a space, listening, participating, and creating conditions for development in response and even collaboration with members, rather than deciding what those conditions are and asking others to create them? Similarly, can I manage a team this way? Can I collaborate with other leaders in this way? Or must I always as a leader be in some distinct ‘above’ space?
I find this question really challenging and am currently unsure how to distinguish what (if anything) is necessarily top-down from what can healthily and productively be lateral. One concern I have here is that this is ‘someone else’s job’ and that focusing at grass roots level will mean I don’t have capacity for the wider work of vision holding, strategic development and the role of being ultimately accountable. So I want to experiment with a spectrum here – intentionally placing myself within the community and watching what happens, tweaking my position on the spectrum as necessary.
Underlying all of this is vulnerability.
All of these values are trigger-y for me, because all involve being incredibly vulnerable – or at least, vulnerable in a way I’ve not tried much/at all in my work before. I see so much opportunity for personal growth in stepping up to embody these values – and in my work, I see opportunity to go beyond what I can create alone.
In order to commit to leading, in order to honour this community project through fully committing to it (rather than setting it up to fail, as I have been) I need to let myself be vulnerable. Commitment is vulnerable – it means risking great pain and disappointment if things don’t work out. But if I don’t step up to those risks, feel the fear, push through to action knowing I am ‘naked’, I will never move forwards and I will never have the chance to wholeheartedly try.
Vulnerability is both the core of the experiment and the context of the experiment. What happens when I ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, what happens when I let my fears and vulnerabilities rise to the surface and explore them, not only in my journals, but within the community space.
What if I lead in line with my values?
These hypotheses began as ‘hopes’. Bringing them forth as ‘beliefs’ was very humbling and painful and got me right in the vulnerable places.
Transparency, honesty and realness
I believe if I am able to share the ups and downs of my life/business journey, I will receive encouragement and support (rather than judgement or abandonment) and will feel stronger to keep going, to change direction, to make decisions and continue. Essentially, I’m learning how to be fully myself, in public – and I believe this will be a strength, something that will actually benefit my work.
For the community: I believe if people see me sharing my journey – especially the tough parts, they will begin do the same. Having this culture within the community will mean people feel valid and able to show up as they are – so they feel welcome, in all of their beautiful imperfections, wherever they are in the spirals of their own journey. And this will lead to more contribution, more sharing, more engagement, more openness, more collaboration…more belonging.
Trust and collaboration
I believe that if I allow myself to trust others, and learn to both delegate and collaborate, I will: a) bring in ease and spaciousness into my own work, b) strengthen, empower and enthuse my team, c) show up to projects that can take me to totally new places (that I fantasise about) and d) build lasting relationships that can support my business long term.
For the community: If trust and collaboration are encouraged and the space and tools are provided to support this and make it easy, magic can occur! I have always enjoyed seeing what people come up with when collaborative conditions are provided. I believe that radical and beautiful projects will begin to arise from the community space.
What will happen if I ask for support when I need it? I believe I will receive it. I believe it is there for me – I have seen many times how ready people are to offer me support. The trick is allowing myself to ask and receive. Which is about being able to be imperfect. Which I hope will arise from the transparency experiment!
I have struggled with ‘boundaries’ around giving support, which has led me to burnout and resentment, which has led me to some shut-down places I don’t find nourishing or fun. What if I was able to discern in an embodied, sustainable way how much capacity I have for giving support? I would be able to give from a place of abundance.
For the community: I believe that if we welcome each community member with gentle and simple opportunities to offer some form of support to others, and again within that initial encounter, an opportunity to ask for support or feedback, we set a culture where members expect to be in supportive conversations with each other, and crucially know that they have something to offer.
I believe that the culture of a space tells folks whether or not they belong (and if they don’t). The experiment here is to design spaces that I want to belong to, and to clearly state cultural expectations, values, beliefs that feel right and possible for me personally. I want to state all the things that tell me that I personally belong, and see how that feels. I believe this will make me more likely to commit to the space, to the longer-term vision, to actually leading. As in, ‘belonging’ becomes a self-supporting thing where I feel like I belong, so I show up and do my work, which compounds the feeling of belonging, so I keep showing up.
For the community: It’s important that the right people know they belong, and that the rest know that this isn’t for them. I believe that if policies and the onboarding process and the moderation and facilitation systems and the ways we encourage people to contribute/engage/return are designed with right people belonging at the core, the right people will experience that feeling of belonging, and will show up in positive ways, will continue to seed the culture, and will ultimately make the space easier to manage and more profitable and sustainable.
Gratutide and abundance
For me this begins with awareness. I believe that if I know the figures, if I know what is happening resource-wise (money, team, time) within the community, I will begin to make decisions from a more grounded place, where I feel secure that I know what I and the space can offer. This is what abundance feels like to me – knowing what I can offer, knowing my capacity long before it is breached, having an embodied sense of what I have and can give (that is grounded in the tangible, e.g. accounts, solid staff team, etc).
More than this, I want to see a flowing (gushing!) economy of all kinds of resources. I want to be mindful of the nourishment that comes through relationships, through collaboration, through personal growth, through sharing and receiving feedback, through all areas of working and growing within this space with others around me who are experiencing the same. I believe that if the foundations are build solidly and built to provide long-term nourishment, operating from a place of gratitude and abundance will become the norm, not something I have to summon or consciously create all the time.
For the community: If there actually *is* enough – enough welcoming, enough space, enough information, enough support – I believe people will feel this. If people pay to access this space, and the amount they pay is reciprocated and the value of the space matches what is being paid, then there will be a sense of reciprocity, of belonging, of accountability, and that this leads to a sense of having enough, even feeling abundant.
Curiosity, embodiment and intention
For me: This leans on everything I’ve written above. I believe that if I stop believing that I have to ‘have all the answers’ and approach this whole experiment with curiosity and the question ‘what if?’, I will be opening myself up to so much that I hadn’t even considered before.
There is a sweet point between intention and experimentation that is conscious and intentional, yet open, where discernment happens, where decisions are brought to my body for consultation, where I don’t have to second-guess myself or *know* outcomes before I begin – yet where I do have an idea what I want to achieve.
For the community: I don’t feel ready to say ‘what I think will happen’ here. Most of us are so strongly indoctrinated with patriarchal modes of thinking, framing and deciding are so strongly, it feels impossible to estimate whether people will take on the curiosity and embodiment approach – my personal experience is that it means moving through so many layers of resistance and it was only through .
I will lead in line with these values and my *hope* is that little by little, others will too. I also feel there is room here to have community facilitators who can teach and/or offer tools to encourage this.
This is the experiment I’m least ‘sure’ of in my beliefs. I intend to place myself in the midst of the community and explore what happens to my capacity as I lead from that space. (I am basing this on the Grandmother of Wands in this reading.)
I believe what will happen is that I will feel my way along a spectrum and experiment with capacity, boundaries, discernment. I believe that I will ‘get it wrong’ at first, but I am super interested in this experiment and want to begin in this space – I want to be open to the possibility that it might actually be the right space, rather than erring on the side of caution and never knowing how *in the midst* I can be and still lead effectively.
(Finding it hard to explain this one!)
If everything goes wrong…
I believe that I will be bruised and hurt, and will discover more shadows in the process. I am already afraid right now that I won’t get back on my feet, that I’ll give up – that is what I would have done before beginning this work.
However, I feel that the process of carrying out this experiment will itself be liberating, strengthening and empowering. I believe that if this project ‘fails’, that I will experience that pain in new and different ways, and will be stronger and readier for the next project/experiment.
The experiment is to explore and embody a style of leadership that is rooted in my values.
So that every decision is made in line with these values. So that the values shine out in the community space. So that the values become customary, and become culture. I want to find out what a community looks like when these values are at the heart.
The experiment is composed of many, many tiny and middle-sized experiments, too many to list here. Current examples are:
- Practicing bringing every single decision to my body to hear its response. This is a huge shift in the way I work. I’m using this practice to write this piece, to create a business plan, to do my cost projections, to decide a time-frame…
WORK IN PROGRESS!
How will this be measured?
WORK IN PROGRESS!
How supported do I feel, personally? Watching for patterns in morning pages, journals, blogs, body scans, visualisations. Watching for areas of fear and investigating these.
How do I feel about ‘going to work’? Ask this every day.
How much am I actually sharing? Are people responding? In what ways?
Measuring income/expenditure against projections. Is the community profitable? Do this monthly.
Feedback from moderators and community co-ordinator. Regular check-ins with team (monthly to begin, more for co-ordinator).
What does the present and the future look like, in terms of to-do lists, diaries, and the sense of space and opportunity I feel?
What is happening in the community? How are people feeling, how are they using the space, is it in line with intentions and expectations? Are other things happening? Find this out through regular grass-roots use of the space, through check-ins with co-ordinator, and through 6-month member survey.
- To receive and give nourishment as a central part of my working life.
- To not only see a need in my community, but experiment with solutions.
- To feel that my actions are in alignment with my core beliefs.
- To design, build, hold space for and lead a community that is nourishing for all who belong to it and that adds something unique and deeply valuable to the ‘witchy queer’ world.
- For this community to be sustainable, for it to nourish me, for the nourishment I receive from it to outweigh what I put in..
- ..and for this to be the experience of the team and membership.
- To be able to participate in this community as a member as well as as a leader.
- To feel freedom from work, as well as loving being in the midst of it. (Balance, really.)
- Long-term financial security and a stable home.
What would it look like to create a community space that was accessible, radically inclusive and safe for people to be witnessed and supported in their own spiritual/self-growth journeys? Where the culture is about drawing lines between personal and collective liberation, where we talk about spiritual practice as political as well as personal. Where there is no one way of being spiritual, where we do not have ‘experts’ or ‘gurus’, but instead just loads of inspiration, ideas, and encouragement to do your own thing and share it with the rest of us. I would love to see the different ways people would use that space, how folks might feel inspired to step up or contribute or collaborate. I would love to see how people – including myself – can grow within a space like this.
What kind of leadership would that require? The kind I want to explore. The kind I want to step into.
Some old ideas I have about leadership are that it means:
- Domination // One person having power over others, making all the money, making all the decisions, being the loudest, working to maintain a position that others want to challenge.
- Drudgery, burnout // Doing everything myself, being alway on, never being able to switch off. This comes from not trusting others to carry some of the load (and thus far, from not seeing where there is money to pay for staff) but it’s also a ‘martyr-ish ego thing’, somehow there’s a sense that a leader must be visibly exhausted to prove they are working hard enough for the people?
- Separation // Necessarily maintaining a visibly separate position from the ‘led space’. (So in this case, the leader can’t experience the nourishment, support, services etc the community offers.)
- Faultlessness // A leader must never make a mistake, or else everything will fall apart and everyone will scurry away to another leader. Fear of making mistakes means I often make decisions from that ‘should’ place. So decisions are made rationally, without any consultation with the body or soul, always about holding on to perfection.
I recognise that these things are not, in fact, leadership qualities! And my experiment is about unlearning these assumptions and practicing a different idea of leadership.
I’ve been hiding behind a myth of *it all just happened*, playing down the intentionality within my business, so as not to have to fully show up. In this, I ignore a greater desire in me to do bigger and more impactful things. I hide from stating the mission of my business, and stay in my comfort zone. I want to push at the edges and experiment there.
I am interested in different and especially collaborative ways of working and running a business. I have been doing this alone for too long now. Around me there is a community of queer witchy types, working hard, mostly alone. I want to look for ways to bring us together to support, witness, encourage and work through things with each other, in collaboration. This is another edge for me – I have always sought ways to work alone and avoid collaboration. I don’t trust others to ‘do it right’, and I don’t trust myself to either, which leaves me stuck, unable to really action anything. I want to learn and grow in this way.
My fears around leadership stem from fears of making mistakes, letting people down, not being capable. All those things are possible and I can’t remove these risks. So I want to learn to embrace the risk, to be that vulnerable. And maybe to take power from that vulnerability to step forward in bolder ways.
I want to approach decisions with curiosity, noticing all the rational ‘should’s in my immediate responses, putting them aside and listening to my body in ways we’ve practiced together.
I want to be the kind of leader who models a different way of doing business and community. I want to lead from a place of generosity and honesty and encourage the flow of generosity and honesty. I want to be a community member enjoying the nourishment of mutual support and friendship, as well as being the person who responsibly holds space for others to receive.
[I wrote a blog post about different models of leadership shown in a reading with the Tarot of the Crone.]
Then: If I can lead in the same way and direct but share power, invite collaboration, listen, trust my assistant and offer her responsibilities, the building stages will be joyful and well-organised (i.e. easy) and the community will feel collectively owned.
Another experiment is the business plan – in that I’ve never created one for my business before (though as a community development worker in a former life I wrote many).
I’m working on this. I’ve got three years of projections, based on charging a monthly fee. There’s a simple get-one-give-one sponsorship programme too so there are free places available. It feels deeply important to me that this space be accessible to people who actually can’t afford it. The income pays for running costs, a small team of moderators, a community coordinator, and me (creative director).
These charging ideas are an experiment in themselves, the question being will people value this space, this community, this offer, enough to sign up and pay? And will they pay 4.99 per month? What about 3.99? etc.
I believe in the value of this community. And I am committed to doing the work right now to really state the vision clearly and set things up to last. I believe that enough people will pay to join it that it can be financially sustainable (plus profit/saving) within its first year.
And I believe if I take a really organised, embodied, well-informed and compassionate approach throughout the process of designing and planning and launching this project, the right people will be part of it and it will meet its aims and be nourishing and sustaining for all, and for me.
And I believe that people will want to be part of this because it feels different. There are so many hypotheses within the systems my assistant and I are creating – about creating genuine belonging, on creating an ethical context for using the space, on getting the welcoming right and what happens inside the space.
I’m especially interested in creating a leaders’ circle within the community. This is still swirling in my mind and will be another experiment. Loosely, I believe that the other queer witchy folks in my community (those who I feel like they’re at the same ‘level’ or point in the spiral as me in business terms) also long for space to work through things together, collaborate and get/give support, and that the community I’m building is a perfect space to hold this circle. So there’s another kind of leadership there.
Vulnerability. Realness. Compassion. Inclusivity. Transparency.
I will show up in the space myself and modelling the values that sit at the core of the community. I will share both my personal journey and my business journey with honesty, because these are the stories I want others to share too. I believe that if I do this, it will help to demonstrate the safety of the space, and others will too.
And I believe that this creates an immense amount of value – the space becomes a container for so much magic, collaborations and solo sharing, inspiration and support. I think this is something people will want to belong to, and will happily pay for.