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Home > Article Library > Editorials > The "Perfect" Leader Search

The "Perfect" Leader
by Elspeth Sapphire


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At what point in becoming a high priestess did I cease to be human? I remember rituals binding me to the coven. I remember one to tie me to the desires of the gods. I even remember the one where I received my cords as teacher and leader.

Yet I keep running into students that seem to feel that becoming a leader makes me less prone to any of the "ills" of a normal person. I am not supposed to ever become ill; at least, not if it inconveniences the student. The gods forbid that I ever have a personal crisis or that the needs of my family come before the needs of the student! As for feeling emotional, well, that is strictly not allowed.

The deities I follow are allowed to show more human traits according to some students!

I am sorry to disappoint my students, but I am totally human. While believing in balance and control, I am subject to the same demands of body and emotions that they are. In fact, it can be worse for me and many other leaders, because we are dealing with much more than just our own emotions and problems; we are also dealing with the emotions and problems of everyone that looks to us as leader. In my opinion, that is why so many of us suffer from burnout at some point in our practice.

Over the years, I have had several students that expect their teacher to be something more than human. Some come to realize that their expectations do not mesh with reality and move on to become a person who is sensitive to others. Others refuse to even acknowledge that their demands are unrealistic and stomp away like a child when they don't get what they want. I have come to divide these people into the following groups:

The Sitter At Your Feet

This is the person that insists that you are so holy and blessed that they are not worthy to sit beside you. They want to sit at your feet and worship you along with the gods. When you try to tell them that you are only a human, they just smile and talk about how modest you are.

Besides being very irritating, these people are the ones that will go from smiling at your feet to attacking you on all levels if you do something that doesn't fit into their "reality". Once knocked off the pedestal, you go instantly from "godlike" to demon. It doesn't take much to create this crisis; I once saw it caused by the teacher losing their temper and another time because the teacher put the needs of her child before the student.

Sometimes these students aren't as easy to identify as one would think. In one case, the student didn't show her true colors until after her dedication ceremony. Once you have a commitment to them, the best you can do is hope you can open their eyes without an emotional crisis.

The Question Demander

I had a student like this. I still shudder when thinking of her. This student is the one that has a million of questions and wants answers to all of them. You think that doesn't sound too bad? After all, isn't that what we as teachers are supposed to do? Yes and no. In my Tradition, the teacher is there to guide the student in finding the answers. It is the work done to find the answers and then further questions that leads to enlightenment.

This kind of student is very impatient with any answers that don't tell them exactly what they want to know. Spirituality has so few precise answers. The student doesn't want to hear this; the student just wants the answers. When the student doesn't get the answers that he or she thinks they deserve, they become first impatient, then angry, then explode. They want an interactive Book of Shadows, where they can just punch in the question and get an answer in return. Not being a robot or machine, my student became very unhappy with me. I released her after an emotional explosion.

The Hanger-On

There is a kind of student that is there more for emotional reasons than to learn. They aren't always easy to identify at times. They become part of the "family", in part because they seem not to have anyone of their own. They want to learn, but teaching sessions are filled with accounts of their problems with life and how that makes it difficult for them to grow spiritually. Point out to them that difficulties give them a chance to grow, and they will frown slightly, then change the subject. Nothing is really their fault and it is because of their isolation and lack of "family" that things don't go better in their lives. Given half a chance, you will start seeing more of them than your real family.

They can slip into your life so quietly that you may not even be aware of what is happening until it is too late. They will see your relationship as the most one in your life and do what they can to break up any that they see as threatening. I had one student become so jealous of my relationship with my mate that he did what he could to part us. Another would become angry if I was emotional about things going on with my kids. These can be messy to deal with, but the sooner the better.

Expectations Meet Reality

There are other problem student types, including the one that will pit two teachers against each other, then stand back and soak it up. However, this brings me back to my original question -- how did becoming a teacher and leader take away my right to be a human being? I am not sure why people expect leaders to be something more than human. We are not superheroes or supermortals or anything more than men and women just trying to cope. We became leaders because of some need within us to pass on information or because of the desires of the deities we worship or sometimes just because there is no one else to do it. None of that negates our rights to a mundane existence or family or home. If anything, being a leader means that we need it more.

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