This is one of the few Ogham I am more familiar with than others. I have been signing my books with this ogham for years. I adopted it long ago when I read that this symbol was often the symbol of the chieftain of a clan because the qualities of the Oak were desirable in a great leader.
As I have been studying leadership, I could not agree more that strength and responsibility are the two key words of leadership. Without strength, lesser people will quit and without strength you cannot own the responsibility, the mantel of priesthood. All this translates into integrity. My favorite leader, Jerrie Hildebrand, told me not too long ago that integrity was what she lived and died by. Her family, each one, were ruled by integrity and interacted with each other and the greater world with integrity. They asked themselves if what their actions were stayed in integrity or not.
As I started writing my next book, I found that the first word I started to work with was integrity. I realize that I judge my own seekers based upon their relationship with integrity. Do they do what they say they are going to do? Do they commit to things they do not follow through on or only give a small percentage of their attention to? Do they offer excuses after excuses for lack of completion? Is there ownership of their actions and the result of their actions? When they speak can I rely upon what they say, or do I automatically make alternate plans to take up slack I know they are going to create?
My integrity, strength and responsibility as a minister and pagan leader often centers around how people feel. You hurt people’s feelings in leadership and I firmly believe we all have the right to feel – whatever it is we feel. Many leaders treat feelings in a couple of ways.
They dismiss them. The person feeling doesn’t have the right to that feeling for whatever reason.
They analysis them. Sometimes a leader will try to figure out why someone has a feeling, often focusing on their own behavior or worse on what they believe the motivation for the feeling is within the Seeker.
They correct them. They set out to admonish the Seeker for having the feelings in the first place.
In integrity, I have found, good leaders validate all feelings. We all have a right to feel what we feel without judgement or analysis or condemnation. It takes a lot of strength to acknowledge pain someone is sure you have caused them and then own what part you have played in that pain.
I have learned as a leader that “yea but…” is a terrible apology. The strength and discipline it personally takes me to see a Seeker in anger or pain and then simply say, “I am sorry for any part I have in this.”
Defensiveness often demands we add, “yea but..” Yea but, you did xyz. Yea but, if only xyz had or had not happened. Yea but…… Integrity demands we wait it out. Acknowledging, validating and loving our Seekers through pain and anger is part of the job. You can always take up the “yea but(s)” later. And that job certainly takes integrity as well.
Because in integrity and dealing with feelings, you take ownership for what you have done. You judge whether or not the time is right for you to pull apart the issue? Is the person still in the heat of feeling their pain? If so apologize and then sit with them in that feeling, don’t attempt to change it. The heat of anger can be painful to bear and as a leader sometimes we sit and help Seekers bear it.
Part of the responsibility of pagan leadership is that you often can see the actions and feelings and behavior patterns of your Seekers better than they can. Although, I have found in this, all Seekers universally believe that they are inherently right, correct, and omniscient. So pagan leadership is often about leading a Seeker to see patterns of behavior in a way that empowers them to change. Empowers them to see destructive and defensive behaviors and take ownership.
Integrity demands we find ways to empower them, shed light upon behavior patterns and a reluctance to take personal ownership. Sometimes, however, sometimes, the oak wishes it were just a lowly Thistle. Just bloom and die and hibernate and be appreciated for being useful and treated with respect because all that useful beauty comes at the expense of barbs in your hands. Mostly because we never talk about the barbs leadership leaves and the scars on our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies. Leadership may require the qualities of the oak and often inside that same leader lies the heart of a thistle.