This is somewhat timely, as we’ve just started the process of training the potential next leader of our church in this past month. Our current leader isn’t ready for retirement any time soon, but he needed someone to take over certain responsibilities (at least temporarily) and the person who stepped up to help him — his daughter, Kricket — is someone who may eventually take his place in ten or twenty years.
If I’d answered this question a month ago, I would have answered very differently. I probably would have talked about skill at running ritual, diplomacy and conflict resolution, and inspiring others in their spiritual challenges.
But in light of this recent development, I think I’d have to say that the essential quality required of a leader is a lifelong commitment to serving this community to the best of their ability, and a sense of personal responsibility large enough to carry that obligation. The rest are skills that can be learned.
Kricket is young, and not very experienced. She shows good potential, but she has a lot of growing and learning to do in order to fulfill this role. There are other people in our group who have more skill and more experience, but Kricket is the person who stepped up. She is the one who has expressed the kind of commitment we are looking for, and that is what clarified for me that commitment is really the essential quality. Nothing has been decided at this point, and nothing will be decided for quite some time, but when it is decided, I think that anyone interested in taking on the role will be judged much more on their commitment and responsibility than on their skills, experience, or reputation.
It is hard to say exactly why that lifelong commitment is so essential, but I think that largely it is because we see this role as being the embodiment of a certain archetype, not just being the person in charge. When you take that role on, you are taking on a spiritual obligation that goes beyond just running rituals and mediating disputes. No one, no matter how skilled, would be accepted into the role without a deep understanding of that obligation.
The leader also would need to be approved of by the gods. That is how the first leader of the group was chosen – the three senior members drew lots. This time around, it would likely be a less “random” process, but something would have to establish that it was the will of the gods that this person take over leadership of the group.