Have you ever been micro-managed? Or maybe you’ve been the person trying to keep a finger in every pie? All baby magicians know that mastery of their craft includes unrelenting attention to every detail. And just like the magician taking their first hesitant steps out of the confines of the ritual circle into the big wide world, every emergent leader has to recognise that control is just the first step in mastery of their craft.
It took me a long time to realise that the magical training I had undertaken over the years gave me a huge advantage when it came to leading teams, steering projects and people development. You know that feeling you have that something is off? Trust that instinct. You know that sensation when the project is off timetable and although everyone else is panicking you remain convinced there’s a reason – there is a reason.
Leading is not checking off a series of boxes on a list. It is not creating a clone-army of mini-yous who will do everything the way you planned it. Nor is it monitoring a long line of spinning plates (if it feels like that, let’s have a chat). It is a white-water raft ride under a full moon set in a purple sky. It is riding bare-back across a swirling wilderness towards cloud wreathed-mountains. It is surfing the swell of the air and racing across shimmering ice. Leading involves travel into the unknown and trust that, whatever that landscape brings, you have the skills to keep your people moving towards the horizon.
Two skills the experienced Magician draws on are divine timing and instinctive action. Now, divine timing is often thought of as the right opportunity coming up at the right moment. I like to include this part but broaden it out to include timing that is centred in reality more than the agreed conventions of clock and calendar time. We often use what is actually an arbitrary system of dividing up time to schedule projects and plan our work, forgetting that things like the weather, individual and agricultural energy cycles, seasonal and tidal patterns, lunar phases and deep-rooted collective rituals are impacting on us every single day. Then there are, of course, natural and man-made disasters and major public events sending surges of physical, emotional and mental disruption out into the collective ether. The experienced Magician does not look at this array of complex, uncontrollable phenomena and weep quietly into their gant chart; they see these things as the landscape within which their work is unfolding. The plan on the paper DOES NOT EXIST. Spread your wings and seek the next swell in the air. There is a vast difference between pursuing a shared horizon via whichever route is available and throwing your toys out of the pram because your map is obsolete. Which brings us on to the second skill.
Contrary to what you might think the Magician isn’t all about big, flashy gestures. No disappearing from a glass box suspended hundreds of feet in the air or whipping cloths from under heavy crockery. No. A Magician leader is often in the background relying on the unique set of instincts they’ve developed over their years of mastery: checking the flame-bearing creative in their team has a stabilising partner to work with; reminding their people that how the work is done is just as important as the end results; asking the difficult questions; tweaking the vision; making it their problem when someone asks for help; knowing when to step back and let failure be the teacher. In the big pond of the world you cannot control all the things all the time, so where is your attention most needed? Here the Magician draws on other aspects of the magical self: the seer, the mystic, the healer, the sage. AND, when you follow your instinct you often become the instrument of divine timing – offering that bit of help, guidance or support at exactly the right time The Magician knows that we don’t need to make huge decisions and take momentous action for movement and momentum to occur. Next step decisions and small consistent actions keep the wheel turning and the horizon in view.