Romany’s Random Reviews presents:

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The Leader Within – Articles on Community Building, Leadership and Personal Growth By Shauna Aura Knight

“I often say that the secret to leadership – and to conflict resolution – is relentless personal work.”– Shauna Aura Knight

I recently had the opportunity of reading The Leader Within, a book by Pagan Activist and Author Shauna Aura Knight. Being familiar and appreciative of the articles and essays that Shauna shares online, I looked forward to finding the time to read through this selection of articles and explore some of the topics she has previously raised on blogs in greater depth. The book didn’t disappoint, it is absolutely crammed with a wide range of articles on conflict resolution, management strategies, boundaries and burnout, and grass roots style leadership. I love the fact that Shauna does not shy away from the really hard topics, and instead tackles sexual, physical and emotional abuse; ethics and taboos; mental illness; and even button-pushing subjects like fundraising and finances in a concise and upfront manner.

I have one main criticism of the book, which I would like to get out of the way now. There are areas within the text that feel a little less polished and indeed it is easy to see how much of the content of this book was originally designed for online reading. Some of the articles clearly read better as blog posts rather than book chapters, and there are mentions of previous online articles within the text. For someone like me who is already familiar with Shauna’s online presence those references are enough to make me skip a little in the sentence, but not enough to make me stop. However for those unaware of the blogs and unfamiliar with Shauna overall, I fear that this could be enough to make readers feel as if they are missing something, or have overlooked a reference somewhere. This criticism is certainly a case of picking on style rather than content, because the content is wonderful. Instead of allowing the style and the odd mention of online work trip you up, I would recommend also getting acquainted with Shauna’s blogs:

So now that is out of the way, back to the praise – of which I have plenty. The thing that I loved about this book above all else is the emphasis on personal responsibility and learning to be a healthy leader by being a healthy person. There are lots of articles that explore the many ways people find themselves in a position of leadership, how to manage the roles and expectations, and how to be actively engaged with our communities, but there are also articles that encourage us to consider how being a leader reveals our own triggers, our own areas of inner conflict and our own (sometimes hidden) issues. It clearly shows how change within the community starts with change within ourselves, and how leadership can in fact be the biggest teacher for our perpetual studies of self.

The other theme that cropped up was the exploration of communities in both physical and online formats. The way that we treat boundaries, expectations and communication is very different online than in person, and with more and more Pagan communities developing through social networking it has become apparent that we need to be aware of how the mask of social media affects group dynamics. Shauna covers this, encouraging us to explore the wider community, the vocal minority, the ‘do-ers’ and the ‘be-ers’ in a variety of online, local, national, public and private, formal and informal settings.

Many of the articles provided do not just offer information, resources and skills to the leaders and would-be leaders of Pagan communities, but also provide plenty of open ended discussions and questions that encourage us to think further about our own personal situations. Shauna highlights over and over again how working with others shows us the areas where we need to work on ourselves, but also shows us the incredible value in this reflection. Although her articles come across very pragmatic and realist, I could not help but feel that there is an eternal optimist, a believer in hope and love, peeking at me through the pages. I felt like every chapter said ‘Yes, this can be hard – but you can do it, and it is so worth it!’

Shauna Aura Knight

Shauna Aura Knight

The overall impression that you get from this book is that you have the unique opportunity to learn from other peoples trials, failures and successes. The book is filled with good advice, encouragement, warnings, explorations, discussions, real life examples, hopeful alternatives to current structures, and a desire that every Pagan who finds themselves in a position of leadership takes up the mantle with self-awareness, compassion and understanding. It is a good resource to have on hand for groups and solitaries, enabling the individual to explore and recognise the dynamics of a healthy group and to raise awareness of all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into your favourite festivals. It is a great resource for those who find themselves in a position of leadership without any previous leadership training, and helps to navigate the areas of training and support most often required. And even those who consider themselves an old hand at Pagan leadership, this is an enlightening volume that speaks loudly of the ever-changing desires for diverse Pagan communities, ethical institutions and accountable leadership. A recommended read.

“Bring your waters to the world. This world needs your work, your service, your love and your very best self.” – Shauna Aura Knight


  1. therealrene says:

    Follow my Blog? I do reviews on Rock n Roll Autobiographies and True Crime Books


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