Leadership Tips for Satanic Organizations
[Also see previous article on "Build Your Own Satanic Community."]
my experience with leadership in the Satanic Temple’s Seattle Chapter--with the caveat that this is just what has worked for our particular group. Experiment and find what works best for yours.
The Satanic Temple fights religious tyranny and arbitrary authority, and it may seem odd to have leadership positions in such an individualistic religion. It’s true that we don’t have a rigid hierarchy with countless unnecessary levels and meaningless titles. But action is our form of worship, and for a group to pull off successful actions requires at least some organization and coordination.
I’m the Chapter Head for the Satanic Temple’s Seattle Chapter, and about seven months into the first year of our Chapter’s existence, I decided to create a Strategy Council (“SC”) to help run the organization. The way I organized the Chapter’s leadership structure is based partly on my management experience in the corporate world, partly on my experiences building kink community, and partly on trial and error.
In our Chapter and in the larger TST organization, we try hard not to put in place any unnecessary rules, regulation, or bureaucracy. Our leadership apparatus is the bare minimum needed to run the group and our campaigns. We need to remain nimble to be able to take on fast-moving activism campaigns.
We also try hard to avoid stratification within our group. Our Strategy Council members may have a more official role in the chapter, but we try to eliminate any “pulling rank” because of this. The SC exists to serve the organization, not support personal quests for power. We strive for equality and require that every member of the chapter be treated with respect and compassion.
STAGES IN LEADERSHIP FORMATION
For those of you just starting a Satanic group, you will probably find that you’ll be able to operate with just one or two leaders for quite a while. In my experience, I’ve noticed that groups do need at least one leader--someone at whom the buck stops; someone who is ultimately responsible for running the group. You might find that two such leaders working in tandem are most effective; many Chapters of the Satanic Temple have two Co-Chapter Heads. This provides a level of redundancy. If one Chapter Head has to take a break for any reason, one who can run the Chapter remains.
But beyond one or two leaders, many groups will not require more leadership positions until they grow and mature a bit. If you aren’t yet doing activism or fundraising and instead are focused solely on philosophical discussion or social connection (for example), you might not need a whole roster of official positions.
Two main factors go into deciding when you should form a broader leadership council. The first milestone you will reach will be when you yourself can no longer can handle the tasks necessary to keep the group running--often when there are a lot more people in the group or you start doing complex activities like activism that require a high level of coordination. For example, our chapter now has over 50 active members, and we always have at least one major campaign that we’re working on. We need a group of people managing our operation.
The second important milestone occurs after you’ve had the chance to get to know your members and see how much work, enthusiasm and skill they put in, as well as assess their understanding of your group’s mission and values. Once you know for certain you have people who would be good candidates for leadership positions, your group will be ready for a more formalized leadership group.
It may take a few iterations before your leadership group takes on its final form. In our Chapter, it took about six months for a stable group to emerge--so patience is essential. And once your group is formed, members will occasionally come and go. Three people have quit our Strategy Council, and we had to remove another.
CHOOSING YOUR LEADERSHIP GROUP
Different organizations have different approaches to distributing leadership positions or rank within a group. In a company, position is usually based on how well you can do your job or organize others to do theirs. Some organizations have elected leadership positions. In some groups, positions are based on how long you’ve been in the group; in others, rank is based on your knowledge and understanding of the subject. In some, your position depends on how well you can play power games within the organization--and there are some groups who award rank solely based on how much you’ve paid.
We use a different set of criteria. For our Chapter, the first major factor in distributing a position is how much responsibility a candidate is willing to take and how much work they are willing to put into the organization. In our Chapter, positions definitely correspond to an increased workload. I chose my first SC members based on who had already volunteered a great deal of their time and effort--who had already gone the extra mile to ensure our projects and campaigns were successful. A person’s skillset was also a factor, but not nearly as much as their enthusiasm and the amount of work they were putting in.
Another really important factor was what each person brought to the table in terms of teamwork. It’s essential that your leadership group work well together. In my old career as a manager at tech companies, I found that the most important contribution to team success was how well the team performed together, as opposed to people’s individual skill sets and competencies. Our Chapter’s SC has to work closely and function as a greater unit, even while preserving our individual identities and viewpoints. We don’t agree all the time--far from it, as we are all pretty passionate individuals with different views--but we are all willing to put in the hard work to come to a workable agreement.
Lastly, anyone you put on your leadership council should have an excellent understanding of the organization’s mission and should share its values. In some ways, a leadership council member has added responsibility when it comes to properly representing the organization both outside and within your group. You should choose people who you feel will represent your group’s mission and values well.
Keep a wary eye out for people who are hungry for power and want a title, but aren’t willing to put in the work necessary for the job. There will always be those who simply want authority over others, as opposed to wanting to put in their time and effort in order to make the group better. Leadership, at least in our Chapter, is a service position. Those interested only in power are ill-suited to helping organize and manage the group.
FUNCTION OF THE STRATEGY COUNCIL
This Strategy Council spreads the work of leadership across a whole team of people. We can trust each other to be competent and reliable, to work together to create successful actions and campaigns, and to engage in spirited discussions and the free exchange of ideas in order to guide the strategy and tactics of the group.
The SC handles the high-level planning for the Chapter. We’re responsible for taking the larger goals of the Satanic Temple organization and bringing them to life in our local Seattle community. We decide which campaigns and events would be best for the Chapter to pursue, and then we’re responsible for putting together teams and coordinating people and resources in order to achieve the Chapter’s goals. We also decide how Chapter funds will be spent.
We also deal with member issues, such as complaints between members or violations of our Code of Conduct. Our job is not only to lead the Chapter to success on our actions, but also to foster healthy community within the Chapter. We are a religion with a congregation, and our community ties are integral to our Satanic practice; leadership has the responsibility to look out for our community’s well-being.
Each officially recognized Chapter of the Satanic Temple (“TST”) has a Chapter Head and sometimes also a co-Chapter Head or Media Liaison. These are the only positions within the Chapter that are officially registered with the greater TST organization; for these positions, TST require an in-depth application process, including interviews. These positions report to TST’s National Council. Beyond those positions, each Chapter may choose their own structure.
Beyond the Chapter Head and Media Liaison, our Chapter’s leadership body is the six-person Strategy Council. There’s no particular reason we have six SC seats. It’s just worked out that way as the team was built up and people left or were added.
When I started the group, there were only three people, and we’ve had up to nine. We like to remain flexible so we can adjust to what is needed. In our Chapter, adding or removing a member to the Strategy Council requires a unanimous vote from the rest of the Council.
Each person on the SC has multiple areas of responsibility. For instance, our Treasurer is also the Merchandise Manager, Design Lead, and Technology Lead. Sometimes there are more than one person assigned to the area--for instance, we have two Logistics Managers and two New Member Team Leads.
The list below covers all the areas of responsibility handled by our Strategy Council, in addition to the larger joint role of setting Chapter direction and high-level strategy:
Campaign Manager: Responsible for planning and executing actions--our tactical director. He leads our actions in the field.
Media Liaison: Handles press interaction, including interviews.
Treasurer: Responsible for storing, tracking and managing our Chapter funds, including paying expenses and reimbursing members.
Secretary: Takes notes at meetings.
Logistics: Plans and manages details for actions, like where and when to meet, who is bringing what, and so forth.
New Member Team Leads: Responsible for creating and running the process by which new people join the Chapter.
Social manager: Organizes social events.
Design and print lead: Manages all design work, including designs for print (posters, flyers, signs, etc.).
Tech lead: Manages our technical needs, including building and maintaining our website and our internal community portal.
Social media manager: Maintains our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Merchandise manager: Designs, orders, prices and otherwise manages Chapter merchandise (sold at fundraising events).
Community service organizer: Organizes charity and community service events for the Chapter to participate in.
We also have two non-Strategy Council titled positions:
Documentarian: Photographs and video-records events and manages our media files.
Administrative assistant: Manages our official membership roll and contact lists.
In addition to these positions, we will often form a special team within the Chapter to work on a specific project. For instance, we had a team dedicated to organizing and executing our recent benefit show, with people holding positions such as Vendor Coordinator, Talent Coordinator, Green Room Manager, MC, etc.
We usually have at least one SC meeting per month. Most often it is in person at one of our homes, but sometimes we have our meetings via webcam. This is especially useful when we need to have a meeting on short notice.
We use Google’s free Google Hangouts video chat service (Skype or other video chat programs would also work). In general, we like to use the Google platform for handling Chapter communication and digital resources. We use Google Groups to set up email lists for the chapter and the Strategy Council. We store important documents on a Google Drive shared with all Strategy Council members, and we use Google Calendar to share Chapter events with members.
Our SC meetings usually last between one and a half to two hours. It’s a long time, but there is usually a lot we need to go over.
It’s important to us to maintain transparency so the rest of the Chapter knows what the Strategy Council is doing and is privy to any decisions that we make. After each Strategy Council meeting, we send out the minutes and notes to the rest of the Chapter, including any votes taken. Then we go over these minutes at our next Members’ meeting. Any member can submit a proposal to the SC; we discuss and consider all such proposals.
FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU
Ultimately, what you decide on as far as structure for your own Satanic group is up to you. There are many approaches that will yield success for your organization; a lot of it will become apparent as you try different things. I invite you to share your own experiences and tips with leadership; the more knowledge we can share, the better we become as a larger Satanic community.
[Next article in this series: Activity Ideas for Satanic Groups]
Lilith Starr is Chapter Head of the Satanic Temple's Seattle Chapter, and the author of "The Happy Satanist: Finding Self-Empowerment."