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90% Thelema: Followership

O.T.O. is a hierarchical order styled loosely along military lines. As such, within the bounds of the organization we have leaders and we have followers. Most initiates are both in one way or another. Ultimate authority rests in the Outer Head, and unless that is your station, you may be a leader in some respect, but you are definitely a follower.

Thus we arrive at the understanding that O.T.O. is composed principally of followers. If we are to succeed in our mission and goals, we need more than good leadership. We need excellent followership. Leaders set and protect the order’s mission. Followers implement it. Followership is not easy or simple. It requires discernment, discipline, boldness, and humility.

Col Phillip S. Meilinger has written an essay outlining ten principles emblematic of good followership. They are listed below to give you a high level sense of those qualities, but the details and brief anecdotes in the essay are well worth the full read:

  • Don’t blame your boss for an unpopular decision or policy; your job is to support, not undermine.
  • Fight with your boss if necessary; but do it in private, avoid embarrassing situations, and never reveal to others what was discussed.
  • Make the decision, then run it past the boss; use your initiative.
  • Accept responsibility whenever it is offered.
  • Tell the truth and don’t quibble; your boss will be giving advice up the chain of command based on what you said.
  • Do your homework; give your boss all the information needed to make a decision; anticipate possible questions.
  • When making a recommendation, remember who will probably have to implement it. This means you must know your own limitations and weaknesses as well as your strengths.
  • Keep your boss informed of what’s going on in the unit; people will be reluctant to tell him or her their problems and successes. You should do it for them, and assume someone else will tell the boss about yours.
  • If you see a problem, fix it. Don’t worry about who would have gotten the blame or who now gets the praise.
  • Put in more than an honest day’s work, but don’t ever forget the needs of your family. If they are unhappy, you will be too, and your job performance will suffer accordingly.

It’s topical here I think to make special mention of a point spelled out in our Intimation with Reference to the Constitution: the ranks of the Man of Earth degrees take no part in the governance of the order. This does not mean they are not leaders. It means they have no formal role in setting policy and adjudicating disputes and infractions. The Man of Earth are, however, the bulk of the initiates on the ground who make things happen. They are the most visible of all members, opening the doors, serving in Mass, running the meetings, straightening the library, welcoming newcomers, and so on. In this sense they are inevitably seen as leaders among the church laity and the wider, non-initiate community. This is critical to be aware of, because some of the best leadership one can demonstrate at this level is to exceed at one’s followership.