As someone that runs events, a person with post graduate qualifications in leadership and management, this is something that I have been reflecting on for quite some time: how can kink community leaders run spaces in a way that serves their community and acts in the best interest of all?
I’ve lost count of the number of allegations made against otherwise very well respected and experienced leaders of kink events. From serious acts of assault to bullying and fraud, some leaders are not on the ball. I can imagine that they probably don’t see the problem they are causing. Perhaps they are not receptive to advice and feedback? Perhaps they have not structured their events so feedback is welcomed and encouraged? Perhaps they have dismissed the ongoing and more recent issues that affect the running of kink spaces? I’m not one to judge, but you don’t have to be in kink spaces for too long to discover there are problems.
I have already written about making spaces more inclusive for people of colour. I don’t want to focus on practical steps in this post, but more the standards we need to hold as leaders, and for followers and peers to hold us to account to, if they see fit.
Politicians are not angels. Recent events in the UK have called into question the ethics and standards of those in the most senior positions. I became aware of the 7 Nolan Principles of Public Life, and feel this will be a strong starting point for us as leaders within kink spaces as we discuss this issue. Formulated by Lord Nolan in 1995 following corruption in government, and updated at later dates, more information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life/the-7-principles-of-public-life–2
The Seven Principles are as below, and I’ve adapted as follows:
- Selflessness: acting based on the needs of the attendees interest. We run events to enrich our communities. We may make money by running events, but that should not be the sole purpose.
- Integrity: avoid placing yourself under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence your work, that is not deemed to be in the best interest of attendees. We must be upfront about other partners and organisations we are working with.
- Objectivity: act and take decisions about how to run your events and work with colleagues and attendees impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and aiming to address discrimination or bias that is prevalent in our communities.
- Accountability: being accountable to their colleagues, other interest groups and attendees for their decisions. We must be wiiling to submit ourselves to an appropriate level of scrutiny, and set up communication channels necessary to ensure this.
- Openness: take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from affected parties, unless there are clear, ethical and lawful reasons for so doing.
- Honesty: be truthful. Own mistakes. Don’t lie to cover up mistakes. Don’t make accusations against others without good reason and evidence.
- Leadership: exhibit these principles in our own behaviour and treat others with respect. We must actively promote and robustly support the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.
Applying these principles requires effort and continual reflective practice. Some questions to concider may be:
- Do you uphold these principles at present?
- What steps could you take to work to uphold them?
- What are the motivations of running your event?
- Do your motivations correlate with the needs of your community?
- How inclusive is your event to those that may be disadvantaged or marginalised in some way?
- Have you created policies and procedures that reflect the needs of your attendees and working partners?
- Are your policies and procedures visible to all interested parties?
- How well do you encourage feedback, provide an accessible way for others to do so, and respond to it objectively?
- Do you have peers to turn to for guidance and support?
- What is your leadership style and how does this affect your events?
Running events is hard work and time consuming. It may be tempting to cut corners, but good leaders know that good practice pays dividends. Once we set up our events with all the logistics and paperwork in place, things run more smoothly, and periodical reflection points on our policies is encouraged. Peer reviews are really important here. Feedback from partners, attendees and peers will vary, but this is useful as we will discover gaps where we might nor see them from our own perspectives. So, embrace feedback. But at the same time don’t tolerate harassment or abuse.
These are my thoughts on this matter. I hope they are useful. If you have other ideas related to leadership standards and would like to share them, please comment below. Thank you.