What it’s actually like to be an Arka Brotherhood Captain

So, you’re a part of The Arka Brotherhood, and you are thinking about leadership. Great! Let’s talk about how to get you there…


Part 1 (The easy part): How to become an Arka Brotherhood Captain

Step 1 — Volunteer or Nomination:

If you are interested in leadership, make it known to your Captain that you are interested in becoming Captain yourself. You might also be nominated by any member or Captain of the Arka Brotherhood. Captains are also encouraged to regularly nominate members for leadership.

Step 2 — Training Period and/or Lieutenancy:

If your Captain feels like you are ready, you’ll become a Lieutenant first to gain experience. You may also choose to go through leadership training which gives valuable guidance, experience, and lessons. Lieutenants are expected to eventually Captain their own squad when they and their current Captain agree that they are ready to do so.

Step 3 — Leadership Review:

When you feel ready, ask your Captain for the opportunity to arrange a few “trial run” meetings where you will lead the squad on your own. During those meetings, your Captain will simply observe and provide you with feedback after the meeting ends. Your squad may also host a feedback session on whether they would follow your leadership based on how you’ve shown up for them (similar to the “King’s Chair” process). Your Captain may choose to repeat this process more times if more “practice” or evaluation is needed.

Step 4 — Approval and Induction:

Once your Captain believes you’re ready, he will then report his thoughts to the Division Commanders for final approval. Once approved, you may be paired with a Co-Captain in the creation of a new squad – YOUR new squad! New squads are typically created following Open House events, which take place several times each year.


Part 2: What it’s actually like being a Arka Brotherhood Captain

So what is being Captain like? Let me share with you some of my personal experiences:

  • If you’re doing it for your ego, it’s disappointing. If you’re doing it from a desire to contribute and grow, it’s fulfilling. It’s easy to mistake “leader” with “special”. Nothing about the title of “leader” makes you special, and stepping into it from that place will generally disappoint. However, if you step into it from a place of contribution and service, it can be deeply fulfilling.

If you’re doing it for your ego, it will be disappointing. If you’re doing it with a desire to contribute and grow, it will be fulfilling.

  • There’s a lot to learn, but you figure it out quickly. There are resources out there that help, but you’re still kind of expected to just figure out how to deal with everything. This is good, however, as being a Captain will test your ability to decide things for yourself— one Captain’s views will generally be different from another’s. The result is you learn how to make quicker decisions as a leader, and then, conscious warrior style, deal with the consequences.
  • It can get a bit lonely sometimes. I’ve spoken with Captains who have said privately that they get a lot more out of the Captains’ meetings because it’s now the place where they can let go and share, since there is no expectation of you ‘holding the container’.
  • There is nowhere to hide. As a member, it’s easy to quietly and passively vanish into the crowd when you’re having an off day. That option isn’t available to you as a Captain. You can be coming in hot or cold, energized or fatigued, but all eyes fall on you. It’s also the best training you’ll get if you aren’t used to being in that role.
  • Sharing is different for Captains. There are two schools of thought about how much a Captain should share. Some believe that Captains shouldn’t be sharing their vulnerabilities in their meetings because your job is to hold the container and lead the group. The other school of thought is that by sharing, the Captain leads by example. Personally, I just don’t like having a filter in that regard so if something comes up for me, I’ll share it. But, even then, your group might react differently to you than if you were just a member. My favourite moments from the meetings are often my post-meeting chats with Rey, my Co-Captain. There’s a lot of reflection about the things that happen, about ourselves, the events, what worked or didn’t work, and what was learned. There’s also a lot of high fives.
  • Pulling off a challenging but successful meeting feels amazing. Creating a successful container and seeing someone break down barriers within themselves is incredible. There is great joy in seeing your members win in their lives. Getting to see someone battle an inner demon and then watch them emerge, bloodied but victorious, is deeply gratifying. When they win, it feels like you all got to share the victory.
  • The success of a meeting is massively influenced by your energy. If you bring the fire, your members will respond. If you’re disconnected, they’ll disconnect. The success of a meeting can sometimes depend on your ability to read the energy and direct it.
  • You’re being observed more. You can’t sit back and hide. If someone’s rambling on, the group will silently look to you to see if you’re going to step in and cut them off. If someone’s pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules, the group will observe to see if you’ll maintain them. The buck stops with you and sometimes, it’s your role to tell someone going through a deep emotional catharsis that it’s time to wrap it up because the meeting is coming to a close.
  • Other Captains generally expect more from you. You could get called out more if you’re not showing up in your own life. You’re not expected to be perfect, of course, but you’re expected to try harder because you’re supposed to have each other’s backs. If you behave according to the values, you become what other people outside the community point to. The reverse is also true. Remember, people are way happier to gossip about how you screw up than how you show up— a side effect of being human.
  • You’re expected to show up more, literally and figuratively. As a Captain, you are seen as a leader and if you’re not stepping up people notice. There’s also a general sense that you’re expected to go to more Arka Brotherhood events. You’re also expected to show up earlier, stay later, and support the community. Put away the chairs. (So many chairs.)
  • Every Captain and every group is different.  There’s a Captains’ group chat where people discuss issues. If a member is mourning the death of a child, what can you do? A member is asking for special treatment or challenging you at every meeting, what do you do? Someone has a special situation where they have to come in late, what are the rules around this? The answers can be diverse sometimes, and you got to make the final call.
  • You may not always agree with the leadership’s rules or decisions, but it’s a chain of command. You can debate it with them in private, but then you’ll go to your members and enforce the rules anyway because that’s your commitment.  Any decision made up top is, by extension, a decision represented by you. It’s your responsibility to stay on top of communication with you squad.
  • You can’t demand respect. In case you think that being a Captain means men will automatically respect you more, think again. There are not a lot of Yes-Men in the Brotherhood—which is good, and some members might have more experience than you in one area or another. You have members who simply have lived longer, trained longer, done deeper work, and have led bigger groups than you have, and they’re judging your actions. As a result, you’ll learn how to deal with confrontation in a way that most modern men simply don’t get an opportunity to.
  • Your success and knowledge doesn’t go as far as you think. Everyone loves to give advice and everyone thinks theirs is the best, even when it isn’t landing. I’ve tried to be the smartest man in the room and found that it usually falls flat. Sometimes the most powerful and transformative thing you can say is a question followed by silence. Men are not coming to hear your TED talk. The same could be said about financial success. The reality is most people care more about what you do for them and how you make them feel, not what you have.
  • Some nights, you’ll laugh at how little you actually know. You’ll make assumptions about a member challenging you, only for them to break down in tears the moment they open their mouth. You’ll plan a perfect meeting and have nothing work out, or arrive home to an email thanking you for a meeting that changed their life. The only thing you can really count on is showing up, bringing your own fire, and creating the container week after week.

Some nights, you’ll laugh at how little you actually know.

  • If you’re ready to lead, you should be leading. For a long time, I made a lot of excuses for not wanting to become Captain. I was asked and had always said I was too busy, I travelled too much, my plate was too full, and other bullshit excuses. Really, I was just too comfortable in my position and didn’t want to step up. It wasn’t until someone called it out to me that I realized what I was missing (thanks Matt Cooke). If you’re ready to lead, people can see it.  If you have time to show up for a meeting, you have time to lead it, and if you’ve received a lot, you should be contributing to it. There are squads I know filled with men who have done their work but are choosing not to step up because of the stories they hold onto in their mind. Stop that. It’s time to step up.
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