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Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts.

21 Jan

The Guiding Tenet: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect." - Mark Twain

Amy, my partner here at Drawing Down the Vision, shared a fantastic read with me this week: Solitude and Leadership. I’d like to share a taste here with you, but would greatly prefer if you read it in its entirety. I do it no justice.

William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor, addressed the Plebe (Freshman) class at West Point Military Academy in October of 2010. He spoke about the crucial and difficult role of solitude in developing as a leader.

Mr. Deresiewicz derided the false image of the conservative, robotic West Point grads to ensure that is what they do not become. They are training to enter one of the largest bureaucracies there is. He exalted how in order to be successful leaders on the world stage, they must be true independent thinkers who know what they stand for, and fight for it. In essence, the larger the bureaucracy you enter, the more of an independent thinker it is your responsibility to become.

It seems counter-intuitive. Solitude and Leadership? It flies in the face of the common phrase, ‘a leader is nothing without followers.’ But flying in the face of the ‘common’ and accepted when appropriate is exactly what Mr. Deresiewicz advocates we must learn. We must not become expert hoop-jumpers. We must become confident, focused leaders. We must learn what we stand for. This is a lonesome journey if done right.

But how can they, and how can we, become those independent thinkers and successful leaders? For starters…

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  • http://ATSiem.com Adam Siemiginowski

    Here is more great perspective on solitude and leadership direct from William and an awesome blog, Smart Solitude:

    http://www.smartsolitude.com/2011/07/william-deresiewicz/

    Please do share your thoughts.

  • http://ATSiem.com Adam Siemiginowski

    “Leaders are not what many people think–people with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see whether anyone is following them. “Leadership qualities” are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. The include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, determination, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head even when things are going badly. This is the opposite of the “charisma” that we hear so much about.”

    “Make Things” via http://caterina.net/wp-archives/98

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