Posts Tagged ‘follow’


Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by Bob and Bev Benwick

“If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts” Is the advice that William Derisiewicz delivered in his lecture to a plebe class of the United States Military Academy at West Point a few years ago. A colleague had passed a copy of a lecture Derisiewicz gave to these young leaders that I found most profound and absolutely thought provoking.

Although the two concepts – solitude and leadership – on the surface do not appear to be strongly connected, Derisiewicz does a masterful job of illustrating what they truly are and how they are intimately connected. He states that leadership are the “qualities and mind that will make you fit to command a platoon, and beyond that, perhaps, a company, a battalion, or, if you leave the military, a corporation, a foundation, a department of government”. Solitude “is what you have the least of . . . . the ability to be alone with your thoughts. . . . solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership.” Derisiewicz makes powerful references to the Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Apocalypse Now and the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad to ingeniously drive home his point.

Derisiewicz feels he needs to forwarn leaders that they will find themselves wrestling with bureaucracies “where what is rewarded above all else is conformity”. He encourages a different kind of leader and feels there is a crisis of leadership in America. What is missing are thinkers . . . “people who can think for themselves . . . who can formulate new direction for the country, corporations, colleges, for the Army . . . a new way of looking at things . . . people in other words, with vision.”

He goes on to invite leaders to learn to concentrate, to focus, which is all about solitude. He encourages leaders to think for themselves
by finding themselves, “finding their your own reality . . . . don’t marinate yourself as leader in conventional wisdom, others’ realities, but rather listen to your own voice and find a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward a cliff.” To achieve, this the leader is encouraged to take the personal time to read books that are based on the writer’s own solitude in thinking for his/herself. Further, he claims “books stand against conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today”.

The intent of solitude is to get to know yourself better. A powerful form of solitude is that of friendship, deep friendship, that may appear on the surface to be counterproductive to the point being made. This involves intimate discussion―uninterrupted talk. This promotes ntrospection―talking to yourself―that can done by talking with someone that you have vulnerably trust with. . . . a very close friend or a highly qualified executive coach and confidante. Here you can truly think out loud with full confidentiality being kept within a
crucible of non-judgment. We all intuitively know that being in solitude is difficult and challenging, some more than others. However, leadership demands this.

Derisiewicz claims that “taking counsel with yourself in solitude’ is the essence of leadership . . . the position of leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one . . . . however many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions . . . . and at such moments, all you really have is yourself.”

What is in the challenge of solitude and leadership for you? What are related hidden opportunities and threats? We would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on this important subject.

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