Leadership, Solitude and Thinking


When I came across this article it actually seemed like an oxymoronic title. But as I read it in detail, I was sold. As a writer, I am compelled to spend countless hours alone either thinking of ideas or actually converting those thoughts into readable form. Now, it turns out that the same approach is probably the best way for me to address my management style. My dad and mentor used to tell me not to discuss my problems with anyone who was not in a position to help me solve them. And he was right. He wanted me to think for myself and know who I am in any given situation. Turns out that’s an imperative trait for any leader.

Repost: BEN J. CHRISTENSEN favorite quotes from Solitude and Leadership: an article by William Deresiewicz | The American Scholar

Greece Silver Island Yoga Retreat

“solitude is one of the most important necessities of true leadership”

“what I saw around me were great kids who had been trained to be world-class hoop jumpers. Any goal you set them, they could achieve. Any test you gave them, they could pass with flying colors. They were, as one of them put it herself, ‘excellent sheep.’”

“excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. … Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.”

“We have a crisis of leadership in this country, in every institution.”

“We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of exper tise. What we don’t have are leaders.

What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.”

“there are a lot of highly educated people who don’t know how to think at all.”

“what makes him [General David Petraeus] a thinker—and a leader—is precisely that he is able to think things through for himself. And because he can, he has the confidence, the courage, to argue for his ideas even when they aren’t popular.”

“true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions”

“people do not multitask effectively. And here’s the really surprising finding: the more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself.”

“Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think.”

“You do your best thinking by slowing down and concentrating.”

“Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that’s heading toward the cliff.”

“Once the situation is upon you, it’s too late. You have to be prepared in advance. You need to know, already, who you are and what you believe: not what the Army believes, not what your peers believe (that may be exactly the problem), but what you believe. How can you know that unless you’ve taken counsel with yourself in solitude?”


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