The Poetry of Leadership

My first blog was called “Specimen Life,” a name I borrowed from the introduction to John Updike’s autobiography in which he wrote: “…my autobiography is my attempt to treat this life…as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in the world…”

My hope, through my writing, was to demonstrate the “universality of the personal.” That by using my own experiences of learning and leadership in my writing I would speak to and resonate with others in a deeper way. As my writing evolved, this is exactly what happened. I found that the more personal my expression became the more specifically and personally it spoke to my readers. They got it, not because they had “been there” or “done that” but because we are all human beings and we get what it means to be in the human experience.

I was heartened then, to read Sofia Starnes’s, Poet Laureate of Virginia, recent letter to the editors of the Wall Street Journal in response to a piece which heralded the death of poetry. She writes: “…(the author) fails to appreciate the universality of the personal. Poems always are personal. After all, personhood—beautiful, intimate—is what we all share.”

And, as I tend to do, I started to think about how this commentary on the deeply personal, deeply beautiful and intimate nature of poetic expression, is also a commentary on the best kind of leadership.

Isn’t it true – doesn’t it absolutely have to be true? – that you are more likely to follow someone who sees you as more alike than different? Who relies on your shared experience as a common ground from which to collaborate in the creation of something remarkable? Who respects that at the very center of your common ‘personhood’ is the beauty and intimacy that is the source of creative expression?

Don’t you want to follow someone who just makes you feel more alive?

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