Introspection and Leadership
In·tro·spec·tion – the act of looking within oneself. When I talk with leaders, they all agree they should take more time for introspection. When I ask them, “How would you do that?” They generally don’t have a clue.
Introspection needs a “pump primer”. I don’t simply sit in a chair and say to myself, “Well, what do I see?” Introspection is catalyzed by fully participating in activities that take me out of traditional conversations and into ones that touch my spirit. Some people read. Joseph Badaracco, a professor at the Harvard Business School, talks about the power of reading fiction for introspection in his book, Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership through Literature.
For others, it might be painting or horseback riding or carpentry. It’s about throwing oneself completely into this activity so that all the threads to the operational world are quieted and the act of introspection arises. Great leaders know the importance of this practice and they value it as much as a meeting with their most important constituents.
My personal practice for introspection is reading and writing poetry. When I lose myself into the feeling that comes from being with a poem, a mirror arises and I see myself in ways that were not possible before. A recent poem that touched my soul follows this post.
I encourage you to find your place to lose yourself. While I talk about leaders in this blog, I really mean you, for each of us is a leader in some way.
What Can I Say
What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.
~ Mary Oliver ~