• Russ Powell

Sometimes a Leader Needs a Good Poet

Updated: Mar 10

Okay, yeah, um, when I started this blog, I didn't think I'd be writing about poetry.


But I spend a lot of time talking w/ professionals about answers to questions like "Who are you?" "Why are you here?" "What do you want?" "What 'moves' you?" "How are you going to approach doing this difficult thing?" and I just heard a brilliant defense of the need for poetry.



From Ethan Hawke –


“…I think that most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, something that the world will consider good or important.


"And that's really the enemy, because it's not up to us whether what we do is any good. And if history has taught us anything, the world is an extremely unreliable critic.


"So you have to ask yourself: Do you think human creativity matters?


"Well, hmmm. Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about poetry. Right?


"They have a life to live, and they're not really that concerned with [poetry]… until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, somebody breaks your heart, they don't love you anymore, and all of a sudden, you're desperate for a way to make sense out of life. And you ask, 'Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?'


"Or the inverse—something great. You meet somebody and your heart explodes. You love them so much, you can't even see straight. You're dizzy. 'Did anybody feel like this before? What is happening to me?'


"And that's when art is no longer a luxury, it's sustenance. We need it.”


If you want more, watch the whole thing here. Good stuff. [Except for maybe when he calls our planet a star. =)]



Most people don't spend a lot of time thinking about poetry… until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, or somebody breaks your heart... and all of a sudden, you're desperate for a way to make sense of life. And you ask, "Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?"... And that's when art is no longer a luxury, it's sustenance. We need it.”

And I'm curious, is there a poem or poet who's taught *you* something useful about leadership, or solving problems, or how to inspire people or do difficult things? If so, drop something about it for us in Comments.

 

Here are two works from poets that have inspired me --


(1) Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" taught me a lot about the value of doing things differently, thinking outside the box, being creative (and encouraging others to be creative) in a world that doesn't always value creativity. A fave line: "I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."

(2) Sometimes, when I'm leading, and I want to motivate someone or a group by pointing to values we share, I call on my inner King Henry V, and use his (okay Shakespeare's) "Saint Crispin's Day" speech as an example of what this might look like. A fave line: "All things are ready if our minds be so."

 

For more insights and ideas on team and leadership development, follow Russ on LinkedIn and Twitter.


For more on Middle Path Leadership, follow the #middlepathleadership hashtag on LinkedIn.

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