Quick summary: being a leader requires solitude, time to think for oneself. Yet our media landscape and our pride in multitasking - don’t give us a chance to think, but rather drown us in other people’s thoughts. So we are stuck in mediocrity and bureaucracy.
I recently came across a speech titled Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz. I highly recommend you to read it since it contains many useful pieces of thought. One idea resonated with me strongly since I often find myself in the middle of cognitive overload.
The article starts simply by asking what is leadership. It’s not excellence, it’s not smarts, it’s not achievement. Though they often go hand in hand, a commander is not always a true leader, the smartest person you know may not be a leader, the most accomplished scientist may also not be a leader. Case in point: bureaucracy - which we know it pervades everything from military, governments and most businesses.
Bureaucracies do not have leaders. And unfortunately, most businesses are bureaucracies if you think about it. I’ve seen plenty of competent people being sidelined for promotion, being fired and generally overlooked. Why?
What are leaders then? The people that have the courage to think for themselves and act on those convictions. Not to drop names, but think about all those people that went against the grain from Steve Jobs to Elon Musk to Jeff Bezos. I bet that if you look hard enough you can find lesser known or unknown leaders that are just as successful in their particular field.
So how are we going to develop those thinking skills. Well, it starts by concentrating. Focusing hard on the issue at hand, looking at it from different perspectives. Unfortunately we and younger generations are in great danger because we started to forget how to think. Kids nowadays don’t even start to learn how to think under the constant bombardment of Twitter, Facebook, TV and news sites - focusing on something feels like drowning in the thoughts of others. We think we can multitask - read something while watching TV and listening to the radio, but we don’t.
So it seems that solitude (mental and physical) is the true companion of leadership. And this brings me back to to the title of this post. Are we not abdicating our power for leadership (merely at personal level if not at a higher one) to the endless stream of bite-size pieces of irrelevant info? I think we are and worse, we do so willingly.
Here’s the full article to enjoy in solitude. https://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/#.VdNBaROqqkp
Related article: https://medium.com/@i_chermenschi/i-am-tired-382a51530f9e