Lead Yourself First


A guide to the role of solitude in good leadership, including profiles of historical and contemporary figures who have used solitude to lead with courage, creativity, and strength.

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To inspire and lead others, you must first lead yourself. Here’s a powerful and invaluable guide to productive time spent.

 Leadership is not easy, and it can feel very lonely at the top. Being a true leader requires personal conviction, emotional intelligence, the ability to deal with bureaucracy, and service to the greater whole. Leaders need to stay grounded, be present in the moment and maintain a presence of mind. That isn’t all: According to a new book by Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin, leadership also requires solitude.

“Solitude yields to the clarity to know when the easy path is the wrong one. And solitude, through its fusion of mind and soul, produces within the leader the stronger alloy of conviction, which in turn braces her with the moral courage not to conform, and to bear the consequences that result.” 

Solitude is a state of mind, a space in which to focus on one’s own thoughts without distraction, with a unique power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction. In our time-challenged world today, such space is ever more important to leaders and increasingly difficult to find. We are losing solitude without even realizing it.

Throughout history, leaders have used solitude as a matter of course. Eisenhower wrote memoranda to himself during World War II as a way to think through complex problems. Martin Luther King found moral courage while sitting alone at his kitchen table one night during the Montgomery bus boycott. Jane Goodall used her intuition in the jungles of Central Africa while learning how to approach chimps.

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.” – May Sarton

It takes a conscious effort to find solitude today. Constant connectivity and collaboration is widely viewed as the ideal workplace. New networking technologies, project management and messaging tools, are being introduced into our organizations at a pace that makes them hard to learn, let alone manage.

Lead Yourself First will inspire leaders to spend more time alone. The authors show how solitude can improve clarity and bolster creativity; generate the emotional balance needed to sustain certainty and the moral courage required to challenge convention; and strengthen a leader’s ability to make courageous decisions in the face of adversity and criticism.

“In solitude I find my answers.” – Kristen Butler

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