Monday, 16 November 2009

The Poem that Solved my Leadership Problem.

This is an anniversary of sorts.

I read a poem one Sunday morning in late 1999, and realised that I no longer needed my toxic commute to a toxic workplace, and third, no fourth, toxic boss in a row.

Several months of mulling, of back-burner pondering, resolved instantly to clear certainty.

In less than four short months I was outta there, with my own little biz and never a single regret.  I'm still in contact with the wonderful friends I made there and I'm still doing the same kind of work, but co-creating it now.  And no more brutal, stumbling, neanderthal "leadership".

Thousands love this poem: for me it was life-changing.

Here it is:

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver 
from her collection Dream Work

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The most totally liberating part for me?  The first line.

And here's my own little wildgoose.

From her I have learned and am learning almost every other thing I have ever needed to know about loving what I love.  The harshest and most exciting lessons of all, totally wild and wonderful.

Now flying strongly in the clean blue air herself, finding her own place in the family of things.

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And as every graduate of business school knows full well, Wild Geese almost never fly alone, unless they are really sick, and even then another goose accompanies as long as possible.  They fly in formation to benefit from each other's up-draft, and the leadership rotates, so that they all share responsibility.  And, almost best of all, they honk to support each other in flight.

Now, there's a life agenda. To co-create that kind of community.

The follower kind of leadership - that's what I like.  Not only in the sense that leaders pay attention to their  followers, but that leaders are also followers, and vice versa (and its so social networking).

"Real leadership always takes place through 
collective, systemic, and distributed action".  
Otto Scharmer.  MIT 


  1. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Thank you xx

  2. Lovely lovely post. I'm tempted to share my quiet blog with you, Sarah. One part says go ahead, other asks, Are you sure?
    Anyway, thanks for connecting on FB and let me know what you need from me.

  3. Patricia Keays23 May 2010 at 01:42

    Dear Sarah Louise:

    I love your blog. I look forward to more reflective posts about life lessons, and plan to make time to keep up with them.

    I'd like to hear what you're thinking now about the state of the art of your own life and where the rest of us on the planet find ourselves, in this middle of 2010.

    So I look forward with pleasure to the continuing conversation.

    Your friend; Trish