I waited the majority of my entrepreneurial career to realize a new way of leading and holding the work of entrepreneurship. But you need not wait. The new way is here and available here to you now.
There is no need to change everything today. That is not how we tend to change as humans or as leaders. And the road is paved with experimentation.
If you have followed my writing for any period of time, you know there is no map here; any map I might provide would only be a map for my own journey; it would be of no use on yours. Rather, my hope is to provide a lantern by which you might explore your own path and the forks in your own road.
As you experiment, what may unfurl is your own vision of leadership. Not any right way prescribed, or practiced, by some mythical leader someplace else. But your way. The way you would like to, and perhaps even must, lead. At this time, in this organization, in this market.
No one has done before precisely that which you are endeavoring to do today. Every human endeavor, including your unique company or organization, takes place in its own unique conditions led by its own unique leader.
Therefore let’s explore and find your way.
As we turn together to an exploration of the new way, let me share the following poem with you.
The first time this poem was shared with me, I found the words and ideas so jarring, and so far from my experience of leadership at that time, that I felt equal parts curiosity and anger. Curiosity about whether there was in fact some other way of leading that was as foreign to me as a country I had never visited. And anger because, whoever this John O’Donohue was, I was certain he did not know anything about leading a venture-backed startup.
This surely was a vision of leadership that was for someone else, not for me.
But the curiosity persisted, as perhaps it might for you. And in the end, John O’Donohue’s words became invaluable to me. I hope they may be helpful to you as well.
Welcome, my friend, to your own journey of leadership. Go gently forward. I am so happy you are here.
For a Leader (By John O’Donohue)
May you have the grace and wisdom To act kindly, learning To distinguish between what is Personal and what is not
May you be hospitable to criticism. May you never put yourself at the centre of things. May you act not from arrogance but out of service. May you work on yourself, Building and refining the ways of the mind.
May you learn to cultivate the art of presence In order to engage with those who meet you. When someone fails or disappoints you, May the graciousness with which you engage Be their stairway to renewal and refinement.
May you treasure the gifts of the mind Through reading and creative thinking So that you continue as a servant of the frontier Where the new will draw its enrichment of the old, And you never become a functionary.
May you know the wisdom of deep listening The healing of wholesome words, The encouragement of the appreciative gaze, The decorum of held dignity, The springtime edge of the bleak question.
May you have a mind that loves frontiers So that you can evoke the bright fields That lie beyond the view of the regular eye.
May you have good friends To mirror your blind spots. May leadership be for you A true adventure of growth