Real Leadership: Authenticity from Solitude and Intimacy

Community Contribution


My thinking time is vital. Over the years, long runs and now bike rides have provided hours of solitude and a medium for sorting things out and creating. I’ve been weak on more formal types of meditation and it’s something I’m slowly adding to my “thinking while still being present” tool kit.

I know that I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been married for 40 years to a partner whom I can openly discuss anything. Her insight and feedback has been instrumental to my leadership and decision making. As a voracious reader, most of my important ideas have been uniquely built on the many thoughts of others, genuinely soaking into my own belief and habit system.

Former Yale professor William Deresiewicz, who was the source of my recent Jane Austen blog, pointed me to a lecture on leadership he gave to West Point Cadets in 2009. That speech had a huge impact, including a note of recognition from General David Petraeus. I strongly urge you to read it. Deresiewicz’s lecture essentially reinforced concentrated solitude and personal intimacy as crucial ingredients to drive authentic and powerful leadership. His premise is that we have too many “sheep leaders”, people exceptionally smart but short on having the ability to authentically think through complex issues while developing creative solutions.

Character Move:

  1. Make it an integral part of your personal development system to invest in solitude and concentration (without distraction of outside influences). Make it a point to increase self awareness by having crucial conversations with YOURSELF. This will support an evolution of an authentic self and personal leadership framework. Thinking for yourself means finding your real self.
  2. Recognize that having an intimate mate or mates, to engage in meaningful conversations that can help you develop and test your guideposts, is a vital part of one’s life. We need real friends not just Facebook friends. One of the best ways, as Deseriewicz points out, of talking to yourself is talking to an intimate other, someone with whom you can unfold your soul.

Creating Intimate Solitude in the Triangle,