The Power of the Pause

A few days ago, working with leaders from nonprofits who serve elders, I opened with a poem.  When we took a break, one of the executives whose leadership experience before entering eldercare was in the military, asked me "Why don't you leave a moment of silence after you read a poem?" 

I was startled. And appreciative of his question. I'm a great proponent of the power of silence--as you can see in the poem of mine that follows--but with poems, especially my own, I have a hard time practicing what I preach.  

But my military colleague has no problem doing so. When he reads a poem to his team he lets it rest in silence before picking up the next topic. 

His question helped me realize that while I have grown practiced in offering poetry to open leadership development programs, I fear that folks want to get down to the "real work" right away, and so I move on. Quickly. 

Why?  Perhaps because the poetry is close to the heart. It is the human, vulnerable dimension. Sacred perhaps. And it's challenging to stand vulnerably in silence. After a poem ends. 

And perhaps that is the real work. 

Perhaps a poem, like a symphony, and many dimensions of leadership asks for a bit of silence now and again. 

Thanks to my colleague for his wisdom!  

And here's my poem!!  In the newly revised The Sea Accepts All Rivers--with cover art from the beautiful photography of my White House Fellows classmate, Steve Hill. 



Leadership Like Symphonies

He said, in leadership
--like symphonies--
the stunning
moments lie
in silence at the end,
in waiting,
not rushing in.


I thought of how
that's true
in other things
as well,
in nature,
and in Shakespeare,
in skiing,
and in love.

Such stillness
is healing
not an absence,
a meeting,
not a missing,
vitality that grows
within the power
of the pause.

-The Sea Accepts All Rivers, Judy Brown, P 43