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
in silence at the end,
not rushing in.
I thought of how
in other things
and in Shakespeare,
and in love.
not an absence,
not a missing,
vitality that grows
within the power
of the pause.
-The Sea Accepts All Rivers, Judy Brown, P 43