Poetry often eloquently speaks to us about the work we have to do. John O’Donohue wrote a lovely poem, For a Leader, a blessing or prayer that offers a way of being for leaders. I found it on the Institute for Mindful Leadership’s website. When I read his poem, I see it as a challenge to live fully into my role as a leader. He offers leaders a perspective on how to grow into their better selves.
Think of the metaphor of the wise old owl. The owl symbolizes the integration of our cognitive and spiritual capacities. Like the owl, sitting perched up high and watching over the land amidst the darkness, seeing all that moves and lives below, the leader too has the wisdom to understand what is required to help others become their best selves.
For a Leader
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 center of things.
May you act not from arrogance but out of service.
May you work on yourself
Building up and refining the ways of your 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 to be a servant of the frontier
Where the new will draw its enrichment from 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 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.
— John O’Donohue