Lead Yourself First
Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude
"Lead Yourself First makes a compelling argument for the integral relationship between solitude and leadership." --The Wall Street Journal
Throughout history, leaders have used solitude as a matter of course. Martin Luther King found moral courage while sitting alone at his kitchen table one night during the Montgomery bus boycott. Jane Goodall used her intuition in the jungles of central Africa while learning how to approach chimps. Solitude is a state of mind, a space where you can focus on your own thoughts without distraction, with a power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction. But these days, handheld devices and other media leave us awash with the thoughts of others. We are losing solitude without even realizing it.
To find solitude today, a leader must make a conscious effort. This book explains why the effort is worthwhile and how to make it. Through gripping historical accounts and firsthand interviews with a wide range of contemporary leaders, Raymond Kethledge (a federal court of appeals judge) and Michael Erwin (a West Pointer and three-tour combat veteran) show how solitude can enhance clarity, spur creativity, sustain emotional balance, and generate the moral courage necessary to overcome adversity and criticism. Anyone who leads anyone--including oneself--can benefit from solitude. With a foreword by Jim Collins (author of the bestseller Good to Great), Lead Yourself First is a rallying cry to reclaim solitude--and all the benefits, both practical and sublime, that come with it.
This thoughtful self-improvement guide from Kethledge, a Sixth Circuit judge, and Erwin, founder of the nonprofit Positivity Project, is a must-read for leaders who take their leadership roles seriously. It is a book to digest slowly, a powerful narrative without the usual "follow these steps" construction, though the authors do include a few specific suggestions at the conclusion. The premise, per the title, is that solitude enhances the qualities most important in an effective leader. And yes, the authors do (briefly) discuss the now-familiar question of how to find solitude in our era of information overload. They describe many essential characteristics found in effective leaders, including creativity, "emotional balance," humility, magnanimity, and moral courage. The authors provide examples of great leaders from famous historical figures (e.g., Eisenhower and Marie Curie) to admired contemporaries (e.g., Jane Goodall and Doug Conant, formerly president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company) to effectively illustrate their points. In addition, the authors discuss perspective, gratitude, meditation, and the role of extreme adversity. This book is a rare gem, offering an optimistic message that there remain powerful leaders intent on being courageous and moral, and on finding "transcendent meaning" in their vocation.