12 Most World Beating Leadership Lessons from Poets

12 Most World Beating Leadership Lessons from Poets

From King David to Vaclav Havel, poets have taken their place among the great leaders in history. The bards of old spoke truth to power, and the likes of Solzhenitsyn put their lives on the line for an idea — yes, even a poem.

The poets have a world of lessons to teach those who desire to lead others with wisdom and at the same time make real and lasting change. For example, let’s consider these twelve:

1. Fearless leaders take comfort in good guidance

“Even though I walk / through the darkest valley, / I will fear no evil, / for you are with me; your rod and your staff, / they comfort me.” (David, Psalm 24:4, NIV)

2. Discerning leaders seek wisdom above wealth

“Virtue and knowledge were endowments greater / Than nobleness and riches” (Shakespeare, from Cymbeline, Act 3, scene 2)

3. Skilled leaders keep their cool (especially when others don’t)

“…keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs…” (Rudyard Kipling, from If)

4. Honest leaders communicate truthfully… and artfully

“The truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind.” (Emily Dickinson, from Tell All the Truth)

5. Visionary leaders are tenacious in achieving out-sized dreams

“Little snail, slowly, slowly, climbs Mount Fuji.” (Issa)

6. Strong leaders prefer defeat by a greater adversary than easy wins

“Winning does not tempt that man. / This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, / by constantly greater beings.” (R.M. Rilke, from The Man Watching)

7. Clear leaders mean what they say, and say what they mean… very well

“… well to say, and so to mean, / That sweet accord is seldom seen.” (Sir Thomas Wyatt)

8. Savvy leaders seize the day

“Act,— act in the living Present!” (Henry Wadworth Longfellow, from A Psalm of Life)

9. Determined leaders like their work more than popularity

“Work is its own cure. You have to / like it better than being loved.” (Marge Piercy, from For the young who want to)

10. Humble leaders recognize the limits of power

“Yet, with all our atomic might, we shall never-never!-be able to make this feeble speck of a yellow duckling in a test tube; even if we were given the feathers and bones, we could never put such a creature together.” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from The Duckling)

11. Courageous leaders endure adversity

“Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is bloody, but unbowed.” (William Ernest Henley, from Invictus)

12. Responsible leaders provide direction from a place of self-awareness

“Whether all is really lost / or not depends entirely on / whether or not I am lost.” (Vaclav Havel, from It is I Who Must Begin)

Certainly we have only scratched the thinnest surface here of what the poets have to tell us about leadership. What great works of poetry inspire you to live bigger, sacrifice more, and lead others into risk-filled and noble adventure?

Featured image courtesy of Stellajo1976 licensed via Creative Commons.

Kelly Belmonte


Kelly Belmonte is a poet, blogger, and management consultant with expertise in non-profit organizational development and youth mentoring. She blogs about creativity and artistic expression on her blog "All Nine Muses". Her poetry has been published in Atlas Poetica and Relief Journal, and her two books of poetry, "Three Ways of Searching" and "Spare Buttons", are available through Finishing Line Press.

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What a unique and interesting post!! Drawing a blank on any to contribute right now but yours have my mental wheels turning!!