Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance.
With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject. We are currently co-authoring a book that combines Tony’s scholarship and my straight talk about the challenges faced by today’s leaders. Meanwhile, I will be sharing guest posts by Tony over the next several months to give you a taste of what it’s like to have an amazing colleague and friend like Tony Baron. – Sheri Nasim
Abstinence, silence, and solitude are words rarely proffered by prestigious business schools like Harvard, M.I.T., or Wharton, but I believe part of the crisis we are experiencing today is because we have been teaching leaders to achieve, but not to think. We’ve taught them how to answer questions, but not how to discipline themselves to ask them. That discipline requires solitude.
Solitude creates a space for stillness that awakens the mind and deepens the soul. The wisest man I ever knew was one of my doctoral professors, Dallas Willard, who served as professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California for nearly 45 years. I still have his class notes on silence and solitude:
“You can’t have solitude with noise. Silence is not an absence but a presence: a positive reality. Silence is like the wind of eternity blowing in your face.”
Bad leaders covet the company of others; good leaders are stimulated by the company of others; but great leaders will shun the company of others at times to create a space for deep reflection.
Solitude allows us to be still. Frantic executives, overwhelmed with multi-tasking and conflicting priorities, are really lazy leaders who do not have the discipline to reach new heights as professionals or to search their personal depths. Their need to be in command and control mode feeds their addiction to words, sounds, and power. Executives who cannot be alone cannot lead others out of crisis.
I am not alone in the conviction that solitude is a requirement for the leader who seeks to serve first and lead second. The seminal guru of all business leaders was Peter Drucker, a brilliant and thoughtful academic who understood human behavior. He stated:
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
Here are some suggestions to help you develop the virtue of solitude:
- Start with 3-4 hours and find a quiet place where there is little contact with other people.
- Turn off your cell, take several deep breaths to relax, and be still.
- Don’t fight the sounds and thoughts that you experience. Instead, allow them to form a background of rhythm and a pattern.
With time and practice, you will develop a level of comfort with solitude. You will find that questions will evolve into directions; that conundrums yield to elegant solutions.
Reflection is a rare commodity among today’s leaders. Learn to embrace the virtue of solitude. The time you spend there may be some of the most rewarding of your career.
Question: When was the last time you took time alone to reflect? What were the results? Please leave your comment below.
Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.
Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadershipand a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard. Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.
Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, visit us today at www.executiveexcellence.com or subscribe to receive CEE News!