[Update: 2/6/07. I have added a special section to the drop-down menus at right called “Favorite Leadership Poems.”]

Leadership Poems

If you like, listen to me read this post.

As I’ve checked my blog stats lately, I’ve found many searches for “leadership poems” or “poems about leadership.” I’m assuming this represents an unmet need, if only as the product of some classroom assignment somewhere around the world. I can hear it now, “Write an essay based on a poem about leadership. Check out the net.”

You know, it really doesn’t matter where the interest comes from, does it? If you are looking, here’s nine of them, and I invite you to add your own. As long as you like and as long as they are based on something important to you. You don’t have to be the author — just add what you like, according to this not-so-subtle motif.


After work we sat in a circle
drinking our beers;
there was more bad news from Washington.
Familiar talk, it was all one long lament
and would have gone on like that
with even the boss joining in.
Except for someone who hadn’t spoken yet
who said, “You know, maybe it’s time
and now there’s a chance for us
to be bold.”


The managers themselves,
not usually prone to whining,
were whining today about those upstairs.
“They don’t understand us” was the theme,
“They don’t give us a place at their table.”
“Hey,” she responded, the one who actually led us,
“The truth is there is no table.
If you want something,
it’s time to invite them here.”


We kept circling
a whirlpool
of really bad ideas
until finally, shooting me a look,
he let down his guard.
“I’m not comfortable
with any of this,” he said.
“We’re not telling the truth
and it’s still up to us
to make the call.”


We needed the facts
and we knew she couldn’t say them,
a matter of policy, you know.
But she said this to us anyway:
“Ask me, I’ll tell you as much as I know,
even if the lawyers would object.”


Instead of striking back,
he thanked the one of us
who bravely first told him
about his most annoying habit:
making speeches.


She said, “I’ll tell him,”
and she meant what she said.
The next day she calmly
walked forward,
speaking for all of us.
“You’re not pulling your weight.”
That was it, just so clear,
and her, without rights in the matter at all;
not a boss, not a friend.
After that,
he had to change.


He got promoted
again and again,
each time finding a new team.
At first, whenever he moved,
wanting them to understand him
wanting them to trust him,
he asked too many questions.
But later, as time went by he learned
to begin by just saying his name
and telling the whole story of his many successes
and of his many failures.


It was a tough industry,
mostly scrapping for jobs,
bilking and expecting to get bilked.
Nobody made it
without losing a piece of soul.
He looked into it hard,
saw how the whole thing
was based on bad religion
and fear.
Success came to him, but later
and by living modestly
a new thing entirely


She knew she couldn’t do
what she’d asked of herself,
so instead of giving up
she told us instead:
“I need your help,
I don’t really know
how to do this.”
That was the day
the whole room
and all of us
caught fire.

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