Friday, July 8, 2011

What Did I Know?

One of my favorite lines of poetry is from Robert Hayden's Those Winter Sundays. "What did I know, what did I know / of love's austere and lonely offices?" These lines tell us of a grown child who only now realizes his own ingratitude toward his father's sacrifice and love.

Recently, I was reminded of these lines by a woman who holds a position of leadership, but is still developing her influence. She was frustrated and wanted to give up because she did not feel appreciated by her team or the clients they serve.

Real leadership involves doing the right thing, supporting and serving your team, and holding on to your belief in the future even when no one else does. At times, leadership is lonely. To have a positive vision of the future, to work towards it, to serve and empower others, to tap into their visions as well - these things often take place "off stage" and can leave you feeling misunderstood.

When we struggle with feeling misunderstood or unappreciated, it is important to remember why we are doing the work in the first place. Is it for public praise? Or is it because we yearn to make a better world?

The best leaders I've ever met give the praise to their team and then get back to the often quiet, thankless work of changing the world.

David M. Dye

Twitter: @davidmdye

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