Solitude and Leadership

In a speech given at West Point last year, William Deresiewicz explores today’s crisis of leadership, the true meaning of leadership, and the necessity of solitude in acquiring it. Deresiewicz argues that today’s young people have learned only how to jump through hoops, how to conform to the checklist of what’s expected of them. But “true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions.” A person acquires these skills through solitude, which includes introspection, concentration on focused work, sustained reading, and friendship (he explains this seeming contradiction). Deresiewicz posits that our tech-saturated lives lead to too much multitasking, when we really need to spend time working through our questions and doubts and formulating our own ideas away from the cacophony of voices we’re surrounded with.

A vital, insightful and important piece!

Read the whole speech at the American Scholar.

Hat tip to Joel Walden for this link.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

SIR NUTSO July 15, 2010 at 2:57 am

Excellent article. It made me see why i enjoy my time working in Iraq as much as i do. The solitude of physical privacy at night in my room. Being about to concentrate on the visualization of things to come and reflection past events. Thanks for the article. Cheers to the leadership potential in us!

Brian July 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Damn good article. I’ve always believed that reading, solitude and concentrating on one task (definitely not multi-tasking) are the way you shape yourself. Good to find the same opinion from someone who has investigated it thoroughly. I also think he’s right about people being able to jump through hoops. I see it everyday here in college; students get the syllabus and do everything on it, even the extra credit if it’s offered, but don’t really learn anything. I know because I’ve asked people a semester later if they remember anything from the class. The typical answer is, of course, ‘no’. It would help them greatly if half the class didn’t spend the entire classtime on Facebook.

Susan Smyth June 27, 2011 at 11:31 am

link to article is broken – database error.

Nick Pierce August 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm

No it isn’t, just finished reading it. Great article. Gave me a lot to think about in regards to a leadership position I will be assuming in the near future.

jt November 15, 2011 at 4:33 am

I really enjoyed the commentary on facebook etc. An elaborate way to avoid facing the real challenges in life. Couldn’t agree more.

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