W.S Merwin served as U.S. poet laureate during 2010-2011. In his inaugural reading, he read 25 poems, and talked poetically about the one trait he believes sets humans apart from other forms of life – imagination. Not reason, or language, or any other traits commonly offered to describe present human beings as more virtuous and superior than other animal and botanical life.
Merwin likes to support his assertion by quoting his lifelong hero, William Blake, the English poet-painter-philosopher who lived from 1757 to 1827. Blake states that, “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way.” He adds that, “But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
Truly profound. Yes, nature is imagination itself.
It is this trait – imagination – that I have brought to bear on rethinking leadership in the writing of my new book, “Awakening a Leader’s Soul: Learnings Through Immortal Poems.” Scheduled for an early 2017 launch, the book reimagines the role of leaders and the purpose of leadership. It introduces a new concept – soulful leadership – which manifests itself when leaders exercise their privilege of power and resources not merely to serve their own needs of vanity and wallet, but for also increasing the wellbeing and prosperity of the greater many in the organizations they lead, and the worlds in which their organizations operate.
For leaders to embrace and adopt the idea and practice of soulful leadership, a critical regenerative shift must take place within leaders. The first part of the book’s title, “Awakening a Leader’s Soul,” refers to this regenerative shift, which I will discuss further in my next blog.