This One’s For You, My Leaders

This one’s for you, my leaders: This weird year,
chaos is come again—that much is clear.
It’s not a circling vulture now; it’s here.

I know the ground is hard in times like these,
when so many are looking up
to you—

I sure as hell can’t tell you what to do,
but maybe something scribbled here
rings true.

Who is a leader? I have wondered much
and framed my findings (up to now) as such:

The greatest leaders don’t preach
what they think;
instead, they show the thirsty
where they drink.

The more they grow,
the less they claim to know.

They value those
who keep them on their toes.

They’re futurists—
they build the world they choose,
unraveling conventions & taboos;
they’re challengers
they have the guts to ask
the truth for all to see
the lies unmasked;
they’re moms & pops;
they’re teachers, engineers
& astronauts & Red Cross volunteers;
they’re nurses, doctors,
EMTs & cops;
they’re artists, singers,
chefs, keepers of shops;
they’re soldiers, sailors,
athletes, pacifists;
they’re carpenters
& sometimes
activists.

There isn’t One True Way to leadership;
this job’s not granted by authority
or even settled by majority—
in each community, however small,
when men lust for
the brotherhood of war
& cowards bail, the leaders heed the call.

So… what can help or hinder leadership?
Leaf through the pages of recorded time
& you will find
how many a great mind
has chimed in
on the subject—
Seneca
& Plato, all those well-thumbed bearded guys,
insist effective leaders must be wise,
which is a decent yardstick, in my eyes—
the hiccup is, the wiser you become,
the worse the syndrome you will suffer from.
How often are we robbed of awesomeness
by awesome people’s lack of confidence?

At times I feel the whole wide world is cursed
by this affliction, said best not by me:
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.

This one’s for you, my leaders: I can see
in you the strength to topple tyranny,
to carry those who travel wearily,
to grapple monstrous Chaos in its tracks,
to lift oppressors off
their victims’ backs,
to open minds & hearts & avenues
to know & love the truth so much abused—
& even this weird year
I see
in you
the vision that beholds the future’s torch;
it’s in your reach—believe it!—you are free
to take that torch, and march it to the sea.

 

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Thanks for reading! This poem, also published on Medium, is an experiment in something I call ‘digitally native poetry.’ The hyperlinks in the poem are part of the artwork, as is the presentation of the poem as a ‘scrollable’ piece of content with no page-turning. If you have any thoughts or feedback, I’d welcome your input via ellen@writing.coach.