The choices we make and the choice we have

The poetry of leadership

William Ayot is a wonderful poet and a co-founder of OMA. He has sat with me in countless training rooms and leadership seminars, watching, observing, seeing a partially expressed thought or a partially repressed emotion – and then bringing it to elegant life in his unique poetic voice.

The poem below is about one leader who dared to bring their humanity to work, show care and offer something above and beyond the call of duty.  And another leader, the recipient of expressed humanity, who failed to recognise the great gift they had been given. It is a warning for all those who, well trained in the ‘winner takes all’ school of life and work, fail to appreciate what others do for them.

Ariadne – A Little Poem About Gratitude
I was the one in the green leather chair,
that rainy day at your first presentation,
the one who gave you the welcoming smile
that helped you over your newcomer’s nerves;
who passed the note that gave you an answer,
who told the others that you had potential.
And it was I who opened your office door
that morning you failed the interview;
who saw you staring at the calendar, shaking
as you realized you’d burned your platform;
who bucked you up and spared you sympathy,
who showed you ways to be indispensable.
Mine was the hand that rested on your arm
with a quiet steer and a tender word,
the gentle laugh that held your attention,
that curbed the flight of your young falcon —
who whispered when your thoughts were diving,
Not now. Not now. This too will pass.
And I was the one you made the joke about
when you were buzzing after the road-show;
the one who was useless and over the hill,
who came up short, who didn’t matter.
And I was the one that you never got round to,
the Christmas card that you always forgot.

So which of these leaders would you rather be led by?

Cultivating the attitude of gratitude

And yet, gratitude is easy (and cheap!). During Covid lockdowns we created regular forums for our people to check in with each other and express their feelings and life concerns, as well as their work challenges. What was remarkable was how many of us were feeling more grateful about more ‘small mercies’ than ever. The restriction on us being able to live our large lives ‘out there’ somehow ignited the attitude of gratitude inside all of us. We have now initiated a new closing exercise in several of our programmes where, for a few minutes, participants wander around and find people they can express gratitude to. It is heart warming to notice what happens in the energy field of a group of work colleagues who do this.

What are you grateful for as you read this? And is there someone around you at work, to whom you feel grateful but have not yet expressed it? Could today be the day…?


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