Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thoughts on Solitude and Leadership – the article

First let me say, this is my first post in a long time.  I guess I just needed something to inspire me.

Here is a link to a must-read article: Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz.  It is a long article so if you don’t have time to read it now wait.  I recommend setting aside 20 minutes and plan to read it without distraction.

First, not only did it inspire me to write this, it re-ignited a fire in me.  The way he weaves in the literature of “Heart of Darkness” is amazing.  I forgot what it was like to read beautiful literature for fun.  The last 10 or so books I have read have had a technology slant.  That ends tonight.  Inspiration for what I do can be found anywhere.

I’m not going to do the article justice by writing a review of it.  I simply want to share a few quotes and thoughts from the article that really stand out for me:

“I tell you this to forewarn you, because I promise you that you will meet these people and you will find yourself in environments where what is rewarded above all is conformity.  I tell you so you can decide to be a different kind of leader.”

- In this part of the article, he is describing a bureaucracy and that the way we, as a nation, have built leaders for bureaucracies is by following a routine plan.  I love his description of this persona.  I like his idea is that we have to learn to think. 

“Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think.”

- This is the second part of the article where he talks about how to NOT be a thinker and therefore not be a leader.  I couldn’t agree more with the multitasking concept.  The more I try to fit into any given 15 minute slot, the less I get done… not only the less I get done, but the quality radically diminishes too.  I saw a lecture on “Queuing Theory” as applied to software developers and teams.  It was a very common sense way of looking at work load as a through-put and development.  The more you have queued and the more you try to push through beyond what an individual / team has capacity for, the more you slow things down.  People are not multi-taskers.  That is a farce.  They are context-switchers.  Want to see how that affects things first hand?  Fire up about 30 IE browser windows, 30 excel documents, 30 word documents, outlook, communicator, onenote and another 30 programs of your fancy and try to write an email in under 30 seconds.

The part that I would like to debate will have to be done at a later date.  He is pretty down on twitter, facebook and tools like that.  For his point on distracting, yes, I agree with him there that they “can” be distracting if used incorrectly.  What I want to point out is the value of those tools that he is missing.  These tools can provide you with an abundance of information that you otherwise had no way of receiving.  Granted, it’s just information.  It’s up to you to process it and turn that into knowledge.  Heck the only reason I saw this article was from a re-tweet and it is inspiring me to head out after work tonight to pick up “Heart of Darkness.”

It might sound a little disjointed; Leadership, Solitude, Bureaucracy, Twitter, Multi-tasking… heck he even talks about politics and wars.  I assure you it is one of the best, well thought out articles I’ve read.  I would have loved to have been present for the speech.  Give it a read.  Let me know what you *THINK*.

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