Leadership and Loneliness

15 12 2011

“The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone.”

Whenever I hear this line from the Led Zeppelin song “The Battle of Evermore” I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and leadership.  The “Prince of Peace” in the song likely refers to Aragorn from Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings.  But there is, in this lyric, the familiar idea that to be a leader is to walk alone at times.

I do not mean by this that a leader is unsociable.  Far from it.  A great leader loves people.  Usually it is people that one leads–unless you’re breeding cats or herding buffaloes.  It’s one of the things that makes a leader great.

But I’ve noticed that Jesus spent 1) a lot of time in mountains, usually at night and 2) more often than not, he spent it there without human beings close by.  In the Garden, as He faced His coming sufferings and death, he took three of his closest friends.  But even then, they could accompany Him only so far.  “And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time…” (Matthew 26:44)

Nietzsche said, “Life always gets harder toward the summit-the cold increases, the responsibility increases.”  To be a leader means, among other things, to have a perspective that sees things others cannot.  The big picture—the kind of view one only gets after a long  and arduous climb.  The long-term costs of decisions made today.  The reality that, like it or not, your actions today set precedents.  People watch leaders and imitate them.  For good or ill.

There are benefits to being a leader, to be sure.  In business, CEO’s tend to be paid more than the rank and file.  There is a weight and honor that is given to leadership.  There are perks.  But there are also costs that attend leadership.

Loneliness is one of the costs.

One of the things I do to train myself to be alone is to take long walks at night in the countryside.  Alone.  In the dark and cold.  You’d be surprised how it develops you and does something inside that few things can.

How are you improving your leadership in this crucial area?  Do you need to have the approbation of your peers and those who look to you in order to make the right decision?  Can you bear misunderstanding when others don’t like the choices you have to make for the good of many?  Can you stand to be alone for more than an hour without human and technological interaction—just you and your thoughts?

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4 responses

15 12 2011
Paul Scrimale

Your gift of eloquence and insight are so refreshing to me my friend. This latest entry resonates deeply to this heart on this night.

15 12 2011
Christian Fahey

Thanks so much Paul. This is a subject I know you understand all too well. The bennies are nice but man there is a cost!

16 12 2011
mooney

This reminds me of the article, “the saint walks alone” or somthing like that. Great write-up Christian.

16 12 2011
Christian Fahey

Thanks Moon. Good memory–it was Tozer who wrote the essay “The Saint Must Walk Alone.”

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