A noiseless patient spider,
I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.
Whitman’s poem speaks to my work as a principal which often seems an isolating position. The words of the poem affirm the value of the reflective work – carefully considering the big picture, illustrating clearly the vision of what can be, and making meaningful connections between firmly held beliefs and shifting expectations. More importantly, the poem reminds me that the bridges we build as leaders often start as no more than gossamer threads and celebration is needed when those threads intertwined become strong cords anchored firmly.
I’ve been reading a special edition of the Harvard Business Review for January 2009. In it there is an article about women in leadership and their abilities to be visionaries. Ibarra and Obodaru write, “[Vision] encompasses the abilities to frame the current practices as inadequate, to generate ideas fo rnew strategies, and to communicate possibilities in inspiring ways to others. Being visionary, therefore , is not hte same as being charismatic. It entales ‘naming’ broad-stroke patterns and setting strategy based on those patterns. … As they search for new paths, they conduct a vigorous exchange with an array of people inside and outside their organizations, knowing that great visions rarely emerge from solitary analysis. “
Visioning is both interior and exterior work. It requires the inner musing, reflection and analysis … as well as a strong external network to prevent “insular thinking.”