How Embracing Solitude Can Make You a Better Leader

As a leader, you’re almost always in surrounded by people.
But do you know that this very fact could negatively affect how good of a leader you are?  In this article, I’m going to share with you how solitude can help you deal with that challenge.

but first, I want to sound a loud disclaimer: 

When I refer to solitude in this piece, it is not about forced solitude or how to deal with it.

This article is not about being lonely or running away from the world only becuase you’re too cowardly to face it head one.  Rather, When I speak of solitude, I speak of it as an exercise of nurturing your state of mind to achieve interior freedom, and through that the ability to lead from a well grounded and better place.

So with that out of the way, let’s hop on to discover the many advantages of solitude ESPECIALLY for leaders.

 

The call to Solitude

In October 2009,  a speech was delivered at the United States Military Academy by William Deresiewicz, an American professor, author, essayist, and literary critic.

Here’s how he began the speech – Leadership and Solitude

My title must seem like a contradiction. What can solitude have to do with leadership? Solitude means being alone, and leadership necessitates the presence of others—the people you’re leading. When we think about leadership in American history we are likely to think of Washington, at the head of an army, or Lincoln, at the head of a nation, or King, at the head of a movement—people with multitudes behind them, looking to them for direction. And when we think of solitude, we are apt to think of Thoreau, a man alone in the woods, keeping a journal and communing with nature in silence.”

Deresiewicz’s argue in the speech that probably the most important AND key component of leadership was one that wasn’t being given much attention at all – if any, in many leadership development programs. That component  is the ability to think things through for oneself and then to have the courage and ability to argue for one’s ideas even when those ideas are not popular and/or differ from one’s superiors.

And this, my fellow leader  is where solitude comes into the equation.

As a leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to take decisions.  You  take those decisions usually based whatever information you have available to you at the time in which the decision is taken.

Many leadership experts will tell you that a great leader is one who takes decisions quickly. And, while I do agree that there are times when you need to take quick decisions,  to be a truly great leader, I BELIEVE that after gathering the pertinent information, you have a responsibility to THINK ABOUT THE INFORMATION  you have,  and come up with a sound and reasonable conclusion to that matter at hand.

That quiet time you need to think is what solitude is . It is development that ability to think – creating time for quiet reflection that many leadership development programs lack. One that must be developed in order to develop true leaders.

Deresiewicz does an excellent job is showing the establishing connection between leadership and solitude. I really encourage to read the entire speech for yourself if you’re serious about becoming an extraordinary leader.  Click here to go to Deresiewicz’s speech.

What I want to do is the expand on that connection even more by highlighting the multitude of reasons why solitude is important for any individual, most especially a Leader.

Solitude helps put your life in perspective

As a Christian, I believe that when you start spending time in your own company, you give God the chance to show you where you’re heading in terms of your relationships, career, and spiritual growth.

If you spend at least a half an hour each day looking back at the previous day and analyzing how you lived it, you’ll gain some great insights.

That’s the power of perspective!

One thing you may realize as you self-reflect is that you’ve been trying to spend  the greatest amount of time and energy  on maintaining healthy relationships. But when you’re alone, you can decide which relationships are worth keeping and nurturing.

Remember that a good relationship is one that allows both people involved to grow into better people. Ask yourself whether your relationships follow this wise counsel.

The same holds true for your career. If you have a career goal, are you heading in the right direction? Have you been in a hopeless work situation for far too long because you’re afraid of change? Is there some other profession that you dream of constantly? What are your priorities in life?

The are questions you can ask yourself and answer when you spend with yourself in solitude.

Solitude helps you become more confident, independent & mature leader

Psychoanalysts say that the capacity to spend time alone ( Solitude)  is the mark of emotional maturity.
But what again is solitude?

Well, when you’re sitting by yourself glued to your cell phone, or browsing your Facebook account, it
is not solitude. In fact, in these days of hi-tech gadgets that enable people to communicate with each other regardless of where they may be, it’s difficult to find those who actually prefer solitude.

This is one reason why I developed the Optimal Detox Boot-camp.

Being alone often helps you to think deeper about the challenges in your life. And when you’re emotionally and mentally prepared, you’ll be better able to meet them head on.

It’s an empowering feeling to figure things out for yourself though what I believe is the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You’ll begin to love yourself for your own competence and resourcefulness, and loving yourself is important if you want others to love you!

 Solitude restarts your creativity

Creative minds value solitude. Even people like Mozart and Brahms, who could concentrate on their creations when surrounded by people, could do so only because they were absorbed in their own thoughts. This was their chosen state of solitude.

However, most creative minds require physical solitude.  In a special private space created by a lack of distractions from friends and lovers, plenty of growth takes place.

Whether you’re leading a Church, a large corporation, a small business or another form of charity organization, you can be sure that you will benefit greatly from high levels of creativity.  And that is one area you can develop with solitude.

Just like it helps singers, writers, performers and other creative professionals, solitude can also help you be a better leader.

Solitude helps you transform yourself

Solitude is the tool you require to transform your bad habits and negative emotions. Being alone helps you see yourself clearly, repent your mistakes, and usher in change.

  •  The process begins only when you can pinpoint your negative qualities and shortcomings.
  •  The next step is to think deeply about how you have affected others through your bad habits and unbridled emotions, causing them pain.
  • The final step is to desire change and make an effort towards it. If you have a strict and loving spiritual mentor who is honest with you, you are fortunate, because he or she can help you see the things you need to change.
  • Transformation requires a change in mental attitude, which makes solitude indispensable. When you’re constantly in the company of others, there’s  pressure on you to conform. For instance, it’s extremely difficult for people to abstain from drinking and smoking when they are surrounded by friends who indulge in these activities. Or it might be your habit to sit in front of the television, drink in hand. Observing yourself objectively will help you become a better person to be around.

 

What to do while in  Solitude:

So  you  have decided to take some time out to be alone.
What do you do then?
How do you make the most of the time?

There are many activities you can engage in while you’re alone.

Here are some great activities to do while taking
advantage of solitude:

Keep a journal.

Writing a journal is therapeutic and a stress-buster.  It also helps you understand yourself because, in a journal, you describe your feelings, conversations with others, hopes and goals, as well as failures and successes.

A journal is your constant companion, and the most undemanding one.  It doesn’t ask for anything and is always
ready to accept. Writing in your journal is like talking to a friend. It could even bring out the talented writer in you. And  someday you’ll read it again to refresh a cherished memory or go back to a lesson learnt.

Keeping a journal clarifies your thoughts and beliefs. It helps you look at challenges afresh and find solutions, but you must write every week, if not every day to see its benefits. According to research, journaling also has health benefits:

‣ Journaling boosts the function of cognition.
‣ It reduces the severity of asthma and arthritis, as well as
other illnesses.
‣ It strengthens the immune system.

Reduce stress and promote healing with classical music.

Much has been written about the “Mozart Effect” and its ability to improve spatial and visual skills as well as reduce the number of seizures in epileptic patients. But we’ll leave that behind and focus on the stress-relieving effects of listening to classical music.

Dr. Rosalia Staricoff, Research Director at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, says: “The physiological benefits have been measured. Music reduces blood pressure, the heart rate, and hormones related to stress.”

It’s very easy to overtax the brain. You do it when you:

‣ Undergo stressful situations
‣ Don’t sleep your full 8 hours
‣ Drink too much coffee, tea, or alcohol
‣ Smoke

All these activities reduce the blood flow to the brain. The result? Your brain can’t work efficiently. Stress releases toxic hormones, which affect your memory centers. Prolonged stress destroys brain cells.

What causes stress?

Much of it is subjective and caused by  emotionally trying situations. Some common environmental
factors include loud noises, air pollution, overcrowding, tobacco smoke, the weather, the clutter and colors in a room, an uncomfortable chair, even the amount of lighting in the room.

So listen to Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, Ravel’s Bolero, or Beethoven’s masterpieces while you’re working or about
to sleep. You’ll feel the stress melt away!

Do some gardening.

Have you ever experienced the pleasures of eating fruit or vegetables  from your own garden?
A garden is a perpetual wonder. Every day you can find something new – a tender shoot, a bud, the first blush of sweetness on a ripening apple, or the full bloom glory of a flower. As the gardener, you’re responsible for all
this beauty!

In addition, you’ll experience the sensual pleasures of soil and velvety petals, the burst of flavor in your mouth, the
invigorating and tranquil effect of fresh air and the outdoors. What’s more, it’s good exercise. It’s well known that human beings have an innate attraction to nature.  Just yield to it!

In Liberia, we eat sweet potato leaves; locally, we call it potato greens.  It’s a healthy vegetable rich in lots of minerals and protein. I advised one my my clients to personally plant some in her backyard, and her greens garden is now her prayer garden as well.  She tell me the flavor from the greens eaten  from her garden is unlike anyone form the market.

Read a good book.

Choose what you read with care. Read books that have a positive message or those that teach you something
valuable. Here are the many benefits of reading:

Reading boosts your intelligence because it forces you to actively process information quickly and with great detail. It’s not a passive activity like watching television.

Books can teach you how to polish your skills. Think of any skill and there’s bound to be a book about it.

Reading increases your vocabulary.

Conclusion

As you’ve seen, solitude isn’t a lonely pursuit at all! Alone-time reduces your stress in healthy, enjoyable ways, strengthens your relationships, and, best of all, it helps you be the best you can be. Solitude will empower you to become a better leader.  It will help you create the extraordinary results you’re meant to create. After all, you deserve to live a fulfilling, joyful life!

So When was the last time you took some alone time?  Please share your answers in the comment area below.

2 Comments

  1. Gabriel June 1, 2017
    • Dan Maxwell, Jr June 4, 2017

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