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Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead

ISBN: 978-0-7879-8869-2
288 pages
September 2007, Jossey-Bass
Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead (0787988693) cover image


Leading from Within is a wonderful collection of  ninety-three poems from well-loved poets, each of which is accompanied by a brief personal commentary from a leader explaining the significance and meaning of the poem in his or her life and work. The contributors represent a wide range of professions including Vanguard Group founder John Bogle, MoveOn.org cofounder Joan Blades, several members of Congress, Christian activist Brian McLaren, business guru Peter Senge, and many other leaders from business, medicine, education, nonprofits, law, politics and government, and religion. In their reflections, these leaders explore how they have been inspired by poets such as T.S. Eliot, Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Robert Frost, Rumi, May Sarton, Wallace Stevens, Wendell Berry, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

"Leading from Within is perhaps the most soulful treatment of leadership ever composed. Leadership is first an inner quest, and there is absolutely no better place to explore your inner territory than in the pages of this book. This is an evocative work of art; do yourself an immense favor, and engage with these amazing and diverse leaders and their poems."
Jim Kouzes, coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and A Leader's Legacy

"Leading from Within makes brilliant use of the world's great poets to inspire us to lead with our hearts as well as our heads. It calls to the deeper purpose and meaning within all of us to use our gifts to serve others."
Bill George, author, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

"This is a superb collection of poems and deeply personal reflections from a wide range of real leaders. It is a gift to all of us who believe in bringing our hearts to our work." —Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

"The entries in this wonderful anthology are a joy to read and all the more interesting because of their special meaning to the leaders who recommended them. It is a book that every nonprofit leader should place among those they draw upon for inspiration every day."
Diana Aviv, president and CEO, Independent Sector

"Leading from Within offers a candid view straight into the heart and soul of leaders striving to do good and effective work in the world. The poems and commentaries remind us that leadership is always deeply personal and chock-full of dilemmas that must be addressed by creativity, passion, imagination, and courage."
Jeff Swartz, president and CEO, Timberland

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Madeleine K. Albright xv

A Note to Our Readers by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner xix

Introduction by Parker J. Palmer xxv

Called 1

Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses"
reflection by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president, Waterkeeper Alliance 2

Emily Dickinson's "'Hope' is the thing with feathers" [Excerpt]
reflection by Nicole Gagnon, college student leader 6

Langston Hughes's "Madam's Calling Card"
reflection by Kyle Dodson, high school principal 8

William Stafford's "The Way It Is"
reflection by Michael Intrator, managing director, emissions trading company 10

William Carlos Williams's "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" [Excerpt]
reflection by Peter S. Temes, president, ILO Institute 12

Reinhold Niebuhr's "The Irony of American History" [Excerpt]
reflection by Rosemary Jordano Shore, founder, ChildrenFirst 14

William Blake's "Songs of Innocence" [Excerpt]
reflection by Michael Singleton, director of coaching, Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association 16

Gary Snyders's "For the Children"
reflection by Betsy Taylor, founder, Center for the New American Dream 18

Theodore Roethke's "Cuttings (Later)"
reflection by Brian D. McLaren, author, speaker, evangelical activist 20

T. S. Eliot's "Little Gidding" [Excerpt]
reflection by Kathleen Kostelny, international consultant on children affected by war and violence 22

Marge Piercy's "To be of use"
reflection by Martha Bergmark, president, Mississippi Center for Justice 24

Eugene McCarthy's "Ares"
reflection by Mary Beth Yarrow, documentary film producer 26

Defining Moments 29

Adrienne Rich's "In Those Years"
reflection by Peter Karoff, founder and chairman, The Philanthropic Initiative 30

Wendell Berry's "A Vision"
reflection by Barbara Hummel, corporate and nonprofit facilitator 32

William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 29"
reflection by Orli Cotel, national publicist, Sierra Club 34

Denise Levertov's "The Avowal"
reflection by Craig Dykstra, senior vice president, Lilly Endowment 36

Marge Piercy's "The seven of pentacles"
reflection by Jake B. Schrum, president, Southwestern University 38

Naomi Shihab Nye's "The Art of Disappearing"
reflection by Ted Falcon, rabbi and radio host 40

T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" [Excerpt]
reflection by Joseph L. Subbiondo, president, California Institute of Integral Studies 42

William Ayot's "The Contract"
reflection by Geoff Bellman, leadership consultant and author 44

Amelia Earhart's "Courage"
reflection by John Wimmer, program director, Lilly Endowment 46

William Stafford's "Listening"
reflection by David Brooks Andrews, journalist 48

Naomi Shihab Nye's "Adios"
reflection by Pamela Seigle, executive director, Center for Courage & Renewal Northeast 48

Sometimes It Aches 53

Ghalib's "For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river"
reflection by Ann Myers, former school superintendent 54

Mary Oliver's "Spring Azures"
reflection by Bonnie Allen, president, Center for Law & Renewal 56

William Blake's "Auguries of Innocence" [Excerpt]
reflection by James O'Leary, Catholic priest 58

Judy Brown's "Trough"
reflection by Linda Wolfe, small-business owner 60

Rumi's "Childhood Friends" [Excerpt]
reflection by Karen E. Adams, physician and medical residency program director 62

Langston Hughes's "Mother to Son"
reflection by Estrus Tucker, president and CEO, Liberation Community, Inc. 64

Yehuda Amichai's "End of Elul"
reflection by Liz Lerman, artistic director, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange 66

Carol Prejean Zippert's "When You Get Lost"
reflection by Tom Beech, president and CEO, Fetzer Institute 68

Henry Nouwen's "Work Around Your Abyss"
reflection by John Marston, alternative schools administrator 70

Gabriela Mistral's "Daybreak/Amanecer"
reflection by Sandra P. Daley, pediatrician and medical school dean 72

Mark Nepo's "Accepting This"
reflection by Wayne Muller, minister and author 74

Pay Attention 77

David Wagoner's "Lost"
reflection by Peter Senge, founding chair, Society for Organizational Learning 78

Rainer Maria Rilke's "I am too alone in the world, and not alone enough" [Excerpt]
reflection by Bill White, pastor, Emmanuel Church 80

John O'Donohue's "Fluent"
reflection by Carla M. Dahl, psychotherapist and dean at Bethel Seminary 82

Tao Ching's "#33"
reflection by Kevin Fickenscher, executive vice president, Healthcare Transformation at Perot Systems 84

David Whyte's "The Opening of Eyes"
reflection by Hanna B. Sherman, physician and medical educator 86

William Ernest Henley's "Invictus"
reflection by David J. Garren, professor, U.S. Naval Academy 88

Nevin Compton Trammell's "I'm Tired, I'm Whipped"
reflection by Karen Lee Turner, pastoral musician 90

Yehuda Amichai's "The Diameter of the Bomb"
reflection by Howie Schaffer, public outreach director, Public Education Network 92

Rainer Maria Rilke's "The Panther"
reflection by David C. Leach, physician and executive director of Accreditation

Council for Graduate Medical Education 94

William Stafford's "With Kit, Age 7, At the Beach"
reflection by Lee Rush, founder and executive director, justCommunity, Inc. 96

Pablo Neruda's "XXXI"
reflection by Tony Deifell, founding board member, KaBOOM! 98

William Butler Yeats's "The Lover pleads with his Friend for Old Friends"
reflection by Jim McDermott, congressman, 7th district of Washington 100

Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"
reflection by Adam Bunting, high school administrator 102

The Real Bottom Line 105

Mary Oliver's "The Ponds"
reflection by James A. Autry, author and former Fortune 500 executive 106

Wallace Stevens's "The Pleasures of Merely Circulating"
reflection by Joan Blades, cofounder, MoveOn.org 108

Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"
reflection by James E. Rogers, president and CEO, Duke Energy Corporation 110

Charles Simic's "Stone"
reflection by Dean Conway, middle school teacher and coach 112

Wendell Berry's "Sabbaths"
reflection by Jay F. Smith, superintendent, United Methodist Church 114

W. H. Auden's "After Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics"
reflection by Eric Walsh, physician and associate chairman of Family Medicine 116

Paul Mariani's "The Peaceable Kingdom"
reflection by Robert (Chip) Wood, elementary school principal 118

Stephen Spender's "The Truly Great"
reflection by Betty Sue Flowers, director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum 122

Rabindranath Tagore's "The Grasp of Your Hand"
reflection by L. J. Rittenhouse, president, andBEYOND Communications 124

Mary Oliver's "What I Have Learned So Far"
reflection by Paul Batalden, physician and medical educator 126

Billy Collins's "The Night House"
reflection by Sterling K. Speirn, president and CEO, W. K. Kellogg Foundation 128

Dare to Endure 131

Robert Browning's "Andrea del Sarto" [Excerpt]
reflection by Harry Barnes, former ambassador, Romania, India, and Chile 132

Ezzeddin Nasafi's "Oh, my friend"
reflection by Charles Gibbs, executive director, United Religions Initiative 134

Jack Gilbert's "The Abnormal Is Not Courage"
reflection by Jim Burke, author and high school teacher 136

Ibn Arabi's "There was a time I would reject those"
reflection by Eboo Patel, founder and executive director, Interfatih Youth Core. 138

Winston O. Abbott's "Let me remember"
reflection by Annie Goeke de La Bouillerie, codirector, Earth Rights Institute 140

Rumi's "What is This Fragrance" [Excerpt]
reflection by Jamal Rahman, Muslim Sufi minister at the Interfaith Community Church 142

Reb Nachman's "The entire world is a very narrow bridge"
reflection by Jaime Banks, communications researcher in public health 144

Seamus Heaney's "The Cure at Troy" [Excerpt]
reflection by Doug Tanner, founder, The Faith & Politics Institute 146

Kenneth Patchen's "In Order to"
reflection by Peter Pollard, public education director, Stop It Now! 148

William Butler Yeats's "Earth, Fire and Water" [Excerpt]
reflection by Elizabeth A. Keene Reder, bereavement coordinator, Johns Hopkins Children's Center 150

Holly Near's "The Rock Will Wear Away" [Excerpt]
reflection by Tammy Baldwin, congresswoman, 2nd district of Wisconsin 152

Leading Together 155

Robert Creeley's "The Warning"
reflection by Dan Wieden, founder, Wieden + Kennedy ad agency 156

Langston Hughes's "Let America Be America Again" [Excerpt] and Countee Cullen's "Yet Do I Marvel" [Excerpt]
reflection by Linda K. Bowen, executive director, Institute for Community Peace 158

Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road" [Excerpt]
reflection by Janet Tiebout Hanson, founder, 85 Broads; and chair, Milestone Capital 160

Louis MacNeice's "Snow"
reflection by Irene Martin, Episcopal priest and commercial fisher 164

Emily Dickinson's "I dwell in Possibility"
reflection by Eileen Quinn, senior communications officer, PATH 166

Wislawa Szymborska's "A Note"\
reflection by Billy Shore, founder and executive director, Share Our Strength 168

Claudia Schmidt's "Replenish"
reflection by Molly D. Anderson, food systems scholar 170

Liz Rosenberg's "In the End We Are All Light"
reflection by Ted Lord, president and CEO, Humanities Washington 172

May Sarton's "All Souls"
reflection by Patricia E. de Jong, minister, First Congregational Church of Berkeley 174

Hafiz's "How do I listen?"
reflection by Pat Moore Harbour, founding director, Healing the Heart of Diversity 176

Emily Dickinson's "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant"
reflection by Thomas B. Coburn, president, Naropa University 178

Robert Service's "The Spell of the Yukon" [Excerpt]
reflection by Linda Chamberlain, epidemiologist and founding director, Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project 180

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "The Drum Major Instinct" [Excerpt]
reflection by Jim Kielsmeier, founder, president, and CEO, National Youth Leadership Council 182

Back At It 185

Thich Nhat Hanh's "For Warmth"
reflection by Henry Emmons, physician and author 186

Robert Frost's "Directive"
reflection by Tom Allen, congressman, 1st district of Maine 188

Judy Brown's "Fire"
reflection by Becky van der Bogert, former school superintendent 192

Daisy Zamora's "Song of Hope"
reflection by Kathleen Gille, former congressional aide 194

Lao Tzu's "The uses of not"
reflection by Peter Schneider, architect 196

Naomi Shihab Nye's "Kindness"
reflection by Lois Capps, congresswoman, 23rd distrrict of California 198

Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays"
reflection by Brian Dunlap, high school administrator 200

William Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"
reflection by Carol Tecla Christ, president, Smith College 202

Wendell Berry's "The Peace of Wild Things"
reflection by Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, founder and president, AmericaSpeaks 206

William Stafford's "Silver Star"
reflection by Diana Chapman Walsh, former president, Wellesley College 208

Alfred Lord Tennyson's "Ulysses" [Excerpt]
reflection by John C. Bogle, founder, The Vanguard Group 210

Leading with Fire: Using Poetry in Our Life and Work 213

Afterword by David Whyte 237

Gratitudes 241

Center for Courage & Renewal 245

The Editors 247

Credits 249

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Author Information

Sam M. Intrator is a professor at Smith College and founder of the Smith College Urban Education Initiative. A Kellogg National Leadership Fellow, he is the author/editor of five books, including Tuned In and Fired Up, Teaching with Fire, and Stories of the Courage to Teach.

Megan Scribner is an editor who also documents and evaluates programs for nonprofits. She is the coeditor of Teaching with Fire and coauthor with Parker J. Palmer of The Courage to Teach Guide for Reflection and Renewal, Tenth Anniversary Edition.

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Leading from Within: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Lead (US $19.95)

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