NOTE: This poem is from a forthcoming book of poetry and essays on authentic leadership.

by Paul Zelizer

It’s easy to be the one that eyes turn to with questions
When the heavens have showered you with gold and

The little synchronicities that accompany a leader who
Is walking her destiny surrounded by strong hearts.

But what about when your own heart is scared or
Cracking from an imagined betrayal or abandonment?

Where in the leadership manual does it lay out the
5 point program for leading when your rawness is

the most prominent feature in the landscape?
I want the freedom to wail like a wolf who lost

Her cub to a fox or a wolverine. The freedom of
Awkward noises and messy tears. Instead, eyes

Look to me for maturity and direction. It’s not helpful
To put layers of chain mail over my heart and pretend

I’m a gentle rain on newly planted crops The winds
Are fierce and the skies are black. And, for me to panic

And run for the concrete shelter would do harm to the
Temple these dedicated builders came together to raise.

I could easily be that mother eagle pushing her young
Out of the nest before they have fully developed feathers.

Instead, I am guided to remember a circular table,
Where large portions of warm bread and hot stew are served.

I come to that circle with my heart heavy and bruised,
Feeling alone. Weighted. Fearful. Disoriented.

They know this place. They know we can not lead anything
Significant from aloneness for too long. I am not alone.

I am served food grown and prepared with love. Stories
began to pour forth. Of campaigns in the wilds from our youth.

They remind me of past lovers and the adventures where
We encountered dragons and other mythical creatures

That most of humanity believes only live in storybooks.
We travel steep paths to earn leadership in these times.

And now, many eyes on me, it’s easy to forget this table.
Where I am like a puppy wrestling with his siblings.

The ego wants to disappear the sacred places where
Leaders can say “I’ve lost my clarity and conviction.”

And then I take my seat. Here in this particular company
With these other way showers, its as if the clouds part

And I see instead of being hopelessly lost, I just wondered
A few steps off the golden trail into tiredness and despair.

I hug my brothers and sisters, and head off again more sure
Of my direction. There is still sacred work to be done.

And while I breathe, this is the path I choose.