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  • Otto Reinisch

'Dark Skies' and the Beginning of Leadership

Updated: Feb 9, 2020

The loss of solitude, or ‘quiet time’, is a silent casualty of our digital age. As technology encroaches this sacred ground, we lose the desire and ability for self-reflection where leaders discover their authentic self – the greatest gift they can give to others.

“We are so accustomed to being always connected that being alone seems like a problem technology should solve,” says Sherry Turkle in her excellent book, Reclaiming Conversation in a Digital Age. “Afraid of being alone, we struggle to pay attention to ourselves. And…if we can’t find our own center we lose confidence in what we have to offer others.”

“I think the people who really become wholistic people are people who literally take the time to be self-reflective, turning off the noise, getting off by yourself, and asking yourself some pretty basic questions,” says Harry Kraemer, former Baxter CEO and Kellogg professor. “What is my purpose? What really matters in my life? What really makes a difference? I don’t think it’s possible to think about these things when you’re doing twenty other things in your life.”

Authentic leaders guide others on a journey that reveals, affirms, and reinforces deeply held values. For them, success is more than reaching a goal; it’s about the journey, itself. And, their journey always begins with self-reflection.

Reclaiming the Power of Self-Reflection

Just as technology encroaches our solitude, light encroaches the night sky. Did you know under a perfectly ‘dark sky’ more than 4,500 stars are visible? Sadly, we’ve grown accustomed to urban living where, on a good night, we see less than 2% of this heavenly display. In this context, it's not hard to think about how technology (including social media) 'crowds out' solitude and quiet time in our lives.

While self-reflection can take place anywhere, there’s something special about sitting under a star-filled, dark sky. Here, authentic leadership begins by answering some ‘pretty basic’ questions. Can’t think of any? Start with these from Brandi Carlile’s song, Have You Ever [listen]?:

Have you ever stared into a starry sky? Lying on your back you're asking, why? What's the purpose? I wonder, who am I? If you've ever stared into a starry sky.

While the solitude we find staring into star-filled skies can inspires us, simply 'disconnecting' from technology will begin to afford most of us the solitude needed to discover what makes leadership meaningful.

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