A guide to the role of solitude in good leadership, including profiles of historical and contemporary figures who have used solitude to lead with courage, creativity, and strength.
Throughout history, leaders have used solitude as a matter of course. Eisenhower wrote memoranda to himself during World War II as a way to think through complex problems. Martin Luther King found moral courage while sitting alone at his kitchen table one night during the Montgomery bus boycott. Jane Goodall used her intuition in the jungles of Central Africa while learning how to approach chimps. Solitude is a state of mind, a space where you can focus on your own thoughts without distraction, with a power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction. Like a great wave that saturates everything in its path, however, handheld devices and other media now leave us awash with the thoughts of others. We are losing solitude without even realizing it.
To find solitude today, a leader must make a conscious effort. This book explains why the effort is worthwhile and how to make it. Through gripping historical accounts and firsthand interviews with a wide range of contemporary leaders, Raymond Kethledge (a federal court of appeals judge) and Michael Erwin (a West Pointer and three-tour combat veteran) show how solitude can enhance clarity, spur creativity, sustain emotional balance, and generate the moral courage necessary to overcome adversity and criticism. Anyone who leads anyone-including oneself-can benefit from solitude. With a foreword by Jim Collins (author of the bestseller Good to Great), Lead Yourself First is a rallying cry to reclaim solitude-and all the benefits, both practical and sublime, that come with it.
Raymond M. Kethledge is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and was a candidate for the Supreme Court in 2018. He formerly served as a law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy and founded his own law firm. He lives near Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Michael S. Erwin is a graduate of West Point and served three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is now the CEO of the Character & Leadership Center, the president of the Positivity Project, and the founder and chairman of Team Red, White & Blue. He lives in North Carolina.
"Lead Yourself First makes a compelling argument for the integral relationship between solitude and leadership." - Andrew Stark, Wall Street Journal
"A thoughtful new book Lead Yourself First . . . tells the stories of many inspiring leaders throughout history who relied on solitude at crucial moments in their lives, from Winston Churchill and Pope John Paul II to Martin Luther King Jr. and Aung San Suu Kyi . . . But as the authors point out, you don't have to lead armies, corporations, or artistic movements to benefit from solitude." - The Washington Post
"This thoughtful self-improvement guide from Kethledge, a Sixth Circuit judge, and Erwin, founder of the nonprofit Positivity Project, is a must-read for leaders who take their leadership roles seriously. It is a book to digest slowly, a powerful narrative . . . . This book is a rare gem, offering an optimistic message that there remain powerful leaders intent on being courageous and moral, and on finding 'transcendent meaning' in their vocation." - Publishers Weekly
"Solitude is the birthplace of clarity and perspective. As a leader, I’ve experienced this truth and as a researcher I’ve seen the power that solitude brings to leaders. The tough part is that it takes real courage and discipline to make solitude a practice. In this important book, Ray Kethledge and Mike Erwin show us how it’s done and the profound difference it can make in our organizations." - Brené Brown, Ph.D. Author of DARING GREATLY and RISING STRONG
"I’ve never met an effective leader--in any field or in private life--who doesn’t see solitude as crucial to their work in the world. Yet too many people believe that solitary time is wasted time, self-indulgent time. Through a series of fascinating case studies, Ray Kethledge and Mike Erwin make a powerful case--and an urgent plea--for placing quiet time at the beating heart of every leader’s daily schedule." - Susan Cain, author of QUIET
"In Lead Yourself First, Ray Kethledge and Mike Erwin explain why it is so important for leaders to get away from the technology and to reassess and reorganize their own thoughts, in order to make the right decisions. This book offers great insights and comes at a critical time for business leaders. Certainly a must-read for any leader who feels the crush of information overload." - General Stanley McChrystal (retired), former Commander of Joint Special Operations Command
"Lead Yourself First is a beautiful, empowering, and engaging book. In my heart, I've always known the importance of solitude. Amid the world's constant noise, I've trained myself to look in the mirror and create silence and space when things are at their brink. This inspiring book reminds us that everything we need is already inside of us." - Kerri Walsh Jennings 4-time Olympic medalist in Beach Volleyball