In my 11th grade British Literature class we studied poet Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796), the Scottish poet who penned such classics as “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye”, “A Red, Red Rose”, and “To a Mouse”. But I was reminded of another Robert Burns classic while reading an article on the impact of self-awareness and self-knowledge on leadership effectiveness [Why CEOs Don’t Want Executive Coaching].
In Robert Burns’ poem “To a Louse”, the narrator is sitting behind a pious, upper crust lady in church, watching the meanderings of a common louse (plural lice) on the lady’s bonnet. He goes on to admonish the louse for its failure to notice how important his “host” is but then considers that to a louse, we are all equal prey. But the punch line of the poem is in the final verse:
“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!”
“And would some Power the small gift give us
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!”
What does this have to do with leadership effectiveness? When we have insight into ourselves – our strengths, weaknesses, perspectives, motivations, values, and capabilities – we have the opportunity to manage ourselves, making the best of the best and minimizing the rest. We have the capacity to see and understand others perspectives and motivations, deepening our relationships and broadening our impact. And we are able to avoid reacting in the moment or taking significant risks without fully considering the consequences.
Before you become the subject of a poem (or blog, tweet, or other public rant), consider investing in your own self-awareness and self-knowledge. Contact The Bailey Group.