I was thinking about the pressure on leaders to know. Everything. This despite the fact that when doing truly adaptive work and leading in complexity, leaders can’t possibly know everything. So it seems obvious from a distance that the real money is on resisting the pressure to always provide neat answers and, instead to sit with the questions a little longer. And then a colleague offered a piece of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke to participants in a leadership program as a provocation and it summed up my thoughts more eloquently than anything I could write. So here it is.
Live the Questions Now
I want to beg you as much as I can to be patient
Toward all that’s unsolved in your heart,
And to learn to love the questions themselves,
Like locked rooms,
Or like books that are written in a foreign tongue.
Do not seek the answers that cannot be given you,
Because you would not be able to live them,
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now,
Perhaps you will then gradually,
Without noticing it,
Live along some distant day
Into the answer.
Cameron Houston, Principal, Batley Evans & Co.