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What does poetry have to do with leadership development?

Poems (and People)

Feel the emotion

Confused ambiguity

Searching for meaning

At our January Friday afternoon gathering of colleagues and friends, Dr Sam Tongue of the Scottish Poetry Library lead a session where we read aloud and talked about some poems by Scottish poet Edwin Morgan. There is no right or wrong way to interpret poems, Sam told us; poems are open for each of us to respond to and make our own meaning from their words, rhythm and rhyme. Afterwards we considered how we use poetry and storytelling in our work with leaders as coaches and facilitators.

The session initially evoked for me school English lessons and striving for the obscured meaning I was failing to find. However, when I listened to others' stories of interpretation I gained a much richer and deeper understanding of the poems from different perspectives.

As I wrote this Japanese style ‘Haiku' poem (3 lines of 5,7,5 syllables) it occurred to me how understanding poetry is like understanding people. Other people’s words and behaviours can be confusing and can generate strong reactions and emotions in us. Even when we try our best, we sometimes don’t understand them. Yet, if we open ourselves to listening to others' perspectives and interpretations we can help each other gain richer and deeper appreciation of those around us.


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