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Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude
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Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  826 ratings  ·  105 reviews
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 foun
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Bloomsbury USA
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Mark Steed
Jan 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Lead Yourself First has an important message: we need solitude if we are to be effective leaders. Solitude provides the space that allows leaders
to be analytical
to be intuitive
to be creative, and
to find moral courage.

Most importantly solitude allows leaders time to develop the core principles or underlying values that ground one's leadership and serve as a source of strength and direction when times are tough. Times of solitude can be found in any number of ways: on a long walk or run; in a li
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best leadership books I've read, definitely in my top 10, if not the top 5. In today's busy world where connectedness and few boundaries separating the many facets of our lives exist, the concept of purposeful solitude, where one actively works to examine and develop solutions to problematic situations is rare. Yet, the authors provide numerous examples (Lincoln, Grant, MLK Jr., Pope John Paul II), of how they used different types of solitude to overcome their situations and p ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was a goodreads giveaway winner of this book. I found this to be a rather unique read. It focuses on people off all walks of life who have used solitude to help solve problems. all of these are known people who have been faced with big decisions and have turned to solitude for inspiration. In this book we read about famous persons such as Martin Luther King, Jane Goodall,Eisenhower. one of the popes. and so many more who found that time alone to reflect have helped them to lead groups and help ...more
Sherreka Burton
Apr 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed most of the examples. We’ve definitely gotten away from introspection in the Information Age. The true value of a person can be found when they have time for reflection.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Incredible. Full of history and proof that solitude and reflection are paramount to life and leadership!
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Proposed alternative title for this book: Fundamentals of Leadership. The authors prove through the accounts they illustrate from history, military, politics, business, non-profit, and social movements that leadership requires lots of self-knowledge and reflection, and the best way to do that is through solitude. Remaining connected without thinking about the real issues is not playing your role as leader. The book also provides some practical and useful tips on how to create time, space, and su ...more
William Schram
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lead Yourself First is a book that attempts to foster leadership qualities through solitude. I don’t recall how I heard of this book, but it was through another book.

The book is written by Raymond M Kethledge and Michael S Erwin. Kethledge is a judge in the sixth circuit and Erwin is a former soldier. While one is extroverted and the other is introverted they both share a love of solitude that allows them to make calm, rational decisions. With our world the way it is, interconnected and loaded w
Lance Cahill
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I am not a big fan of leadership books. I bought this book because one of the co-authors is a rumored SCOTUS possibility. That being said, I did enjoy this book. It’s a generous four stars due to that context.

Anyone in a managerial-level position can ultimately agree with the premise of this book- that reducing stimuli will allow for clearer thinking.

The historical examples are interesting and the book is very well-written, with the section on John Paul II being my favorite, though the connecti
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This book describes many examples of leaders using solitude to think through their problems, with lots of example from the military (Eisenhower), civil movement (Martin Luther King), government (Winston Churchill).

The stories are inspiring, but it is not a scientific book on solitude. In other words, do only good leaders use solitude for reflection? How about mediocre ones?

It is like chicken soup stories of solitude.
Fred Leland
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Simply the best book I have read on reflection and solitude and it’s benefits for leaders. Through history and great leaders the author illustrates the. Value of seeking time to think alone.
I was disappointed enough to return this book. It reads like military history but is billed as self help? So confused.
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
The concept gets 5 stars, the execution 2 stars. To start: I’m clearly not the target audience for this book, but it was insightful to see what sorts of stories are meant to demonstrate admirable leadership. I am a pacifist and have no interest in military efforts, so I found little of value in the military anecdotes. Thank goodness for Mr Kethledge’s daughter Ella, who convinced the authors to feature Jane Goodall (as indicated in the acknowledgments).

I wish the concepts promoted here were ill
Sue Davis
Jan 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Gosh, I had such high hopes for this book. (sigh)

No dice. There were some good concepts and ideas, but the stories were tiresome and included way too many irrelevant details. I had to skim the second half of the book, as I hate to leave a book unfinished, but all those stories just wore me out. . . The "West Point" alum connection was probably a little over the top and made it start feeling like the authors just interviewed their friends.

Feb 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some great stories of people using solitude and introspection to become better leaders in whatever form that takes. As good as the anecdotes were they seemed to be shoehorned into supporting the thesis.
I like the concept of this book, quite a lot. The idea that we need more solitude and time spent in reflection isn't a new one but it's one that has been pushed by the wayside the busier we get. Solitude and reflection don't mesh with with 'busy' and 'multitasking' which is why they are so powerful. They force you to slow down.

But this is not what people want to do. People want to be busy and they want to have that crutch of, 'omg I'm so busy!' and they like the attention they get when they tal
Stephen Newman
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book surprised me. My expectations were tempered by the title which, taken alone, implies a selfish attitude towards leadership. “Lead Yourself First” isn’t exactly “Officers Eat Last” after all. But it’s not that at all. It’s about the value of solitude, something which took me time to learn and appreciate.

As a young Marine officer I tended to buck the trend of my peers by running alone, more out of a lack of confidence in my running ability than anything else. But over time this develope
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The core message of the book is very profound because it touches one's life direction and destiny.
We all know the importance of setting goals in one's life, and we all know most of us don't. Why is this so?
We all know setting goals is not what really matters, the essence of it is rather feeling the burning desire to accomplish those goals, and how where does this strength and clarity of purpose comes from? This book brings a simple answer:
"To develop that clarity and conviction of purpose, and
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Students of leadership.'s something I have often sought out, on almost a daily basis. For me, it isn't a "nice to have," it's an essential part of my life. Much like exercise, I can go without solitude for a while -- a few days, maybe even a few weeks -- be before too much time passes, I find myself getting grumpy, slow, and stressed. Maybe it's for that reason that I found this book so interesting. Truthfully, though, I think solitude, properly used, is something that anyone can benefit from, even those ...more
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read. Lead Yourself First presents a coherent thesis about the critical importance to effective leadership of having time alone with one’s thoughts, and how this is an irreplaceable ingredient for (a) clarity, (b) creativity, (c) emotional balance, and (d) moral courage. This rings true - think about how we make decisions and interact with others when properly centered versus frazzled.

The book builds on some of the emerging wisdom of other works like Essentialism (McKeown), Deep Work a
Mark Youngkin
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
What a disappointment this book was.

Kethledge and Erwin start with a promising thesis: that it's essential for leaders to unplug from interaction with others and spend time in solitary contemplation. That thesis is then wasted on a series of unrelated historical vignettes with little to tie them together but, "and at one point during this situation, our hero was alone!" It seems like a good point for a series of historical profiles, but not for a (somehow much-lauded) leadership text.

I've given
Philip Harris
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great read for anyone who has not discovered the powerful benefits of finding solitude in a hectic world. Having two small kids, a working wife, and an extremely hectic job myself, I really found a lot of value in what the authors were preaching. In particular, I really enjoyed how the authors use historical examples such as Winton Churchill, Eisenhower, and MLK to drive the point home. My life isn't nearly as dramatic as that, but it really helped drive home how vital solitude can be to menta ...more
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first time I've read a book authored by someone who I know and can consider a friend. What a cool thing!!

I loved this book and how it showcased that solitude can be instrumental to leadership. As an introvert who functions fairly well in social settings, I've always found it hard to put into words what time alone truly does for me, but this book put it far more eloquently than I could.

I loved all of the stories about the different leaders and truly enjoyed learning about them - some
This is a book about the importance of solitude. It is divided into 4 parts, according to the benefits that solitude can bring to a person: Clarity, Creativity, Emotional Balance, Moral Courage. Each part begins with a chapter describing, in brief, the corresponding benefit, and giving short examples from everyday people's experience. Then a couple of chapters follow, focusing on a major personality, and how they used solitude to their advantage. Examples from the lives of 9 historical figures a ...more
Alex Courtney
Feb 06, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2021
Even at a slender 188 pages this book isn't worth your time.

There is precisely one idea in this book -- leaders need to make time to be alone. The authors outline some of the benefits of that solitude (enhanced creativity, humility, insight etc.) but spend the overwhelming majority of their pages providing background on some historical event. For example, they spend six pages discussing the plans, strategies and interactions of T.E. Lawrence (of "of Arabia" fame) while the only connection back t
Geoff Lanotte
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
I reserve the right to update this rating later. I am still chewing on it. There were great stories about how various leaders and how they used solitude. I am not so sure how all the connections were made between solitude and the various acts of the leaders. At times it felt like - person x practiced solitude, person x accomplished y, therefore you should practice solitude.

At the same time, the stories were inspiring and interesting. The author did their homework and presented many leaders in a
May 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Kethledge Erwin make a compelling argument for constructive solitude, but it felt like they spent more time talking about the benefits of solitude and not enough time on how to implement it in your life practically. I was also annoyed with the amount of gendered language (ex. "A leader uses solitude to clear his mind and find clarity. He prioritizes reflection in his life.") There were a few sections where female pronouns were substituted, but few and far between in comparison. Seems like more a ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
I do believe in value of solitude, but "Lead Yourself First" failed to make a good point for me why solitude would be an answer to stories that book used as examples.

I liked some of the stories, but for the historical reasons more than the examples of solitude.

Additionally, in general, I am not an american and war stories and veterans got much attention during first half of book, stories I don't agree with and where a leader was an example while thousands died around them.

If I would suggest a bo
Diana Durrill
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book was so good, so thought-provoking! A good dose of fascinating history lessons mixed in with practical advice for those of us living in this Information Age, Lead Yourself First reminds the reader that "A leader has not only permission, but a responsibility to seek out periods of solitude." (As in daily). "Solitude is not the reward for great leadership. It's the path to great leadership." Moms, dads, student-leaders, administrative, corporate, political, pastoral, you name ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is one of the worst books I have ever attempted to read. With its title literally stolen from another book (on Goodreads, look it up), this book is unethical, biased beyond belief and akin to something megalomaniacs would come up with. Written by two (obviously) lazy govt workers, this book is chock full of typos and sentence structure errors. If it were to be graded, it would be given an F-. In summary, don't buy this book...or read it, unless you are just feeling too smart and need to dum ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
I think others would give this book a much higher rating, but I had a hard time getting through this. I found the fundamental ideas and purpose of the book intriguing. It reminded me of the importance and purposes of quiet time, pondering time, and solitutude. These help you make better and more confident decisions, and deal with the stresses of life. I was pretty invested the first few chapters; then I got bored. It may have been the story content that just wasn't as interesting to me (war stor ...more
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“Time is an unrenewable resource. You can’t get it back. All these things we’ve done to exchange information, to access information at our fingertips, have actually taken away our time for restoring the soul. You’re giving away your soul’s ability to be moved. If we’d spend more time in solitude, we’d value ourselves more.” 3 likes
“Serious thinking, inspired thinking, can seldom arise from texts sent while eating lunch or driving a car. Responding to these inputs generates as much thought, and as much inspiration, as swatting so many flies. They deaden both the mind and soul.” 1 likes
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