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October 2013




by Lisa Gerrard and Peter Bourke (from the album Duality, 1998)


What are the big take-aways?


As the Amazon review says of the entire album, the duet “Sacrifice” is “at once sacred and playful. It is both dark and light, organic and refined, masculine and feminine.”  The same could be said of the most agile and effective leaders, who not only reflect these seemingly-contradictory qualities, but who also create spaces around them wherein others can choose to explore their own creative tensions.  (The song “Sacrifice” can be accessed free, in several versions, on YouTube.)


Why do I like it?


As a leader, you’ve no doubt noticed that leadership itself is a sacrifice, and it is only worth making if what’s at stake over the long haul matters to you more than your short-term self-interest.  I know from my personal experience and from many years of partnering with and coaching other leaders that, while it is exhilarating, leadership can be such a profoundly challenging enterprise that few (if any) people in your life understand exactly what you are doing or why you are doing it!  Leadership – and especially leading major transformation efforts – is often a lonely proposition, even when you’re lucky enough to have a lot of personal and professional support.


I believe that, ironically, the path to resolving the isolation of leadership is a process that can only be taken alone.  The path is characterized by continuous learning from deep reflection, pursuit of self-knowledge and self-acceptance, and the willingness to take bold risks and gain new information from them and try again.  I like “Sacrifice” because – among myriad other songs, mindfulness techniques, meditations and guided visualizations – it is a sufficiently complex composition to evoke various moods and levels of awareness simultaneously.  In this way, it is like a soundtrack to the leadership journey.


Also, I like world fusion music and I enjoy experiencing art from other cultures that helps me notice my assumptions and question my default responses to new things.  If you do, too, give “Sacrifice” a listen.


In what situations would this be useful?


I can imagine at least three ways “Sacrifice” could be useful to leaders.  First, as I mentioned above, it is the perfect length (7-8 minutes) and depth for providing a mindfulness pause at work – or under any circumstances – when it would serve you and your leadership to simply be transported above the fray for ten minutes.  Second, having the capacity to hold multiple contradictions at once amid “the swirl” of chaos and uncertainty, and yet still remain able to hear your own coherent inner voice, is probably the most crucial leadership trait of them all; engaging with “Sacrifice” by using your brain, heart and spirit would provide good practice for developing this capacity.


Third, specifically as a self-coaching tool, I recommend listening to this piece while exploring one of these questions, or a similar “big-picture” inquiry that is relevant to you right now:


  • What matters most to me in my life?
  • What is the larger purpose of my leadership?
  • What inner contradictions make me – and therefore my leadership – unique?


What other resources might “pair” well with it?


First, if you like “Sacrifice,” check out other works by Lisa Gerrard, or see what YouTube cues up for you after playing it.  Also, if you’re interested in simply understanding what “mindfulness” is, or exploring whether these kinds of practices are for you, I suggest the classic guide to beginning meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are (Hyperion, 1994).  While I haven’t used them much myself, the expansive menu of online guided meditations by Tara Brach – which come in all different lengths, and which you can play or download for free – come highly recommended.


Beyond that, if exploring the roles of paradox and contradiction in life (and leadership) engages you spiritually, you might take a look at Richard Rohr’s rigorous rumination on human development, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass, 2011).


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