I found a relationship poem in a leadership book I came across a number of years ago. I forgot everything else I read in that book, except the poem entitled “Threads.”

Odd, isn’t it? A poem about leadership? To be a poet of any worth one needs to be a keen observer of people. This particular poem says the same is true of being a good leader.

To lead well is to pay attention to the clues people give us about what’s going on beneath the surface of their lives. It’s to listen well. It's the cornerstone of any good relationship.


Sometimes you just connect,
like that,
no big thing maybe
but something beyond the usual business stuff.
It comes and goes quickly
so you have to pay attention,
A change in the eyes
When you ask about the family,
a pain flickering behind the statistics
about a boy and a girl in school,
or about seeing them every other Sunday.
An older guy talks about his bride,
A little affection. After twenty five years.
A hot-eyed achiever laughs before you want him to.
Someone tells about his wife’s job
or why she quit working to stay home.
An older joker needs another laugh on the way
to retirement.
A woman says she spends a lot of her salary
on an au pair
and a good one is hard to find
but it is worth it because there is nothing more important
than the baby.
In every office
you hear the threads
of love and joy and fear and guilt,
the cries for celebration and reassurance,
and somehow you know that connecting those threads
is what you are supposed to do,
and business just takes care of itself.

by James A. Autry, Love and Profit, 1991, p.26. Quoted in
The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make, by Hans Finzel

As the poem says, “it’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Imagine if we all listened well, whether we’re a leader or not.

What are the threads you see in the relationships around you? What are they leading you to do?

Still learning to listen,

P. S. Only 35 days before the start of season two of the You Were Made for This podcast. I can’t wait! All kinds of episodes are in the hopper that illustrate what the “Threads” poem is all about.