Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Leader Ship Sea Shanty

Happy New Year for 2023! 

I wrote this poem (below) in November 2021, during a COP 26 poetry challenge #poemsofhope. 

(This was just before I had the COVID that meant that I failed to finish the poetry challenge. The fact that it was part of a challenge is the reason the poem includes reference to getting the poem written in time… I would have edited that out, but it turns out that that would take too much effort…) 


Weirdly, this poem stayed with me in my subconscious for 2022 because Leadership, as a theme, seemed to fall into universal crisis for the duration. I stand by the ideas expressed in the poem. (Sorry the rationale is first and the poem second. Feel free to scroll down. The poem is funner than the rationale.)

“Leadership has gone astray”: I am sure things weren’t always this bad. I mean I know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but why the apparent obsession with leaders proving it true at every turn? Why not… not? 

Inspirational Leaders do not lead by force: I would like a leader to come up with a great idea, identify a change that needs to be made. I would like to be convinced that this is the moral high ground; this is the only just course of action. Then, actually inspired, I would march the march, protest in protest, be the change I would like to see in the world and so on. In contrast, those in leadership seem to throw money at random priorities. Maybe I am wrong; maybe they are not random – but it’s the lack of leadership in the leadership that makes me feel they are random. Come on, inspire me!

“A leader is only leading when they are followed by you and me”: Okay this is to do with the cult of leadership. The logical cul-de-sac of everyone can be a leader. Philosophically that is utter mince. Followers are led by leaders; leaders have followers. Okay so each leader might have mentors, inspirations and influencers – and each follower might lead someone or somethings – but in any one context at any one time – not everyone is a leader. You are particularly not a leader if you have just read a book on leadership and decide to behave like a random automaton. Please – come up with a good idea or a strategy and try to inspire people to follow your lead. 

Politically, I am very frustrated. There is so much polarisation and so little debate. There’s the unionist/nationalist thing, the leaver/remainer thing, the left/right thing, the gender ideology thing, the cancelling thing. It has never been so Orwellian. Or maybe it has always been thus and I just wasn’t paying attention. 

So as we enter 2023 I hope our leaders on the global stage (trying to deal with East/West thing, the Russia/Ukraine thing, the Global North/Global South thing) may they not lead by force. May they inspire right change. I hope our national leaders at Holyrood and Westminster will get their priorities right. I hate the fact that I doubt they will. I hope that I, when I read about leadership or organise a thing, will inspire rather than depress those I hope to lead. 

On that note, sorry that this may have been depressing – the poem is fun. Please enjoy it. 

Leader Ship Shanty

In the Good Ship Leader, I swear it’s so

A yo ho ho! and off we go!

And a yo ho ho! We’ll find a way

If we follow the leader, on course we’ll stay!

(But in my mind, I have to say

That “Leadership” has gone astray.

The problem seems to be that when

A leader leads, it is often then

They begin to crave more power and sway

And thirst for control gets in the way –

And before you know it, the leader falls:

“Walk the plank!” …You’ll hear the calls.)

A yo ho ho! So, let’s be led –

And who should be there, at the head?

A yo ho ho! I have a plan.

Let’s have an inspirational man.

(Okay, or woman, it’s just for rhyme –

And I have to get this wrut in time!)

There was Gandhi and there was Martin King

And both led peacefully and both did win

They took their protests on the march

And shamed oppressors who’d been harsh.

Peacefully, they made it known

That injustice can be overthrown.

A yo ho ho! Can we set sail?

Our mission’s clear, we must not fail?

A yo ho ho! Who’s at the helm?

We have to put our faith in them!

There’s a type of leader we really need

If we hope to give and share and feed,

And show compassion to our neighbour,

And guarantee fair pay for labour,

And have a broad consideration,

For those in need in every nation.

Corruption scuppers everything!

The irony of self – 

If only those in power could leave

Their egos on the shelf.

But here’s the hope I’ll leave you – 

As we sail along the sea:

A leader is only leading 

When they are followed by you and me.

Let’s abandon ships that waver

From a course we want to go

And support those at the forefront

Of the causes that we know

Will make a difference in the world

And lead to better things.

(This can be done by servants 

And this can be done by kings.)

And as for me? And as for you?

In our own Leader Ships?

I think you know the way to go

On your many leader trips.

Take the people with you 

On a route that leads to good.

Ensure the dangers of corruption

Are those you’ve understood.

And now, set sail across the world

And love the ones that come.

And serve and tend your followers

(no, not with a tot of rum…).

With a yo ho ho, for justice we hanker!

With a yo ho ho, together: Weigh Anchor!

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