No Leaders Please – A Poem by Charles Bukowski

No Leaders Please - a poem by Charles Bukowski
This entry is part [part not set] of 15 in the series Poetry and Management

No Leaders Please is a short poem by Charles Bukowski, that talks of change and conformity, and the need always to reinvent yourself as an individual. A powerful message, especially considered into an organisational framework, where people tend to be seen clustered into roles, and not by their individuality.

Poetry has always been one of my favourite forms of expressions, probably one of the eclectic sides of my multipotentialite trait. I have a list of poems that are somewhat linked to the topics I cover more frequently on this blog, so I’ve decided to start listing them here over time. Some are famous; some are less known.

No Leaders Please

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
don’t swim in the same slough.
invent yourself and then reinvent yourself
stay out of the clutches of mediocrity.

invent yourself and then reinvent yourself,
change your tone and shape so often that they can
categorize you.

reinvigorate yourself and
accept what is
but only on the terms that you have invented
and reinvented.

be self-taught.

and reinvent your life because you must;
it is your life and
its history
and the present
belong only to

Charles Bukowski

Source: Charles Bukowski, The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951-1993.

A Short Comment.

No Leaders Please is a true hymn to embrace constant change and transformation. Don’t swim in the same slough is a strong invite by the poet, through a movement of constant reinvention. The goal is to be able to emerge from mediocrity, identified as the alignment to what others can categorize of you. A strong sign, which is not a call to evade normality, but rather to fall into the boredom of being mediocre.

Beside the title, the poem never mentions the term Leadership. But there is an important reference: be self-taught. The idea of learning as a self-directed activity emerges as a paramount necessity, whereby a leader, intended here as a teacher, might not be needed. Freedom of thought is above all an intentional choice of those who learn alone. Because the present belong only to you.

What do you think about this poem? Make sure to add a comment below.

Sergio Caredda - Blog Signature

Cover Photo Source: Poetry Foundation

Series Navigation
  1. Avatar of Drunken Tussle
    Drunken Tussle

    I always admired the way Bukowski continually reinvented himself. When I first became acquainted with him, he was a social drinker. Later on, when he gained some recognition as a writer, he transitioned to a journeyman bar fly. Some years after that, when his fame had swept the nation, he blossomed into a full-on screeching alcoholic. One boozehound with many faces. A role model for us all.

  2. Avatar of Lasse

    Hi there.
    I enjoyed this blogpost, that I stumbled upon randomly, because my friend linked me to it.
    I felt like making a mini essay of my thoughts on this poem, in this comment.
    (Also I have been awake all night and completely fucked over my sleeping rhythm, so why not…)

    Charles Bukowski seems to me, like he was the embodiment of “doing-whatever-the-hell-you-want-at-all-times.” His poems, those of them, that I have read all seem special. And his voice was so masculine and human.

    Personally I wouldn’t want to do exactly what I *feel like* at all times. But I have an enormous respect for anyone who chooses their own fate and grips it hard, with its following consequences. Anyone who knows what they want in the moment or in the long run, and who can also clearly communicate it to me, so I know where they stand, I will always instinctively like to be around.

    “invent yourself and then reinvent yourself”
    “stay out of the clutches of mediocrity”
    “be self-taught”

    I agree with these snippets completely.
    Life is like sitting in a small boat in the vast ocean, and you never know where the waters will take you. You can row against the current or you can flow with the current. No matter which you do, the current will always get you eventually, I feel. So why not adapt to the ancient current of the ocean as soon as possible? To adapt is to overcome. They say the only constant is change. So we must reinvent ourselves every day.

    And yes, I’d personally like to stay away from the mediocrity of the masses by being my own self-taught person. That doesn’t mean I will push regular folk away. Because I am after all a regular person myself in many ways. I’m a sack of vulnerable flesh and blood like we all are. But I’d like to develop morally on my own terms, in my own tempo. This way I can avoid to simply copy the only half-conscious patterns, that my parents have imprinted on me. I believe it’s everyone’s duty to think about life. To think about their own life. To become their own person.
    I despise people who can never or will never go a centimeter into their own mind to simply try to see what is there. What is *really there*. Beautiful or horrible as it may be.
    I think Bukowski found out very early in his life, that he could be a fucked up person, and that he could do fucked up things. But he also went back and reinvented his sense of self so as to not get bored or stale or locked down in his thinking. He knew enough about himself at some point to start doing exactly what he wanted. What a fucking player.

    “change your tone and shape so often that they can
    categorize you.”

    This I do not like as much. I don’t believe it’s a good sentiment. If I understand it correctly that is.
    I read it as something, that’s a bit naive to be honest. You cannot change so often that people can’t categorize you. It’s simply not possible. And if you could, would you really want that? It sounds incredibly chaotic. If I meet a person that has literally committed to the idea, that they can change whenever they want, wherever they want, in any context and as often as possible, I do NOT like them. I have met a couple of people like that. They are terrifying, and they are not doing well. I would call it being possessed by nihilism.
    I would want all people to have their share of personal freedom, but not fucking all the time. There has to be limits to what a person can get away with. And trust me you won’t get away with continually changing your tune as you see fit. It will catch up to you. People will judge you hard for doing that, and for good reason.

    Imagine I said this in an intimate conversation:
    “I appreciate you dearly. We have been through so much good together, and I want it to continue. You and me can do anything together. You are my best friend. By the way, I often have dreams of torturing you with a knife. Do you want to go to the mall later? I like raspberry ice cream”.
    Above statement would align perfectly with the sentiment: “Change your tone and shape so often, that they can never
    categorize you.”
    No man. If you speak and act like that, I can and will categorize you. I will categorize you as a schizophrenic lunatic.

    That is all. I should probably get some sleep now. Cheers.

  3. Avatar of Zach Sodenstern
    Zach Sodenstern

    And yet it’s simply grotesque to frame any of Bukowski’s works into the job, entrepreneurial or general economic system environment, which was one of the things he hated the most.

Why not leaving a comment?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: