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The Power of Self-renewal

How to sustain your impact as a leader

Leadership is a renewable resource—but only if approached with a spirit of self-renewal. That often requires individuals to detach from the work they are most attached to, to see their work objectively, to question their own tactics, to be open to change and to embrace opportunities that require them to reinvent themselves.

Throughout my 35-year career as an optometrist turned social entrepreneur, I have practiced continual self-renewal in pursuit of a world where equitable access to eyeglasses is universal, especially for the poorest and most remote communities. The process of self-renewal can be unsettling and feel risky, but it is essential to persevere as a leader over decades and ensure you’re having the largest possible impact. John O’Donohue’s words in his poem For A New Beginning capture the essence of self-renewal. It starts with deep introspection and listening to your internal dialogue. Next an inkling emerges that signals your path might need to change in order to drive maximum impact, this is often an “inconvenient truth” given that it unsettles the status quo. “Then the delight, when your courage kindled, / And out you stepped onto new ground, / Your eyes young again with energy and dream, / A path of plenitude opening before you.”

Throughout pivotal moments of self-renewal in my life, including the founding and scaling of organizations like VisionSpring and the EYElliance, I have re-worked and re-assessed where and how I could contribute and what gave me the greatest sense of purpose at that particular time. A central lesson that emerged is that I could renew myself and my work by asking, over and over, in different ways: What is my highest, best use?

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