Why All Leaders Need To Practice Self-Reflection

Someone told me last week that leadership is a relentless pursuit. Do you want to be a better leader?

I know people who are waiting to become better leaders: when they have a better team or a better boss or when something external to them is fixed. Wishing and waiting for things to change can, and usually does, take a lot of time. A better place for you to look for change is within yourself, because it’s the only thing you actually do control. How often do you ask yourself, as a leader:

  • How am I improving? How do I know I’m improving?
  • How do I motivate myself?
  • How do I need to get over myself?
  • How can I improve the relationship I have with myself?

Playing your big game starts with you. The heart of leadership is self-leadership. Leadership is a journey of self- improvement through your ability to self-reflect and see yourself from different perspectives.

I feel like I’m forever asking my two young children to listen: I feel like a broken record. Yesterday I got frustrated with my 5-year-old son who was to busy to come to the table for lunch. I asked him “What should I do when you don’t listen?” and he said “Give me more time to do what I want”. Yeah right, I thought. Reflecting on the conversation later on, I questioned myself on my ability to always listen to him, on how I typically react, and other ways I could be more behaviourally flexible to get the outcome I wanted. I realised that for things to change, I could improve.

Leadership – like parenthood – is a privilege, not a right or a title. At the core of great leadership, is a belief that as a leader “You can count on me”. If we assume this belief is true, then as leader you need to know “How do I count on me?” In other words, if being a great leader is about people knowing they can count on you, then as a starting point, you need to know how you count on you.

Can you count on you?

Are all of the people who you think are following you as a leader, actually following you? If you’re doubtful or you know it’s a clear no, then a good place to start is learning and understanding more about you. Here are some things to explore about yourself:

  • How you manage yourself
  • How you keep the promises you make to yourself
  • How you trust you
  • How you back yourself
  • The standards you set for yourself that you meet consistently
  • The values and beliefs you have as a leader
  • Your vision as a leader (your belief in your direction)

Being an effective leader means being self-effective

This is not a sexy ‘set and forget’ process. Being self-effective is a continual process of self-reflection and self-learning to build awareness and behavioural flexibility over time. Often people don’t want to do their own self-diagnostic and they then wonder why they are not able to impact, influence and inspire their team and colleagues around them. Great leaders are certain (they are self-certain) and passionate. It’s a winning combination which is why followers want to follow them.

Bringing it all together

Quality self-reflection is the most important thing in becoming more self-aware. Great leaders practice self-reflection on a daily basis. Being a leader is not about being the leader when the going is good or easy, when the rules and boundaries are known, or just for this job or project. Being a leader is about ALWAYS being a leader – regardless of what is happening, what needs to be done and who is involved.

How can you build time for self-reflection into your daily routine to improve the way you lead?

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