Although we all can agree that there are myriads of qualities for illustrious leadership: integrity, trustworthiness, transparency, confidence, vision, passion, patience, tolerance, the aptitude to execute ideas, etc. But one leadership quality that I believe rests at the core of effective, great leadership – and one that whenever it is embraced, leaders often break out into a sweat, and some still prefer to avoid it altogether. Most leaders would say they do it, that sounds great, but it can be quite a painful process.
I’m speaking, of course, about “self-reflection”. If I were to pick just one leadership quality that was guaranteed to remaining constant throughout my leadership journey, self-reflection would be my choice. Honest self-reflection is extremely important and vital for all people; it is critical for Army leaders – for those with significant influence. Besides to influencing a leader’s personal growth, the absence of honest self-reflection of leaders decreases the ability and capacity of teams to change and attain goals in an effective manner.
Simply it is because everything starts with knowing who you are, what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. It’s one thing to read about self-reflection as a leader, actually it is another thing altogether to do the work of honest self-reflection. As a leader, it’s important to take time to pause for self-reflection as well as to evaluate your engagement with those on your team.
As leaders, if you don’t take time out to reflect frequently on yourselves and where you are headed you run the risk of bumping into failure. When you pause for reflection it allows you the opportunity to correct shortfalls in your leadership, improve follower job-satisfaction, and to increase team effectiveness. As great leaders you have to be in the right state of mind to reflect on what’s driving your behavior, to consider what got you in that situation and how you may avoid it in the future.
The natural reaction is, “well, I’ll be harder, or I’ll just go faster.” But, that’s mistaking activity for productivity. Leaders, productivity demands self-reflection. Engaging in honest self-reflection requires leader humility. It requires a capacity for self-awareness. It requires a willingness to reflect on personal faults and shortcomings which shape the organizational environment and the experience that followers have in the organization.
When you face challenges, as leaders, in motivating and empowering subordinates it is important to first look to you as leaders to begin seeing how you personally may have contributed to demotivating subordinates. We may argue that the greatest challenge to motivating and empowering followers is me and you. It is about self-reflection and self-leadership first. As leaders, we must have a unique blend of both professional will and personal humility.
With such a blend, we can attain self-confidence and self-efficacy to own that we do not have all the answers and that we have less control than we may have initially thought. Leaders must also be willing to look into the mirror to see what they contribute to the lack of motivation among their followers. Humility plays a key role in self-reflection and is a crucial starting point in making such motivation and empowerment come to life.
Self-reflection is not spending hours after hours contemplating your umbilicus. It’s what are your values, and what are you going to do about it? It’s all about knowing yourself as leaders, and getting better at what you do and who you are; it’s self-improvement, and being self-aware – a non-judgmental understanding on how you respond, react, engage, and interact. There’s no doubt or query about it; being a leader signifies having many responsibilities. Many look up to you, and you are always expected to perform and execute your responsibilities at an enormously high standard. You also have the responsibility to self-reflect.
Great leaders are the ones that display an ability set that cannot be impersonated – meaning they lead from the heart. Effective leaders today or in the future should realize they will lead from their hearts and know the hearts of their team members. Although commitment to quality readiness, drive, and passion are all very important, a passionate commitment to your team for cohesion and readiness is what will determine your success, effectiveness, and enthusiasm as great leaders.
While compassion and leadership are seldom definitely correlated, to build a better workforce and better culture leaders at all echelons need to practice zealous commitment throughout the organization. Strong leaders should always have at the core of their focus a drive to be of benefit to the people they are leading. Passionate, compassionate, humble leadership begins with the intention to see as others see.
In leadership the merit of self-reflection is not to be underestimated. All too often, leaders invest too little or no time into self-reflection. Leaders should strive to improve how they create engagement in followers and build human capital-centric cultures. Amongst other traits, the ability to differentiate one’s faults, to be broken as the result of such faults, and in response to seek a meaningful change is one of the most important characteristics of great leaders. Leaders are not excused from this significant human characteristics.
The issue is not about having faults and making mistakes in your usual leadership routine. Instead, the issue is whether or not leaders have the ability and capacity to reflect on these mistakes and engage in honest self-reflection. Leaders who do this are able to learn from their mistakes and then grow as persons and as great, humble leaders. Self-reflection commands giving earnest thought to your character, actions, behaviors, and beliefs. It also encompasses asking yourself thought-provoking questions so that you can develop a deeper understanding of you.
Am I being a leader others can respect and follow?
Am I meeting the expectations I set for others around me?
Am I using my talents fully?
Am I performing at my peak ability and capacity?
Am I giving my followers, my family, and friends my most and my best?
Am I engaging in the worthy activity?
Am I making a positive impact?
Am I on the path to my desired future?