“There are few greater privileges in life than being a leader.”
With great power comes great responsibility and great responsibility calls for regular reflection upon who we are as leaders and how we are growing. I can confidently say that not a day goes by where I don’t take some time to pause and be thankful for the blessing of being in a leadership position.
Sure, there are challenges and obstacles; some difficult days among the good. And it’s true that not every decision made will immediately bring the best results. But the honour of being at the forefront of a team that is working towards a meaningful and impactful vision for the future is priceless.
I spend much of my time in reflection: being thankful for the people I have around me — those hardworking colleagues who give their all alongside me every day in serving a purpose much bigger than ourselves. Their tireless commitment and dedication serve as a daily reminder that no matter how tough things might get, you can overcome any challenge when you have the right people at your side.
And just as we leaders expect certain standards from our people, our position calls on us to hold ourselves to even greater standards.
It’s said that leaders are those who ‘lead by example’, and so there’s a great impetus towards developing a high degree of self-awareness that enables us to clearly see our strengths as leaders and areas of improvement. This is imperative for all leaders if they wish to be successful in their industry and truly make a difference to others.
Self-reflection makes the best leaders
Regular periods of self-reflection are needed to ensure that we are heading in the right direction with regard to empowering our people, making progress towards our vision and creating a legacy that is sustainable over the long-term.
Different leaders will have different approaches to how they reflect. Some might ponder the minutiae of their daily interactions, while others will reflect over a period of months at a time and focus more broadly on how they’ve made an impact on their organisation and people.
My own preference is to ask myself questions that really get to the heart of what it means to be a leader — with some answers showing me how well I measure up, while others helpfully highlight areas which need my attention.
I’d like to share 5 of the questions I ask myself regularly, in the hope that it will encourage more people to take up the habit of self-reflection. Regardless of whether you’re in a leadership position or not, these questions can help you bolster your strengths and make any necessary improvements that will significantly enhance your ability to be of greater service and benefit to yourself as well as others.
#1. Is the ‘why’ of what I’m doing the same as it was when I started?
While priorities, plans and the way things are done can change over time, the fundamental reason of why you are doing what you’re doing should be the rock upon which everything else is built. If you find that your ‘why’ has shifted, it might be a sign that you’ve strayed from your values or mission to a degree.
If that’s the case, the next step is to ask yourself what can be done in the short and long-term to ensure a successful re-alignment.
#2. How am I developing as a leader?
Any leader who feels that they have it ‘all sussed out’ at any point is surely creating a recipe for disaster for themselves.
It’s an easy trap to fall into when the going is good, to feel as though you have your particular role and industry mastered. However, like any other area of life, there can be unexpected twists and turns and it’s those leaders who keep themselves agile, curious and always learning who are best able to adapt to the biggest and unexpected tests that arise.
#3. Am I being as accessible as I can be?
Many leaders embrace an ‘open-door policy’, which usually means that anyone can come and speak to them at any time. This is a great starting point; however, being accessible should go way beyond being physically available.
We also need to ask questions such as:
Am I listening enough to people?
Do I provide them with enough support?
Have I been making an effort to show my genuine appreciation of their contributions? Do I really take on board people’s suggestions and ideas as much as I think I do?
#4. Have I been seeking enough feedback?
One of the most courageous acts a leader can perform is to seek honest and constructive feedback on their performance. This can be done, for example, in formal group settings or informally as part of a series of one-to-one conversations over coffee.
Whatever the preference, leaders are probably in more need of feedback than anyone else, because we’re more likely to receive positive messages from people — both genuine and otherwise.
With this in mind, leaders should actively seek out suggestions on how they could improve.
It might cause some slight bruising to the ego, but as the saying goes, no pain no gain — this is definitely a great way to ensure growth as a leader.
#5. If I was one of my employees, how would I rate myself — and why?
Self-assessment can be a tricky beast, given the various biases we each possess as defence mechanisms against criticism.
To be able to get an accurate sense of oneself is a skill that’s developed over time. To help the process, I like to put myself in the shoes of different colleagues and try to rate myself as they might, as honestly as I can. From there, if there are any issues, I ask myself why they exist and how I might move to address them.
Taking this approach enables me to work on developing the best possible relationships with everyone I work alongside.