I often wonder if we spend too much time on leadership and not enough time on development. We have a multitude of well-trained managers lacking self-awareness. You know them by their behaviors: they don’t listen, they’re defensive, they’re always right, and they don’t take kindly to feedback. They micromanage and make decisions without considering others.
It’s not that these people are bad managers; they’re just not good leaders. Leadership is about creating a vision, setting an example, and inspiring others. It’s not about telling people what to do or making decisions for them. And it’s definitely not about being defensive and always right.
Good leadership starts with development. Leaders need to be able to see themselves clearly and understand their strengths and weaknesses. They also need to develop their emotional intelligence to relate to others effectively. Only then can they start to create a vision and inspire others to follow them.
Leaders who are not self-aware are unresponsive to feedback, and they consistently fail to demonstrate care. The combination of those behaviors and inattention to development contributes to our staggering employment resignation rates and renewed demands for a new era of Authentic Leadership focused on growing individuals, companies, and communities.
The consequences of inauthentic workplace leadership include decreased engagement, diminished collaboration and teamwork, and more unnecessary stress and turnover. Leaders who don’t have a reflective practice rarely come across as genuine. When managers are perceived as inauthentic, they fail to motivate others to bring their best.
Reflection directs the significance of our purpose to achieve greatness with others. Self-reflection is like looking into a mirror and describing what you see in leadership development. It’s an ability to consider and assess actions with the conscious intent of understanding strengths and improving personal and organizational leadership. Unfortunately, the problem of inauthenticity compounds as managers move into executive ranks. Many executives overestimate their skills, and fewer people are willing to provide feedback.
When leaders develop self-awareness, the quality of care and action they take multiplies. I have observed five strategies and practices that grow a reflective mindset and enhance personal and organizational leadership effectiveness in my work with successful leaders.
Self-reflection is the ability and skill to be aware of yourself. It can be applied to most facets of life, including our physical, emotional, and spiritual states. Self-aware people are both inner and outer-aware. Insightful self-awareness extends from personal reflection to an approach that helps others to show up fully. In practice, thinking of self-awareness as more of a process than a fixed destination is essential. Self-aware leaders have an increased capacity to learn and benefit from their experiences.
Think on Your Feet and Play it By Ear
Good leadership practices depend on reflection in action. Reflective leaders seek opportunity in the puzzles and questions of the team and organizational life. They wonder about questions such as “why can’t we do this better” and “what if we changed.” They bring intuition and focus to the goal of learning as the primary vehicle to improve. When leaders become more attune to the learning opportunities in front of them, they develop the flexibility to optimize their effectiveness.
Trust is a cornerstone practice of authentic leaders because it grows and forges strong relationships with others. Empathetic leaders extend trust because they are aware of the needs, feelings, and thoughts of others. Followers trust leaders when there is alignment between what the leaders say and do. When leaders work to understand our situations, they become more compassionate and more likely to take meaningful action. It might result in an increased ability to reduce resentment and conflict that can exist in workgroups.
In a complex and uncertain world, reflection with others provides an opportunity for leaders to gain a deeper understanding of personal leadership. The process encourages challenging the status quo by gaining perspectives from those around you. They may know things that you don’t know. It can help create more effective decision-making processes as well.
Practice What You Learn
Leaders who self-reflect find it easy to admit their mistakes, learn from them and move on. They are never too hard on themselves. An effective leader is always willing to take responsibility when things go wrong. It can be difficult at first, but if you really want success, what matters most isn’t how often your name goes down as flawless. Instead, focus more energy on practicing new leadership skills so that we might all get better together.
By developing reflective practices, leaders can experience several benefits. Namely, they can use challenges as learning opportunities, build stronger alliances, and experience a greater sense of purpose and satisfaction. All of this serves to increase your self-awareness, alignment, authenticity, learning, and growth. Self-reflection also accelerates improvement in your leadership skills and practice — including your emotional intelligence — and enables you to understand others better.
What ways are you growing as an Authentic Leader? Let me know by replying in the comments. I would love to hear from you.