Who Reflects?

Who reflects and how does the reflection process assist them in leadership.

Do you ever wonder who reflects? And does it make a difference?

Have the leaders down through the ages demonstrated a propensity to sit down at regular intervals and cast an eye backwards and consider “what could I have done differently?”

Having done some desktop search it would appear that leaders do reflect and it does make a difference.

Recently in the UK seven executive directors where part of an in-depth interview to establish the use of reflection in the executive role. The research found that all seven agreed that reflection had been a major contributor to their own development as leaders.

It was interesting to note, that from this research, it was established that reflection was about intentionally creating thinking spaces to enable a different kind of structured thinking.

The research also confirms observations when facilitating reflection sessions during Affectus leadership programs and from my personal experience.

Reflection Insight

An essential part of reflection is having a process which enables you to learn from experience and to develop new understandings to apply in the world.

From the same research, it was clear that the thinking provided insight.

At Affectus, we see that reflecting unlocks:

  • new benefits
  • different ideas
  • creativity around issues
  • openness to personal change
  • relationship adjustments
  • behavioural insights.

We also see that people feel differently after reflecting. Empowered has become a bit yesterday but empowered is the most common feeling that results from reflective processes.

Missed Opportunities

One of the most startling components highlighted in the research was the missed opportunities of not reflecting.

The seven leaders identified loss of:

  • understanding
  • creativity
  • relationships
  • energy
  • productivity.

So, insight is what you gain from the reflection process. And, what you miss if you don’t have a process to look back to understand where you have been and what you have done.

Other Reflections

One of the international leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela, illustrated his reflection in his autobiography The Long Walk to Freedom. Mandela, although not using this language, used a four-lens reflective process. The lens assisted him to review the constant challenge of power imbalance, reappraise his assumptions, monitor his increased knowledge through observing his political party and reassess his behaviour as he moved through his years as a freedom fighter.

Elizabeth Patterson’s information is most useful for us in our reflective practice, Elaine Patterson (2015) ‘What are leaders’ experiences of reflection?’ What leaders and leadership developers need to know from the findings of an exploratory research study, Reflective Practice, 16:5, 636-651, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2015.1064386.

Therefore, it focuses our intent when we move to reflection, it tunes-up our minds before we start the process.

During the reflection process

During your reflection process you need to:

  • be intentional
  • pause
  • create a “thinking” space
  • ask yourself open questions to explore what has happened
  • allow open questions to challenge your thinking
  • be brave and compassionate during the thinking – open and creative
  • have the conversations with yourself and potentially with others
  • commit to change during the reflective process.

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