Reflection: Leading with Humility

Reflections and learning
3rd January 2015

The week between Christmas and the New Year often takes on an ‘other-worldly’ quality. Retreat and introspection are nestled soporifically between festive book ends. The world slows down creating space for reflection.

This kind of benign introspection doesn’t take much effort. It would be easy to discount festive downtime as ‘cerebral idling’. But it serves an important function in creating distance and bringing perspective to our otherwise hectic lives.

For those committed to life-long learning and continuous improvement, reflection plays a central role. Margaret Wheatley sums it up in her customary no-nonsense manner:

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences and failing to achieve anything useful”  

Reflection in a work context is more situation-specific. It requires an explicit evaluation of self and is bound by time and place. Our own backgrounds, assumptions, feelings and behaviour influence how we view things and need to be brought into the mix. Stretch the lens to include the wider systemic context and the foundations for reflexivity are laid.

How do we extend the benefits of these quiet festive moments into our normal workday lives? Here are some of my reflections.

Humility helps. Even leaders at the top of their game are never the ‘finished article’. We have to be open to registering when there is doubt, hesitation or uncertainty.  It’s like a stone in the shoe. It tells us something isn’t right. For example, when our actions are in conflict with our values or professional responsibilities. It’s only when we stop and examine what’s behind the sensation that we can act on it. And learn from it.

Reflecting critically and purposely usually requires some kind of structure, at least to begin with. There are a number of models to choose from. In time, it’s likely to become integrated into your way of working. It becomes a healthy habit.

A change of environment often helps to surface what’s going on quicker than if we doggedly nibble at an issue for ever more. In other words ‘let go to let come’. Exercise and a natural environment are great facilitators in this respect. Cycling usually works best for me.

Sometimes just hearing your own words in response to a searching question can bring coherence to troubled thoughts. Share your reflections with a trusted other – a coach, mentor or professional supervisor for example. It can give rise to even deeper reflections promoting rich insights and a sense of forward movement.

So that’s it. The festive reverie is over. Back to full tilt with renewed energy and sense of purpose. Go forth and multiply. Opportunities for reflection that is.

Happy New Year to all my blog readers.

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