Leadership: Are You Leading With Actions or Words?

The Power of Reflection
Leaders are often tasked with evaluating situations, perspectives, people, etc. Leaders look outward to see progress towards goals, to determine to what extent collaboration is happening, and to assess how well a strategy is executed or implemented. That’s why it’s important for leaders to look inward first. Reflection starts with looking inside and taking an honest and personal assessment of your efforts.  Reflection isn’t simply thinking about the past. It’s digging deep into the core of who you are as a leader, how you have lead others, and whether or not your leadership has been effective. Reflection isn’t about  how well you’ve taken charge either. Great leaders understand that positional power is an absolute, last resort. They are skilled at using the power of reflection to spur personal improvement and action. They are self motivated because they take the time to think about how to get better, and not just to review what else needs to be done. Reflection moves us from task masters to critical thinkers. We think more about how to go about the work to produce a desired effect. Leaders who struggle with reflection move along the checklist, checking off what has been done, and highlighting what’s left to be completed. That’s not reflection. That’s a review. Don’t confuse the two. They are quite different.

Leaders Go First  
When a shift in culture needs to happen, the leader does not wait for the rest of the members of the organization to shift. Instead, great leaders understand that they can model the shift they desire. Simply verbalizing the expectation of how folks should interact and behave isn’t enough. This means when a leader recognizes that his or her attitude or actions hasn’t met the bar, they admit it. They admit it by making it clear and transparent. Reflection, when done well, can serve as a catalyst for changing behavior. Changing others isn’t really possible. Leaders influence others, impact others, but individual change is personal. Change only happens when one makes a conscious decision to do so. That conscious decision is often the result of deep reflection. Above all, when the leader sees that something is not going well, he or she looks in the mirror first. Great leaders resist the urge to look outward to find blame in an initial assessment. Great leaders check themselves first, taking an honest assessment of what they have done or have failed to do. Reflection, in its’ truest form only happens when one looks in the mirror first. Leaders who go first lead with their actions, followed by their words. They believe in showing more than telling.

Leadership Challenge
Continuous improvement isn’t simply a mindset to be adopted by organizations who want to make sure their school, district, or company is always working to get better. It’s a concept to be adopted by individuals who wish to lead, regardless of position or title. Reflection is the mental exercise of figuring out how one can improve to reach his or her maximum potential. The challenge is to resist the urge to look outwardly first. So often when things aren’t going well or the way we desire, our tendency is to look at those around us. I reject that tendency. I believe that when we look at ourselves first, we not only model powerful reflection for others, but we commit to the idea that everyday we have an opportunity to get better, to improve our craft, to sharpen our expertise and skills. My challenge to leaders is simple. Have you taken a look in the mirror lately? Are you spending time thinking about how you get better at being the leader versus thinking about how others need to improve? If not, I challenge you to do just that. Take a look in the mirror and reflect!

Until next time-be you, be true, and be a hope builder!

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