Ultimately, leadership is a human experience. It is all about the people we communicate with and how both we, and they, benefit from the experience. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make the experience one of collaboration, empowerment and positive growth.
How do we do that? By practicing reflective leadership. Being present in the moment as we engage with others. We become fully aware of our own behaviour and we focus on reflective thinking.
Having the ability to think reflectively is primarily an internal process, one that influences what happens externally. As we reflect inwardly and observe how we think, we develop a greater understanding of ourselves and in turn, the thoughts and behaviours of others. We develop the ability to make informed choices about what will work best for all concerned.
So how do we become a reflective thinker? It begins with self-awareness. How well do you know yourself?
There is no question of the importance self-awareness plays in being a successful leader. Those leaders with a higher level of emotional intelligence, of which self-leadership is key, are known to build strong, trust based relationships with employees and to enjoy a higher level of staff engagement.
Reflective thinking involves the ability to mentally take a step back from the situation and observe what is taking place and how you and others are reacting to what is happening. This observation gives you the ability to place things in context and reframe a problem if necessary. Once you have reframed something in your own mind it is easier to present the problem and a course of action to others in a way that resonates with them.
Having an inner awareness of what is going on in your own thoughts lets you carefully consider how effectively you are communicating with others. If you know what you are trying to communicate and you can see clearly that others are not receptive to what you are telling them, you can address the issue. It gives you a sense of accountability and makes for much better communication.
Like most things, reflective thinking takes conscious effort initially, but it soon becomes a habit. To begin, make a point of asking yourself questions that will give you a clear understanding of where you stand. What am I thinking? How do I feel about the situation? Do I have a solution in mind? What will be the ramifications of the solution options?
Answers don’t always come instantly, but it’s worth taking the time to ask yourself the questions. A positive by-product of reflective thinking is the negation of strong emotions as you work through the questions. This enables you to have much more positive communication with others, particularly in situations involving conflict. The clarity of mind also lets you listen much more attentively to those you are engaging with.
Using a reflective approach in your leadership will not only build your level of awareness, it will open up conversations with your team to a point that they too will become more open in their communication and reflective in their approach.