The Power of Reflection (or why leaders should do less and think more)

“We are after all human beings, not human doings” 
Lynn Goldberg MCC


Reflection… really?

To many new clients, reflection feels like anathema.  When do we get onto the action?  They politely agree to do it (secretly crossing their fingers and waiting for the good stuff to come).

There is always so much to do… so little time.  Being on a mission brings an endless stream of potential actions.  We could fill an ocean of days with the myriad possibilities.

It’s easy to  get sucked in – a slave to the to-do list.

It’s so tempting to dive into the weeds and thrash around.  It feels good to be moving – any which way.

It’s only when we stop and pop our head up that we realise we’ve been going around in circles, or even backward.

Worse still we may have lost sight of our destination completely.


What leadership requires

Leadership requires a journey and an end point.  It requires powerful reasons to get started – and underlying motivations to grit through the tough stuff.

It requires evaluation of the right resources and mapping the right pathway.

It requires the ability to navigate the tough stuff and the agility to react, to course correct and to redefine the whole journey.

It requires the creativity to think differently.

It requires the courage to be bold and challenge everything.

Without these things, leadership is like a clock without hands.  Ticking away, going nowhere slowly.


Oh wait… it’s essential!

This is when the penny drops for the client.  Reflection isn’t just a nice to have – it is an essential for all successful leaders.

Reflection enables an elevation high above the landscape.  A chance to explore new perspectives.  A time to define a vision and to understand WHY it is worth realising.

Reflection enables an honest evaluation of the journey, how to get there, what to change.

It also holds up a mirror to the leader and the team – and enables them to understand what unites them, what undermines them.   It shows teams how they can get the best from each other.

It enables learning, growth, progress and ACTION.

So we got there in the end.


How – and how much?

To reflect successfully requires some key conditions:

  • Some uninterrupted time
  • Some key questions / challenges to address
  • (Often) other human(s)  to provide fresh perspectives
  • Ideally a different environment from the usual

As a leader you might set aside 2 hours a week to go somewhere out of the ordinary.  Set yourself a challenge question like “what motivates us to keep striving”.  Follow your process and let your mind wander.

Make notes if you need to remember something.

Many interviews with successful leaders outline the importance of reflection for effective strategic thinking.  In my experience many CEOs I’ve worked with end up  committing between 10% and 25% of their team to solo and team reflection on an ongoing basis.

So however uncomfortable it feels, the counter-intuitive truth is that building reflection into your life will change it forever.