In Search of Leadership Excellence: Self-Reflection

We all know that leadership skills are soft skills. And that they are harder to acquire and master for most people when compared to mastering technical or hard skills. 

And to make this matter even more complex, each leader has their own unique style in how they handle communications, relationships, and emotional intelligence.

Therefore it becomes even harder to compare any two leaders to gain better perspectives about leadership excellence.

In Search of Leadership Excellence

Even if you feel that you have all it takes to be a good leader, you can always fine tune your skills for excellence. There is no one right way to lead, but inevitably there is always room for improvement in any leadership style.

Over time, a leader in search of excellence acquires skills and polishes them to become a superior leader.

When a leader takes the time to improve all of their skills, the results become proportionate to their level of influence. A sharpened leader tends to produce better teams. and better teams tend to produce better results.

But before a leader begins on the personal journey toward leadership excellence, they need to benchmark their current skill set, and abilities.

And this requires the time, tools, and techniques brought about by personal reflection.

Personal Reflection

It is important to set aside some time for self-reflection, even if it means taking a pause in your daily tasks. And as we are in our last months of the year 2013,  I feel this self-reflection should be put in context of this past year along with some of your upcoming goals.

Personally, towards the end of every year, I spend some time to set goals for the upcoming year. i strongly advocate this for other leaders as well. These goals can be for your business or your skills or both.

But again,  in order to set those forward-looking goals, I think it is very important to do your goal-setting in conjunction with some self-reflection.

Taking Time and Some Courage

I am not sure how many of you sit down and reflect over your skills and identify areas for development. Self-reflection is not an easy task, it takes time and courage to identify your weaknesses and then set some goals to overcome them.

However, it is a sign of good leadership when the leader is able to identify his weakness and is able to overcome it.

Steps Involved

To improve any skill, the first step is to be able to identify the area of improvement. You can do this on your own or otherwise talk to your trusted colleagues and ask them to help you identify areas for improvement. Self-awareness plays a good role in identifying areas for improvement and also in accepting criticism.

The second step is to identify tools and steps to overcome the identified weakness. You can talk to experts or colleagues who have had similar experience for ideas and tools to manage change.

The third step may then seem easier because you have already identified what to change and how to change it. However, honestly, it takes a lot of courage to go through the motions and actually make changes. What helps is determination to change and setting accountability. You can identify a colleague or friend or coach to keep you accountable. If you are disciplined enough, you can be self-accountable as well.

I would urge every leader to sit down and genuinely reflect on their skills. Then identify which areas they want to improve to enhance their leadership perception. And finally adhere to steps identified for improvement.

So what are your plans for self-reflection this year-end. How can you budget the time it takes to put your future goals into perspective with your past achievements? How can you do bite-sized self-reflective sessions throughout next year to help you toward excellence? i would love to hear your thoughts!


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Aditi Chopra
Aditi Chopra is an experienced leader in the software industry
She is a consultant, writer and a leader
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1 Comment

  1. Dr. Scott Simmerman on November 13, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I have a tough time DOING leadership training because I am often hard-pressed to know what it is, exactly. Can I train others if I believe that there are large gaps in my own skillset? I guess what afflicts me is pretty common amongst ALL leaders who self-reflect… But there is also the need to try to continually add skills and different approaches to one’s repertoire.

    These days, I help organizations with our team building and facilitation skills, engagement trainings. The idea is that management can make improvements in performance if they add basic communications and alignment tools to the toolkit, and that they do more “stepping back from the wagon” so that they can improve their own perspective while also gaining the active involvement of others.

    I am reminded of that old quote, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!” (yeah, read that again… (grin) )

    But can too much reflection be self-defeating? Can we get into so much analysis that real paralysis sets in? Can the fear of not being good enough or less than optimally effective actually interfere with one’s behavioral flexibility and limit considered alternatives?

    It would seem that self-reflection is but ONE of the tools that we need to use to improve personal effectiveness. And I think that the issues around trust of self and trust of others is also a key.