Reflecting on your leadership journey

For this exercise, set aside an hour of time where you can be free from interruption and distraction. Take out a few sheets of paper (or open a document file) and spend some time reflecting on your roles and actions as a leader. In the next lesson, you will use these reflections as a basis for a personal leadership plan. Here are some prompts to help you reflect on your leadership journey:

  1. Role: In what ways are you a leader? In your firm? In your community? In your home? Who looks to you as leader? Are there ways you are a leader in a formal/positional role as well as in an informal/mentor role?
  2. Challenge: What are the challenges you face as a leader now? In what areas do you pay attention to in regards to your role as a leader?
  3. Which of the topics covered in this course resonated the most with you? Where do you need to spend some time and effort improving your leadership skills?
  4. Which areas of leadership might you benefit from more feedback? Who might you engage to give you SBI feedback to help you improve your leadership effectiveness?
  5. What are some of your leadership strengths? Weaknesses? How might you maximize your strengths? How might you improve your weaknesses?
  6. Have you received feedback from others that might illuminate a leadership skill to develop or practice more frequently?
  7. Whom on your team should you be developing now? How will you do that?
  8. Who has helped your leadership journey? How are you different because of them? Have you told them?
  9. In a general sense, how do you want to improve as a leader, and how will you do that?

Some people prefer more specific ideas on how to improve as a leader. Here is a model developed by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in the book, The Leadership Challenge. Kouzes and Posner describe five practices of leadership, with several behaviors for each practice. One a scale from one (not very often) to ten (very often), how would you rank yourself on the frequency and effectiveness of these leadership behaviors? Given your leadership challenge, which practices and behaviors would have the most impact on your leadership?

Model the Way
– Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared values
– Sets the example by aligning actions with shared values

  • Sets a personal example of what she/he expects of others
  • Makes certain that people adhere to the principles and standards that have been agreed upon
  • Follows through on promises and commitments she/he makes
  • Asks for feedback on how her/his actions affect other people’s performances
  • Builds consensus around a common set of values for running an organization
  • Is clear about her/his philosophy of leadership

Inspire a Shared Vision
– Envision a future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities
– Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations

  • Talks about future trends that will influence how our work gets done
  • Describes a compelling image of what our future could be like
  • Appeals to others to share dream of the future
  • Shows others how their long-term interests can be realized by enlisting in a common vision
  • Paints the “big picture” of what we aspire to accomplish
  • Speaks with genuine conviction about the higher meaning and purpose of work

Challenge the Process
– Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve
– Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience

  • Seeks out challenging opportunities that test her/his own skills and abilities
  • Challenges people to try out new and innovative ways to do their work
  • Actively searches for innovative ways to improve what we do
  • Asks, “What can we learn?” when things don’t go as expected
  • Identifies measurable milestones that keep projects moving forward
  • Takes initiative in anticipating and responding to change

Enabling Others to Act
– Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships
– Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence

  • Develops cooperative relationships among the people she/he works with
  • Actively listens to diverse points of view
  • Treats people with dignity and respect
  • Involves people in the decisions that directly impact their job performance
  • Gives people a great deal of freedom and choice in deciding how to do their work
  • Ensures that people grow in their jobs by learning new skills and developing themselves

Encouraging the Heart
– Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence
– Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community

  • Praises people for a job well done
  • Makes it a point to let people know about her/his confidence in their abilities
  • Makes sure that people are creatively recognized for their contributions to the success of projects
  • Publicly recognizes people who exemplify commitment to shared values
  • Tells stories of encouragement about the good work of others
  • Gets personally involved in recognizing people and celebrating accomplishments

Source: The Leadership Challenge (Kouzes/Posner)