Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja
October 23rd, 2012 - The famous Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said, “The final mystery is oneself.” But how do you unravel the mystery that is you? Here’s the formula:
Reflection is different from introspection. Introspection is simply looking in. Stopping there not only limits your perspective, but it can even diffuse it. In fact it can lead some to pessimism, or even depression.
The word reflect in Latin means to refold. Take the example of your reflection in the mirror. When you look in the mirror the image goes in, refolds, and comes back out. It reflects. In the same way, taking the time to reflect on circumstances, events, or experiences in your life will bring you new insights. There is no real learning process, sense of discovery, or insight without reflection.
Reflection is looking in so you can look out with a broader, bigger, and more accurate perspective.
As kids we loved going to the carnival. The fun house was particularly exciting. We’d run through the maze of mirrors, totally confused as to which way we should go. We would leave with knots on our heads and bruises on our knees from running down what we thought was a hallway into an immovable glass wall. On the way out the tiny lobby was lined with wildly curved mirrors which produced distorted images. Those mirrors made us look tall and skinny or short and fat. Our faces were totally warped: big ears, bulging eyes, large nose, and fat cheeks. Sometimes our heads were shaped like an hourglass. We laughed until we cried because we knew what we saw was distorted. It was not the real us – the authentic us.
The point? We all have an internal mirror that reflects how we see ourselves. What you see determines your behavior – often subconsciously. But these distortions are not funny! They actually minimize who you really are and what you really want. Without honest self-reflection, you can spend a lot of energy trying to find the right image to project to others.
Warren Bennis reminds us that the word authentic comes from the word author. The more authentic we become the more we are authoring our lives. As you write your story, make sure someone else isn’t holding the pen. The more authentic you become, the greater your sense of well being.
Take time to reflect. Don’t just start doing. Ease into your day slowly. Before doing, knowing, and going, settle the question of being. This won’t happen without reflection. We are quick to answer “What I Do” questions. But my identity is not what I do, or who I know, but who I am. What are my values? What do I believe in? What do I hold onto? We are human beings, not human doings.
The greatest discovery is not out there. The greatest discovery is inside you. When you identify who you are, then you can identify where you want to go, who you want to know, and what you want to do.
Whatever occurred in the past is history. There is life after failure. The game is not over. Coach Dabo Swinney of Clemson has a sign on his wall – There is nothing less important than the score at halftime.
We’ve entered the last quarter of 2012. Let’s play to win. So as you reflect (with pen and paper in hand), here are a few questions to help get you started. Pick your favorites.
Here’s a fact. Most people use their schedules to let other people set their agenda. Reflect on the preceding questions that strike you the most. Your most powerful insights will be generated through reflection without any need for additional information. Your brain already has more information than you can imagine, and reflecting will bring your best ideas to the surface.
We need less input and more inner-put. We teach what we know. We reproduce what we are.
(Mick Ukleja is a consultant, author, coach, keynote speaker and president of LeadershipTraq, a leadership consulting firm. His clients have included Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. Check his weekly blog at www.leadershiptraq.com.)