I have earlier written about insecure leaders. Now I think I should write about other kind of leaders and about my own experiences of being led. I have to admit I´m quite fascinated about my organizations head leader´s ideas, how he thinks that reflective interaction requires good self-esteem. He says that we should not hide or forget ourselves under the constant hurry. If we forget ourselves there is a concern that we will loose our contact to ourselves. We become more drifting personalities thinking that if we fill our days with e-mails, social media or other stimulations that make us look busy, people will respect us and we become more valuable. Drift is a choise one does without decision and it may unleash consequences for which one doesn’t take responsibility. Drift might sound small, but once unleashed, drift is a powerful, often almost unstoppable, force. Are we too afraid to ask ourselves, how we are?
Reflection in relationship and in leadership has been described as a process that helps to turn experience into knowledge. To be able to be a reflective person who creates reflective atmosphere is not something we are born with, it is a learnable ability and it develops in discussions with other more advanced minds.
I have found that there are atleast three different kinds of leaderships: motivational, inspiring and reflecting one.
Motivational leader motivates you, pushes you to accomplish the tasks you are expected to do. But you might need motivation to be pushed, maybe you would rather be doing anything else. We can be motivated by result not the journey.
Inspiring leader instead pulls you towards something that stirs your heart and mind. Inspiring leaders know that the most effective way to enroll followers is to clearly articulate what the leaders believe in, why they exist, and where they are going.
A reflective leader supports employees to get the best out of themselves. They allows employees to ‘hear’ their own thoughts and to focus on what they say and feel, they encourag employees to a conversation that leads to brainstorming, changing ideas and growing. Reflective leaders shows the employees that they are trying to perceive the world as employees see it and that they are doing their best to understand their messages. A reflective leader is not afraid of their employee’s wisdom and knowledge vice versa they celebrate the brains that they have in their company, they also give the credit for the ones it belongs to.
We can be inspired by a person, an atmosphere, or surroundings. I think we have different ways to get inspired. When we are filled with inspiration we don´t need external motivation to move forward, we will move forward. People who are lacking clear vision often need external motivation to keep themselves moving forward. Motivation or inspiration is not enough. We also need reflection to be able to grow, learn more from ourselves and our underlying emotions and interpersonal behaviors.
I get inspired by good conversations, (Of course surroundings too, I´m aesthetician.) talks where I can feel comfortable, be visible as who I am. An atmosphere is created where collective aspiration can be set free and somebody is keen to learn from me as I´m from them. This demands trust, believing and respect. Good, respectful relationship engages me to expand my thinking, to increase knowledge of what I might be lacking.
Last week I had a good conversation with my leader. If I exaggerate a bit the main content of our conversation was that he was interested how I felt myself in my team and that I´m free to do what ever I want to. I underline exaggerating, but the message to me was clear: I´m trusted and respected. As a professional I know my limits and they were discussed, but the feeling of freedom inspires me to do my best.
The conversation had reflective point of view. It included self-observation and self-evaluation and as we know this will lead to better self-awareness and confidence. When you are invited to collect information about yourself and your way of working, and by analyzing and evaluating this information, it helps you to identify and explore your own practices and underlying beliefs. This will lead to changes and improvements in working. Reflective leading therefore means professional development which begins in a dialogue with the employee.
Tiny little things to do to get the best out of the employee, but so meaningful and so hard if you are lacking reflective ability. I´m very easygoing person, I´m easy to please and easy to lead, but it must be done in a transparent, honest way. I must be able to trust that purpose is genuine. It is known that low levels of reflective ability have been associated with insensitive and emotionally unresponsive behaviors (e.g., withdrawal, hostility, intrusiveness, and distorted perceptions of affective communication). Reflective ability is a mental process thought to be invoked in the interpretation of human action (i.e., the attribution of personal meaning and intention to others’ behavior).
I must say I have different experiences being lead. Of course I have, I started my career in 90s. One of my bosses on my way has become my dearest friend and an otherone is helping me on my career what ever I have decided to do, he supports me no matter how crazy ideas I get! That I call trusting!
I have also met leaders who have not taken responsibility of their behaviors and actions. When you are lead by a very insecure leader you also become insecure, the reflection tells you, that you are not good enough, not accepted nor trusted. Your purpose is doubted no matter how hard you try. The creativity is killed and you will start to drift, there is no energy to think other options.
Reflective ability reveals unsafe patterns and disrespectful ways of leadership. It helps individuals to understand that emotions influence interactions. Ability of thinking reflectively helps to clarify the cause and effects relations between underlying emotions and interpersonal behaviors. May be, if you are too torn, you have no courage to do anything for the situation. You either defer or give up and resign.
The more reflective and respectful a leader can be, the more reflective and respectful their employes will be. The more reflective leaders can be the more they can learn from the employees, because they knows they can trust the employees´ reflections. Reflective leaders motivate and inspire employees´ in powerful way because it involves personal growth.
Written by Annele Heikkilä
Photos Lia Heikkilä