(10 Principles of Modern-Day Leaders Series)
The paradigm of leadership has shifted over recent decades. With multiple generations in the workplace, a globally connected world, competitive job markets, demand for work/life balance, and fast-moving changes in technology, leaders need to adapt to changes and understand how to effectively connect with those they are leading.
In this ten-part series, we layout ten principles that modern leaders can lead with to be the most effective difference makers they can be.
566 times during a workday.
We probably don’t think we do anything 566 times a day, but that’s the average amount of times a person switches tasks at work, according to author and journalist Manoush Zomorodi. From one email to the next, to grabbing our phones, to having conversations with one person after another, to getting up to stretch our legs, or to just grab some water and take a drink, we live in an age of constant moving and constant distraction.
With all this distraction, how do we make time for our own growth and development?
If what Soren Kierkegaard said is true when he wrote, “Life is lived forward but understood backwards,” how do we find time to understand our lives and our purpose?
If what John Maxwell said is true when he wrote, “Experience isn’t the best teacher – evaluated experience is,” then how do we find time to evaluate our experiences to grow and learn from them?
The answer is something great leaders in a modern world know to be true: They plan time for reflection.
On the School of Greatness with Lewis Howes podcast, Zomorodi spoke of the value of “boredom,” providing details of importance for anything where our brain isn’t focused on one particular thing and we let our minds run free. During these moments, we evaluate the highs and lows of our experiences, and we learn to understand the best way to tell our story.
Because we don’t have time to be “bored,” it’s essential that we swap boredom with planned time for reflection. Through planned reflection, we can let our minds run free, allow our creativity to flourish, ask ourselves and answer the tough questions, map our future planning, and learn more about ourselves.
Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to evaluate and appreciate our unique attributes and the value we bring into this world. If we reflect on the things we do/did well and the positive energy we share/shared, we grow our self-confidence and learn to be our best in various situations moving forward.
Two years ago, at the Global Leadership Summit, I listened to Gary Haugen (Founder & CEO of the International Justice Mission) talk about their organization’s policy for starting their mornings. Each day as workers come in, they are encouraged to sit quietly for their first 30 minutes and stare out a window or close their eyes and prayerfully reflect and examine their lives and their days ahead. The IJM’s mission is to eliminate slave trade and human trafficking around the globe. It can be difficult work and can sometimes mean putting their lives on the line and fighting for what they believe in. Their morning reflection time serves as a reminder that their faith is stronger than their fears. For those 30 minutes, they remind themselves that they are making a difference in the world. It’s a reminder that each day that they wake up, they serve their purpose and fulfill their mission for what they have been put on this earth to do.
Without planning time reflection in our agendas, we get lost and forget the sort of powerful introspection that the workers for the IJM begin with each day. Test it out for yourself by adding the following plans into your agenda:
- At the beginning and end of each day, plan 5 to 10 minutes for reflection.
- At the end of each week, plan 30 minutes for reflection.
- At the end of each month, plan 60 minutes for reflection.
- At the end of each year, plan about 4 hours for reflection. (Go through your yearly calendar and recall things you’ve accomplished and things that could be done next year.)
When reflecting, find an environment that’s best for you. Is it at home? Is it on a car or bike ride? Is it in nature? Wherever your head feels clear, that’s a good spot to begin.
Also, consider getting a journal and writing down some of your reflection thoughts. We find our best ideas when we look back on experiences. You might want to remember some of those great ideas you uncover.