It’s Lonely at the Top
Why Self-Reflection is a leader’s self-preservation
I’ve spoken in the past about self-reflection and the critical role it plays in a leader’s success as the rise through the ranks of an organization. Too often, we are to reliant on others to help fill the need to converse about a problem or a topic of concern. Engaging others not at your level in the organization becomes riskier the more powerful your role is.
As an example, a recently appointed police chief or elected sheriff will find the job particularly lonely at first. Friends from lower ranks within the organization will assume nothing has changed in their relationship with the new chief executive, and yet, everything has changed. Nearly every conversation you’ve had to that point and every conversation you have from that point on could cause tremendous internal conflict within the organization. A simple conversation you had with that sergeant three weeks ago about a policy recommendation now becomes a potential expectation for implementation of that policy whether you are ready as the chief executive to do it or not.
When I talk about self-reflection as a leader, it is to truly take the time on a regular basis to assess the conversations you’ve had with people. What went well or not in those conversations and to take time to think through how to improve for next time. Self-reflection is NOT a touchy-feely-middle-school-girl-diary exercise, it is a true, honest reflection of how you are doing. Remember, the higher in the organization you go, the fewer the people with whom you can commiserate about things. I dare say by the time most are at the command staff level, you better have a successful process in place to self-reflect and self-heal.
Many times, we want to vent at a co-worker about what so and so did today, but many times that is the absolute worst thing you can do to help yourself professionally and personally to grow. Find what works for you. What has worked for me is journaling. Actually, taking the time to write down the events of the day that impacted my leadership – both good and bad has helped me to process what transpired and to see the significance or insignificance of it without involving other people in the organization. Some go for a vigorous workout and think through the day’s problems, and I’ve done that too. Getting the adrenaline flowing can help process negative events of the day. Others, prefer to have time for quiet reflection whether it be in meditation or prayer. Whatever works for you as a leader is what you need to do. Learn to cope on your own. Understand that there is a reason for the saying “It’s lonely at the top.”
The point is do something. Learning early in your career that a process to self-reflect and self-heal is more important to your personal and professional growth as a leader than joining the gripe session at the office water cooler. Remember, the coworkers you confide in today, may be your supervisor or your subordinate tomorrow. Act like a leader today.
You can gain a more in depth understanding of self-reflection by taking my Intentional Leadership: Leading with a Purpose class. Check our website for upcoming class locations. Email Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org about the blog. Questions about the class email Kelle Corvin at email@example.com