The Reflective Leader

It’s guest post Monday! This is a guest post by Joseph Lalonde. He is a youth leader and leadership blogger at JMLalonde.com. Joseph shares leadership tools and encourages you to become a better leader. With him on Twitter or at his blog. If you would like to have a post featured on my site then click here. 

Leaders lives are filled with so much motion and energy. We’re always moving forward. Pushing away the past. Looking for the next great insight.

And yet we’re missing a key piece to leadership. The key is reflection.

Looking back on where we’ve come from. Seeing the trials we’ve faced. Marveling at the mountains we’ve climbed.

They’re there! And you’ve accomplished much.

This is why we need to become reflective leaders.

Let’s focus on three ways that reflection can make us better leaders.

  • Reflection shows us how much we’ve grown: As we grow, it’s easy to forget how little we once knew. I’m reminded of this every time I visit a school and have to visit the bathroom. When I was younger, I remember the school bathroom being very big. Yet when I enter one now, it’s amazing how small and low the toilets are.When you reflect on where you’ve come from, you’ll realize much the same. You started out small and you’re further along than you thought. There’s been growth here, there, and everywhere.
  • Reflection boosts our confidence:  Looking back at the challenges we face can be the biggest boost we ever get. More than compliments from friends, audience members, or our peers.Viewing the ruins of our challenges and the success we have helps push us forward. You’re able to revisit success and know that you’ve accomplished it once before. You can do it again!
  • Reflection can show you where you’re going: You may be asking yourself “How does reflection show me where I’m going?” It’s there, you have to look for it though.Looking at the past shows the path you’ve taken. You can see the twists and turns. You see the paths that once looked cloudy are now clear.During this time of reflection, focus on how those cloudy paths became clear. It was by taking step after step until you could see further ahead. The more you progressed, the clearer the path became. Use this to look forward.

We must become leaders who reflect on the past so we can shine brightly in the future. The more we remember the great moments in the past, the greater our confidence will become. The more growth we’ll realize. The clearer our path will be in the future.

Begin the process of reflection.

Take time today to  write down where you started. Write down some of your past challenges and how you overcame them. Write down where you’re going.

Keep them fresh in your mind as you move forward. Let them be a light for you as you enter troubled times in your leadership. You’ll need the reminders at some point in your leadership.

Question: What have you learned from reflecting on your past?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Reflection is essential to fully grasp, absorb and be able to utilize the important life lessons that we experience. Thank you both for sharing this!

    • You’re welcome Chris. Glad you enjoyed my thoughts on the subject. How do you reflect on the lessons life teaches you?

  • DS

    When I reflect, I normally get a boost of encouragement. It reminds me of what challenges, obstacles, and issues that have been overcome.

    Reflecting also allows the opportunity to think about “growing” experiences.

    Most importantly when I reflect, it allows me to see God’s hand in my life more easily than while in the midst of the events.

    • That’s great DS. It’s great to see where we’ve come from and how far we’ve grown.

    • Reflecting on God’s grace and mercy in our life is always good and encouraging. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Joseph, reflecting does show how much we’ve grown in many areas. Your example of visiting your school reminds me of a similar experience. After years being away from one of the town I used to live, I went back to visit. There was a wall between the home I lived and the neighbors home. I remember the wall going over my head. When I went back after so many years, the wall was barely waist height. I know that I have grown in many areas. I use to be fearful of confrontation because I didn’t want upset anyone. Now I am bold, courageous, and stick to the facts humbly. Great post.

    • Wow, that’s crazy Juan. Another great example of how time and growth changes things.

  • I’m busy writing my ministry report for 2012. In the past I always looked at these reports as something I “have to to do” and begrudgingly did them just to get them out of the way. About 2 years ago I decided to change how I looked and them and instead make them a time of reflection. I’m glad I did that. I find it very helpful to look back and see everything God has done and how he has used me in the process.

    Joseph, do have a regular time, place for reflection? Any thoughts on how often?

    • Caleb, our perspective can make all the difference. Glad you were able to shift out of the “have to” mindset.

      I try to reflect multiple times throughout the year. I make plans to have a time of major reflection at the end of the year and mini times of reflection at the end of each month. This helps me keep new information in mind and to see where I need to course correct. As for how often others should do it, I would say at least every two months.

  • Great insights on reflection, Joe. As one who has kept a journal for years, written songs, poems, and now books, reflection is a major part of that creativity. We can learn much about ourselves, our past, and our leadership qualities and abilities through reflection.

    • That’s great you keep journals. I’m sure there’s tons of great insights and knowledge contained in your journals. How often do you review them?

      • I don’t go back through them real often, and blogging and writing have taken a stronger role than journaling in the past year or two. Occasionally, I will look through them and have found tidbits of information that I can use at a present moment.

  • I think writing is a natural way to reflect. And wisdom comes from living and remembering the things we learned along the way. In reflection, I can’t help but see the mighty and sovereign hand of God in my life and all the world. That gives me the hope we all have in Him and the future.

    • You’re right Floyd. Writing helps to capture the thoughts and imprint them on our minds.

  • I take regular times of reelection in my life. It’s so key for me to see how far God has brought me, how he has answered prayers or fulfilled promises he has given me. It’s why I blog and journal – getting my thoughts out (blogging) and reminding myself of all God has done (journaling).

    • Awesome Jason. Glad you’ve already been taking the steps to reflect and record what’s happening in your life.

    • That’s great your intentional about it. Thanks for sharing.

  • When we master a skill, we typically forget where we’ve come from. In my current job, so many people have told me that they wouldn’t want to do it because it’s too difficult. To me, it has become like breathing – I barely remember how I struggled when I first started. It’s when I stop and teach someone else my job that I remember, “Wow, there are a ton of details involved in this process.”

    • Exactly Chris. Without the reflection, it seems like everything’s come easy as we can forget the struggle once we’ve won the fight.

  • Great reminder man. Reflecting on any part of life is important for growth. We have to remember where we’ve been so we don’t repeat mistakes and so we can repeat the things that did work.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Jared. Our past is a great reminder of where we’ve come from and, possibly, where we don’t want to return. Forgetting that can see many repeated mistakes.

    • So true Jared.

  • Reflection on the past to learn and appreciate is a good thing. Dwelling on the past to avoid the present or the future isn’t such a good thing. I have definitely learned or been reminded of God’s faithfulness in my life as I reflect on the past.

    • That’s an excellent observation Jon. Our reflection has to be focused and on purpose. If we lose sight of that, we can begin to throw pity parties.

  • Hey, I know this guy :) It’s so easy to always be in a rush, moving from project to project, this to that. Over the last week I’ve spent some time in the morning reflecting on the blessing this past year was, it was refreshing and brought a smile to my face. Thinking of traveling to foreign countries to speak was truly of the Lord, I couldn’t have done it. This is the takeaway, after reflecting I got a shot of motivation and inspiration, I have been hitting the Internet hard lining up speaking for this year. By reflecting I’ve also learned from my successes and failures, this post is right on.

    • Glad you got time to reflect on your recent year Kimanzi. Watching you grow and excel has been a pleasure. You’ve done some amazing things in your life and I look forward to where it goes from here.

  • what an insightful post Joe I love the three points. Reflection reminds me that God is faithful. Reminds me to keep a “this too shall pass” mindset in difficult situations. Also “I can do this” attitude. Thanks for sharing.

    • That’s a great mindset to have Ngina. Thank you for sharing.

    • Awesome Ngina. Reflection sure helps with all of those things!

  • I’m with you, Joe! Awesome points. My wife and I had a bit of a reflection/review session at the end of the year and it’s really helped us start off this year on the right foot.

    • That’s a great thing to do Stephen. I’m sure it allowed you both to connect and strengthen your marriage. Taking time to reflect with our spouse should be something we are all intentional about doing. Thank you for sharing that point.

    • Great to hear Stephen. It’s always good to start the year right!

  • I’ve found tremendous benefit from just taking a little time to think. It helps us pull ourselves above the fray of the busyness and regain our center.

    • I totally agree. Great things happen when we take time to think. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • Yup, it helps us refocus and gain the clarity we need. Good job Loren!

  • Great post, I reflect by writing down in my journal what happened that day. I also have a time of family reflection for a few minutes at the dinner table. I try to get this in as frequent as possible. It may not always go as planned but I try to make this a priority. I’ve learned that any mistake you make can be corrected by reflecting.

    • DS

      A journal is a great way for me to work through my thoughts about a ton of items. A family time around the table is awesome!

    • That’s a great way to reflect and record our experiences. I’m sure having a reflection time with your family is powerful! It would be wise for everyone to do a similar thing. Thank you for adding value to the discussion.

    • Family time reflection sounds like an intriguing idea. How did you see this as a routine?

      • As families get busier with mobile devices, TV all the distractions I felt sitting down and talking about our daily experiences and what changes we wanted to make for the next day became a routine for us. No need to add it to our calendar because its the norm in my little 3 person family. So its become a routine that we stay consistent with.

  • I was recently telling my wife how that I don’t really feel older than when I was in college, but as I look back, I realize how much God has done in my life to create change. I don’t feel more wise, but I have gained wisdom. I don’t feel like I have a great ability to mentor, but I do. What I feel and what is reality are two different things.

    Reflection allows me to assimilate what has happened so that I can utilize those growths for maximum effectiveness.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Great perspective on reflecting! It can some times be difficult to see the growth that has happened in our life. It’s why reflecting and taking time to think about the change God has brought so important. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

    • Love the insight Matt. It’s all the little things that add up slowly that we miss over time. Reflection helps you keep this in mind.

  • Great post! I think we should always reflect. It really helps you see how much you have grown. Good to see you guest posting over here!

    • I agree, it’s essential to reflect and see how much we have grown. Joe wrote a wonderful guest post for this site.

    • Thanks Brandon.

  • Reminds me of the phrase, “hind sights 20/20″.

    Lately I have been looking in the past and seeing how much I’ve grown and how far I still have to go. God has been so good, He has lead me and my family through some tough times. Reflecting on His goodness and faithfulness helps me persevere when times get tough.

    Great post, really enjoyed it!

    • That’s great to hear. It’s amazing how hard those tough times are and to look back after we have gone through them to see God’s hand in the middle of everything. Glad you enjoyed the post:) Thanks for sharing.

    • Great point TC. If hindsight is 20/20, why aren’t we using it more in our current situations? We should be using it to learn and grow from our mistakes.

  • From reflection I have learned that past experiences and circumstances can shape who you become in the present but they don’t have to determine your future. Reflection as a habit is a good way to keep track of the day. This is a great post. Thanks for the reminder Joseph and Dan.

    • Great thoughts about reflection. I’m getting into the habit of reflecting from the day before going to bed each night. Taking a few minutes to do this really helps me process the day. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • That’s awesome Jep. It’s always encouraging to see that the direction you can take doesn’t have to be the one you were on at one point.

  • Dave Arnold

    Great post, Joe. At the start of every New Year, I look back over my journal to see how I’ve grown, what I’ve learned, etc. It helps me so much get a bigger picture of what God is doing in my life. Relection is so important to me; thus my blog is called Reflections From The Alley. :)

    • Reflecting over the past year is so valuable. It allows us to better prepare and plan for the next year. I love your blog name:) Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks Dave. Journaling is such an amazing tool to reflect and see where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

  • I often take the long way to work (only have a three minute commute) just to get some reflection time…for me, best thoughts of the day on how to tackle current challenges come from this time. Thinking of how I have handled things in the past – like what career decisions haven’t turned out as planned – has helped me to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

    • Driving time is a great way to reflect and think. I do a lot of my reflecting and thinking during my commute which is between 30-45 minutes each way. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

    • That’s a short commute Tom! Glad you’re using it to help focus on things that matter.

      • I know Joe, I’m kind of jealous:)