A Leader’s Most Important Discipline

Posted: August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet and hear Harry Kraemer speak at a leadership conference.  Harry is the former CEO of Baxter Healthcare and currently is a Clinical Professor of Management and Leadership at Kellogg School of Management.

Harry spoke about his new book, From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, April 2010).  Harry believes there are four essential principles of values-based leadership.

  1.  Self-Reflection: The ability to reflect and identify what you stand for, what your values are, and what matters most.
  2.  Balance: The ability to see situations from multiple perspectives, including differing viewpoints, to gain a holistic understanding.
  3.  True Self-Confidence: More than mastery of certain skills, true self-confidence enables you to accept yourself as you are, recognizing your strengths and your weaknesses, and focusing on continuous improvement.
  4.  Genuine Humility: The ability never to forget who you are, to appreciate the value of each person in the organization, and to treat everyone respectfully.

The principle that really stuck with me was the first, self-reflection.  I also believe it is critical to take time to reflect every day.  One of the rituals I have is to take 5 minutes at the end of the day before I read prior to going to sleep to ask myself three important questions.

My reflection questions are:

  •  What’s right in my life?
  • What did I do well today?
  • What do I feel grateful for?

In his presentation, Harry provided five reflection questions that he uses on a daily basis.  Harry’s reflection questions are:

  • What did I plan to do?
  • What did I do?
  • What am I proud of?
  • What am I not proud of?
  • What can I do better tomorrow?

Whatever reflection questions you may ask yourself, the bottom line is that daily self-reflection helps us determine what is important and what is not.  Being thoughtful through self-reflection allow us to get laser focused on our priorities, values and ethical boundaries.  We can develop a reputation as a mindful, “explicit” decision maker, someone who carefully weighs all the considerations and consequences that come with difficult decisions.

Self-reflection helps leaders determine their priorities and answer the question, “What should we be doing?”  Self-reflection requires silence. We should find a quiet place and take time to think. I challenge us all to find some time to be quiet and execute a discipline that will pay itself back tenfold.

Until next time, leaders develop daily not in a day!

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