Updated: Sep 9, 2022
You live in a world of unprecedented convenience. Let’s say you want to go to the theatre and watch a movie tonight. You can touch an app, check and see what’s showing, read a few reviews and buy tickets in a matter of moments. For that matter, you could change your mind, decide you don’t want to go out and decide to watch a movie on your phone. You could even share your experience with others. Why not critique the plot, post a review or text a friend while you watch?
I have never posted a movie review. I have provided some armchair analysis for friends and family regarding whether I would recommend watching, waiting or skipping. I must confess that I will typically scan a few reviews prior to investing my time and popcorn money. A good review is pretty impressive. Emotions, analysis and influence are woven together into a compelling narrative. How did the movie make me feel? What do I think about the characters, the plot and the ending? Can I persuade you to go see it? Perhaps I am intrigued by a good movie review because it embodies some of the same qualities that great leaders incorporate into thoughtful reflection about their personal and professional behaviors.
Thoughtful reflection is a leadership necessity. Think of it as a real life movie review. During your daily practice of leadership, you have your own internal multi-screen theatre that plays inside your head. Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries has described the convergence of past and present experiences, relationships and learning as the “inner theatre.” Every leader has an inner theatre. If you are serious about transformational leadership, then you should invest some time reviewing what’s playing in your inner theatre.
Your personal review can incorporate some of the same elements as a good movie review. You should consider your emotions. How are you feeling in the moment? You should explore and analyze the information available and move toward the best options available. Your next steps are not indiscriminate. Every movement is an opportunity to model authenticity and influence the lives of those who observe your actions.
“My aim is to help them see and understand that their attitudes and interactions with people are the result of a complex confluence of their inner theater (including relationships with authority figures early in life), significant life experiences, examples set by other executives, and formal leadership training.”
Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries
The Eight Archetypes of Leadership
You can improve your leadership. One of the best ways to begin the journey toward better leadership is to develop a deeper understanding of “how you lead” and “why you lead the way you lead.” Answering the following three questions requires more than a surface assessment. You need to learn to engage in thoughtful reflection on a daily basis.
What am I feeling?
Start with your emotions. A good reviewer always pays attention to feelings. When you reflect on your leadership in the midst of a particular situation, it’s important to engage your senses. Emotional intelligence connects emotions with intelligence. The road to better leadership begins with self-awareness. Why do some scenarios evoke stronger feelings in you than others? For example, if you have experienced several painful conflict situations in the past, the very idea of engaging in constructive conflict may provoke a nasty cocktail of strong emotions. Recognizing why conflict situations trigger such strong feelings provides great insight into your path toward more effective leadership. You will not be able to improve until you take note of your emotions. Such recognition yields valuable information for future development. It’s an example of how to leverage self-awareness and sharpen your leadership. Identifying your feelings is only the beginning. It’s time to ask the next question.
What am I thinking?
Sometimes you have to wait until the picture is over to see the big picture. I have had more than a few “aha” moments while the credits were rolling. In order to process what you are thinking you will need to work through your initial emotions and begin to evaluate the situation based upon the information that is available to you. If you understand what you are feeling and why you are experiencing those feelings, you may discover that more information is available than you thought.
Keep moving forward. Calm yourself and shift toward a more objective stance. It’s premature to finish a movie review based upon the tears you shed after the first scene. Take note of the tears and move toward the finer details of the story that is unfolding. Thoughtful analysis requires a bit of patience and dose of self-regulation. If you have a strong emotional response to an actual or potential conflict situation, it’s important to wait until your nostrils have ceased flaring before you finalize your assessment. You need to evaluate your emotions, but you also need to evaluate other pertinent information. Study the plot, assess the relevance of past experiences and consider the characters involved. What is the best decision? Think before you act.
How am I leading?
What does it mean to be human? It’s likely that the movies that play inside your head involve a story line that includes others. You are writing your story. Your story has many characters. Leadership is never just about you.
The past, the present and your hopes and aspirations for the future are a part of the plot that unfolds. If your purpose is clear, you will be able to move with greater intention. Your actions and reactions convey what you value in leadership. A thoughtful response will increase your ability to influence others. Otherwise integrity proves to be elusive.
When I attended seminary, I once had a professor that admonished me to conclude every message, every presentation with an imaginary vision of a person standing up and asking, “What’s the point?” It’s a fitting question for all leaders. What’s the point of your leadership? It’s a fair question. If I follow you, where will you take me? If I behave as you behave will we create a better culture? When you watch the movies that play in your inner theatre do you discern a meaningful plot that proves valuable in the lives of others? I believe every successful leadership movie is a love story. Love meaning. Love purpose. Love serving. Love sharing. Love others.
A warning about thoughtful reflection
Thoughtful reflection requires a deeper level of thought. It involves learning and unlearning. Deep changes in the way you practice leadership cannot occur without discomfort.
Thoughtful reflection feels counterintuitive when your mind is geared for action.
Thoughtful reflection feels countercultural when your world is geared for speed.
Learn to reward action and speed based upon integrity and influence and not merely movement. It’s a mistake to celebrate swift actions without pausing long enough to align the trajectory of your life with what matters most.
InitiativeOne loves helping leaders transform as they learn how to provide thoughtful responses instead of misinformed reactions.