Self-Leadership: Reflexive learner to reflexive leader and a career in the driver's seat

You can't drive your career without knowing yourself and how you may be impacting your opportunities

Published: Jul 27, 2018

g_107857_leadership_280x210.jpgTransformative way of learning and being teaches leaders to be agile and to build a career from the driver’s seat. 
Image: Shutterstock


In the classroom, both fledgling managers-of-the-future and Executive participants with decades of experience are taken aback when they enter into the stance of reflexivity. Out with top-down learning and in with personal transformation! A reflexive stance requires a profound investigation of one’s emotions, thoughts, behaviours, expectations, assumptions, personal strengths and personal barriers to success in their career paths as a leader (or a future leader). Having done so, the leader can then start doing things differently. They can begin to make informed and courageous career choices in line with their true desires, values, goals and emotions. This transformative way of learning and being teaches leaders to be agile and to build a career from the driver’s seat. Let’s look at a two examples of how a reflexive stance can help leaders move their careers forward:

From a business student perspective, two of the most common self-limiting barriers I see in the classroom are: 1) leaders are born; and, 2) introverts cannot be leaders (maybe somebody should have mentioned this to Gandhi). Through an inductive pedagogy, students are required to enter into self-dialogue and intense personal investigation as outlined above. They are challenged with new information, counter-evidence, shared experiences of every participant and by the end of the 30-hour course I hear testimony of how perceptions have changed and students are now authorizing themselves to try out a leadership role in their next group or association. The same goes for corporate clients and executive education participants, although they’ve already tried on and have been succeeding with their leadership hat on.

Louis, an executive education participant with 5-years mid-level management under his belt, knew he wanted a change of career path, going from a manager in IT to “something else”. By challenging himself through the personal reflection and questioning he was able to start clarifying what he didn’t want to do anymore (he felt as though he were dying a slow and painful death by routine) and what he did want – think Ray Donovan but more refined – a fixer of sorts minus the blood bath and shady ethics. He was able to articulate that he thrives in a crisis environment, keeping a level head and getting things done. But still, he was stuck on the way forward. Already we could see his real question wasn’t “what is my dream job?” (he already has a pretty good idea) but what he was lacking was information and resources. How does one become a crisis management expert whether for politicians, movie stars or just people who tend to get into predicaments? What other skills are needed? His real question and one that could allow him to move forward in his career is “How do I gain as much information about this next career so that I can make an informed choice and also start creating opportunities.” Now Louis is able to create a precise and actionable plan to move toward his new path.

You can’t come up with solutions unless you first come up with the right question. And you can’t drive your career without knowing yourself and how you may be impacting your opportunities. And that’s where a transformative learning style can take you exactly where you most need to go in your career, in your workplace and personally. Reflective learners and leaders are able to make informed career choices; make courageous changes; engage in continuous development and the understanding of one’s impact on the outcomes of projects and on relationships, or career opportunities; and, help remove the barriers to their own success and career progression.

As a leader you may already practice reflection and questioning. Perhaps it comes naturally to you or, you’ve been taught the art of critical reflection, followed by appropriate action and have been practicing it already. No matter where you fall in the skill of self-reflection and taking action, it is a skill that can be learned and can become a newly found super muscle.

- By Nicolle Browne-Jamet, M.Ed Leadership and Managerial Competencies Chaire, EDHEC Business School

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