I am on a roll with leadership thinking inspried by figure skating in recent posts.

Last weekend I attended a zoom meeting with leaders from skating clubs across the region. One of the coaches reflected on a difficult decision the club made to cancel their year-end carnival in advance of being required to do so by the governing body. This decision was made in response to the threat of COVID-19. One of the options under consideration was an event closed to the public.

“In hindsight – we should have held a closed event.”

Notwithstanding the merits of one decision over another, this comment really got me thinking about reflection in leadership. How can reflection promote growth for a leader?

The coach’s reflection on the past decision was focused on data, particularily the flat curve in Saskatchewan, that became available after the decision was made. Reflecting on facts that became clear in hindsight and filtering those new facts through your decision making matrix may have some benefit in refining your decision making skills, but it is of limited usefulness in advancing emotional maturity.

Emotional maturity resides on a scale from 0 at the low end to 100 at the high end. Leaders with 0 emotional maturity have not developed any sense of self and are incapable of being an individual in a group. A leader with an emotional maturity level of 100 can be a fully distinct individual within a group and neither fosters nor participates in the irresponsibility of others. The perfect leader, at an emotional maturity level of 100, exists only as a theoretical construct.

These are the characteristics of a leader at the emotional matuirty level of 90:

  1. principle oriented and goal-directed
  2. sure of beliefs and convictions but not dogmatic in his/her thinking
  3. capable of hearing and evaluating the viewpoints of others and can discard old beliefs in favor of new ones
  4. mostly unaffected by either praise or criticism and looks inward for validation
  5. responsible for self and sure of his/her responsibility to others
  6. seeks to learn within relationships rather than to gain from others
  7. able to tolerate the intense emotionality of others without sacrificing principle to accommodate immature needs

The following questions line up with the characteristics of a 90 level leader and are useful to meditate on:

  1. How well did my actions align with my principles?
  2. Did I second guess my position?
  3. Did I hold onto my position despite evidence to the contrary?
  4. How much was my position influenced by my perceived expectations of others?
  5. What am I getting out of beating myself up?
  6. Did I advance my position at the expense of another?
  7. Where did I bend to relieve my own discomfort?

Reflecting on the merits of a decision with newly obtained data has the potential to marginally increase technical decision making skills. This approach to reflection focuses on “the data” as the key resource available to the leader. By shifting focus to “maturity” as the key resource … you change the game.