Category Archives: Reflective Leadership

Workplace Vision in Action: One Example

Employees can bring many things to the office, but workplace vision is not one of them. Vision is an element of organizational culture, and culture derives most directly from the actions and choices of leaders at all levels.

But what does it mean for a leader to instill vision in to a workplace? What does this look like in practice?

You may remember the plant manager, described in a previous post, who so eloquently linked the requirements of a new manufacturing process to the real, human impact it would have on the lives of the company’s clients.

Two years before that episode, that manager had only recently been hired, and was working to drive the new process into the plant through the rigid application of top-down authority.

Offering no real ownership of the process to employees, he faced (or more accurately, created for himself) numerous challenges.

His top-level managers voiced support only because it was politically expedient to do so. His shop workers used his “fancy” system only resentfully and avoided it in whatever ways possible.

And though a few realized the potential inherent in the new process, most awaited the day that the new manager would go away and the plant would return to “normal.”

The story could have ended in disaster, but happily did not. As time wore on the manager began honestly considering his employees’ views of himself, the effects (both intended and otherwise) of his leadership style, and his hopes and desires for the plant.

Reassessing the foundations of his approach to leadership, he began articulating in more understandable and accessible terms the passion for the work that he had had all along.

In doing so, he instilled a far deeper sense of purpose and meaning in the process he was trying to introduce. He created a vibrant vision of the future for his employees to embrace. And as he more clearly communicated and more consiously modeled this vision, he gradually won the commitment of employees from frontline staff to senior management.

Vision can be a crucial catalyst of organizational change, but it always begins at the top. Moreover, it often, perhaps always, demands the kind personal introspection — challenging and sometimes difficult — that this leader was willing to undertake.

What is my below-the-line understanding of vision and the role it plays in the workplace? How is that understanding manifested in my day-to-day choices? How do others perceive the choices I am making?

Vigilant reflection on questions such as these is key to helping your organization become more committed, enthusiastic, and vision-driven.

Capturing the Human Spirit

Many employees are cynical, apathetic, disillusioned with their work. This is a sad truth of the workplace. What is also true, though, is that none of us want to feel that way about our employment. We would all rather be motivated than unmotivated, rather be fired up about the work we do than indifferent. Given… Continue Reading

Taking Stock: Three Critical Elements

Crucial to growth as a leader is a comprehensive process of personal stock-taking, an ongoing discipline of objectively looking at our actions and beliefs and considering the effect they have on the individuals and systems around us. Though such reflection encompasses many constituent elements, three seem to be of particular importance: knowledge, choice, and perception.… Continue Reading

Perceptions, Authority, and Perceptions of Authority

Managers today often perceive relatively little hierarchical “distance” between them and their subordinates. Yes, they might shoulder certain responsibilities and make the final call in certain situations. But they generally see themselves as part of the team. That perception, though, is in many ways a consequence of the very authority they hold (and their subordinates… Continue Reading

What We Believe, What We Think We Believe (3 of 3)

The first part in this series introduced the concept of the espoused theories we consciously believe in and the theories-in-use that actually determine our choices and behavior. The second installment explored how it is not only possible, but likely for there to be differences between those two sets of theories. But what can be done… Continue Reading

What We Believe, What We Think We Believe (2 of 3)

The first part in this series introduced the idea of espoused theories and theories in use. It also raised the possibility that the principles each of us consciously support might not be what are actually shaping our behavior and decisions. But what does this look like in practice? In our consulting work we were once… Continue Reading

What We Believe, What We Think We Believe (1 of 3)

Assessing minute-by-minute choices is a key aspect of the discipline of reflective leadership. But building a true picture of how we act turns out to be surprisingly difficult. Part of the difficulty stems from the way we think about our behavior. We all act in accordance with mental “maps” of what we believe to be… Continue Reading

The Wake of Leadership

Employee ownership, commitment, loyalty and initiative are key to any outstanding organization.  But astute leaders know that such qualities are too important to be left to chance. They must be woven into the fabric of workplace functioning. They must, in other words, be made a part of organizational culture. Take a moment to think about… Continue Reading

Guest Blog: Involvement and the Thinking and Judgement of Others

I have recently been using the Hanging the Mirror: The Discipline of Reflective Leadership in my leadership coaching and consulting work. After reading the book at my suggestion, a leader in one of my client organizations had the self-awareness and courage to tell me that he believed he was doing a poor job in the… Continue Reading

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