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A Reflection on Leadership based on my experience with the LEADER Project

Nov 2, 2012

A Reflection on Leadership based on my experience with the LEADER Project

Leadership is a quality that's innate in me. Whether it was in the playground at pre-school, the soccer-field growing up, student council in high school or various teams I am involved in at Ivey, a common theme has been my desire and willingness to lead. For a long time I thought this was because I enjoyed being in a position of control, a position of influence where I could shape the direction of a particular project or initiative. To some extent, this was the case; but I only recently realized that it was the desire to have an impact that I love most about being a leader. In fact, the ability to make an impact is how I would define leadership. Often times, leadership is seen as a title, a position that one is chosen for or given to make decisions and lead a group of people. These individuals are leaders, of course, as they're able to make significant impact on a large group of people; but we forget that leaders are everywhere in our society and more often than not they are leaders in an unorthodox sense. Whether they are artists, teachers, or musicians, many of them make an impact on their communities and those who choose to do so intentionally are leaders in their own right.

Danish Ajmeri

This is not to say that everyone can be a leader. I believe there are certain personality traits, skillsets and motivations that need to be present for effective leadership to take place. However, I believe leadership is a means to generating impact and I believe there are numerous individuals out there who do this on a daily basis who we would never consider as being leaders in the traditional sense of the word.

My LEADER experience has been paramount to me redefining my definition of leadership. I have personally been very fortunate to have had formal opportunities to develop my leadership skills and be provided with opportunities to exhibit it as well. This has given me tremendous exposure to new opportunities and only accelerated my growth as a leader. However, after visiting Russia I realized that such opportunities are unheard of in their communities. They don't have student councils, leadership institutes, summer enrichment programs or entrepreneurship incubators. These were all formal institutions that allowed me to practice and develop my leadership skills. This begged the question: is there a lack of leaders in Russia? Absolutely not. Many of the students I had a chance to work with were budding entrepreneurs with ambitious goals for solving critical problems in their communities. Several of them had already pursued various community service projects and some even had international experiences which they sought out on their own.

One student in our class, Julia, was particularly inspirational. She came from a very low-income family and was financing her tuition by founding an adventure sports startup. Specifically, she had partnered with a hot-air balloon pilot and began offering excursions to individuals in the nearby city of Samara. This was a brand new offering unbeknownst to a region that attracted little to no tourists. Despite this seemingly massive hurdle, Julia persevered with her vision and successfully ran this business over the course of the last two years. Since then, she has expanded their offerings to include mountain biking and hiking tours as well. This just goes to show the determination and commitment she made to her education and creating a service that genuinely added value in a unique way for her community. Julia didn't have mentors, venture capitalists or incubators to help guide her through this process. She did her own research, invested the little capital that she could afford and courage to take on this enormous challenge. Julia is a true leader.

Despite a lack of formal infrastructure in place to foster leaders in the traditional sense, many students were still forging their own ways of making an impact. This is what leadership is all about. I'm extremely fortunate and grateful for having the opportunity to experience this first hand. It inspires me to know that youth all around the world embody a passion for change, a desire to lead and a commitment to making an impact. LEADER is a phenomenal initiative that is supporting this dream and opening doors that otherwise may never have opened - for our students, the entrepreneurs, and for us, the LEADERites.

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reflective essay on leadership competencies

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The Importance of Reflective Leadership in Business

Business leader speaking to three members of their team, who are seated at a table with laptops

  • 05 Sep 2023

Effective leadership is essential to business success. As an organizational leader , you not only guide decision-making but create your company’s culture, retain its talent, and move it toward bigger, better things.

Your leadership style —the behavioral patterns consistent across your decision-making—influences your impact on your organization and team. One of the most beneficial styles to adopt is reflective leadership.

If you want to learn more about reflective leadership’s role in business, here’s an overview of its components, why it’s effective, and how to become a reflective leader.

Access your free e-book today.

What Is Reflective Leadership?

Reflective leadership involves self-awareness, introspection, and continuous learning and growth to make better decisions, enhance leadership skills , and improve team performance .

“Reflective leadership requires the continuous practice of reflection over time,” says Harvard Business School Professor Nien-hê Hsieh in the online course Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “This allows you to regularly examine and re-evaluate your decisions and responsibilities to practice, broaden, and deepen your skills, and to apply this knowledge when analyzing present situations.”

Reflective leadership also enables you to help your team grow.

“Reflective leadership is about helping others on your team or in your organization,” Hsieh says. “It’s about helping them develop their own skills in awareness, judgment, and action.”

In Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability , Hsieh delves into the reflective leadership model , a framework for conceptualizing your responsibilities as an ethical leader.

The Reflective Leadership Model

The model has four components:

  • Awareness: Recognize your legal, economic, and ethical responsibilities to stakeholders.
  • Judgment: Consider biases and shared concepts that influence your decision-making.
  • Action: Act on your decisions in an accountable, consistent way.
  • Reflection: Reflect on all three components throughout the process to learn from past experiences.

“The reflective leadership model involves not only reflection on business decisions but also continuous reflection on your own personal beliefs, goals, and commitments,” Hsieh says in the course. “These aspects of self are often significant influences on your decisions and internal guides when navigating difficult situations.”

The Importance of Reflective Leadership

Before diving into the importance of reflective leadership, it’s critical to note the pitfalls of being an inadequate leader.

According to recruitment services company Zippia , 79 percent of employees leave their companies because they don’t feel appreciated by leaders, and upwards of 69 percent believe they’d work harder if recognized. In addition, only 33 percent report feeling engaged in the workplace.

Companies also lack focus on leadership development. Zippia reports that 77 percent struggle to find and develop leaders, and only five percent implement leadership development at all levels.

Since reflective leadership focuses on continuously improving and developing, it’s one of the more effective leadership styles. By regularly reflecting on your beliefs and values and incorporating them into your actions, you can make ethical decisions and enable your company to be more purpose-driven .

“Along with responsibility, leadership brings opportunities,” Hsieh explains in Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “These include opportunities to make ethical decisions where someone else wouldn’t, to influence others to do the right thing, and to make a positive impact on the world.”

Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability | Develop a toolkit for making tough leadership decisions| Learn More

Reflective leadership also helps you build authentic, supportive relationships with team members and create a workplace of ethics and accountability .

If you want to adopt a reflective leadership style, here are the competencies to develop.

How to Become a Reflective Leader

Be self-reflective.

Self-reflection is at reflective leadership’s core. According to Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability , you can practice self-reflection by:

  • Reviewing, analyzing, and evaluating your decisions—in the moment and over time.
  • Continuously deepening your awareness and self-knowledge.
  • Developing a general framework for judgment.
  • Improving your capacity for action and leadership.

Leading with self-reflection won’t just help you learn from past experiences but also encourage and enable your team members to adopt reflective mentalities.

Identify Your Commitments

Knowing your commitments is also essential to effective leadership.

“It’s important to identify and define your own commitments,” Hsieh says in Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability , “both to set a baseline for what you will and won’t do and to evaluate and clarify your thoughts, opinions, and feelings when making decisions.”

To create that baseline, Hsieh recommends asking the following questions:

  • What’s core to my identity?
  • What lines or boundaries won’t I cross?
  • What kind of life do I want to live?
  • What kind of leader do I want to be?

By identifying your commitments, you can better guide yourself and your team.

Consider Your Accountability

Becoming a reflective leader also requires accountability to successfully execute on your values and implement them into action plans.

This refers to the reflective leadership model’s “action” step—putting your decisions into practice in a way that’s accountable and consistent with your responsibilities.

“When leading reflectively, straightforward action planning may not be enough,” Hsieh says in Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “An accountable leader will go beyond just answering ‘How will we do it?’ to ask ‘How can I do it accountably?’”

How to Become a More Effective Leader | Access Your Free E-Book | Download Now

Reflective Leadership Training for Businesses

By incorporating your values into your leadership style, you can learn from your experiences on a deeper level and develop into a better leader.

One way to gain the skills and frameworks to succeed long term is by taking an online course, such as Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . Through a dynamic, interactive learning experience, the course provides the opportunity to apply the reflective leadership model to real-world business ethics challenges.

Are you ready to become a reflective leader? Apply to Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability —one of our online leadership and management courses —and download our free e-book on effective leadership.

reflective essay on leadership competencies

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A guest post from Sadhana Hall , an instructor for the YALI Network Online Courses , including lessons on “ Networking to Get Ahead ,” “ Creating and Managing a Team ” and “ Setting and Achieving Goals .”

I am fortunate to reflect on leadership and management concepts regularly, but not because these ideas are necessarily “new.” Many leadership concepts may be simple, but they are not just “common sense”; if that were the case, why don’t we see them being practiced more frequently? In my experience, I’ve found that great leadership requires intentional reflection on key concepts; here are a few that are important to me.

Effective management and leadership begins with being self-aware . This simply means that you need to work hard to intimately understand your strengths and weaknesses, model ways in which your values are congruent with your behavior, and develop a culture of respect for yourself and for others on your team. Recently, a new employee said to me: “Although I already had a strong sense of my core values before joining this organization, working here has pushed me to practice a higher level of professionalism. Our organization’s culture doesn’t just teach leadership to our students, but expects faculty and staff to model what leadership actually looks like on a daily basis. We are responsible for an array of excellent courses, effective programs, and skill-building events, but the most personally rewarding aspect of my work is participating in an internal culture that is congruent with our external message.” Explicit and implicit in this employee’s observation is the way in which our team practices shared management and leadership with awareness and authenticity.

Consider also what integrity means to you as a manager or a leader and why it matters. Integrity has been defined and described in many ways, but there is one idea that has stuck with me: A person’s integrity is a matter of the value of his or her word, nothing more and nothing less. If you keep your word for every task, large or small, people will naturally trust you with more complex responsibilities. Responsibility and trust create credibility, which then makes the conditions ripe for leading people towards achieving common goals. This is how your organization and your role within it can grow. So consider developing a habit of keeping your word — to yourself and to others. I know from personal experience that this is not an easy thing to do all the time. If you break your word — to yourself or to another person — apologize and figure out a way to fix the problem you might have created by breaking your word.

Finally, as a leader, pay attention to self-care . Taking care of your team starts with taking care of yourself. Understand your limits and what you can reasonably accomplish in a finite period of time. Identify tasks only you can accomplish and delegate other tasks in ways that will engage your team members and encourage their development.

These are my reflections on self-awareness, integrity, and self-care. What do these concepts mean to you?

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  • James K Stoller
  • Education Institute , Cleveland Clinic , Cleveland , OH , USA
  • Correspondence to Dr James K Stoller, Education, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA; STOLLEJ{at}ccf.org


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  • medical leadership
  • healthcare planning

The COVID-19 pandemic, even as we are in its early phase, invites reflection on best leadership practices. As hospitals and providers pivot to respond, the pandemic spotlights leadership in healthcare. What is working as we all collectively combat this global viral scourge? The impetus to analyse leadership practices especially now comes from the adage that ‘a crisis is a terrible thing to waste’. 1 The danger of COVID-19 is self-evident and is already all too apparent around the world. At this writing today (1 April 2020), 873 008 individuals have been infected worldwide and 43 275 have died. 2 In addition to the scientific opportunities to better understand the virus, its epidemiology, and strategies to prevent and cure COVID-19 disease, there is a clear opportunity to reflect on how to lead in healthcare through a crisis, to catalogue best practices, and to cascade these leadership practices broadly.

Even as we are in approaching the surge of the pandemic—in my community, on day 10 of a modelled course that predicts a surge approximately 40 days from now, there are already many lessons on leadership—extraordinary actions from ‘big L’ leaders—those with titled organisational responsibility as well as from ‘little l’ leaders—individuals without formal leadership titles whose leadership emerges organically. Indeed, a crisis such as this tests available models and hypotheses about leadership.

In cataloguing some best practices that I have witnessed at my institution—the Cleveland Clinic, I will try to articulate these practices and frame them through the lens of extant leadership models. The model by Kouzes and Posner 3 of five leadership commitments—challenging the process, inspiring a shared vision, enabling others to act, modelling the way and encouraging the heart—provides an especially opportune taxonomy. What follows, then, is a catalogue of leadership practices, an annotation of each with specific examples, and a reflection of how these specific behaviours invoke or challenge existing leadership concepts.

Be proactive

Proactivity—anticipating events with contingency plans—has been a critical leadership competency in the coronavirus pandemic. Two kinds of proactivity seem evident—proactivity before the crisis hits and proactivity once the crisis is under way. Indeed, the critical relevance of proactivity has been evident both in its presence and in it is absence. The urgent need to catch up on testing capability in the USA and the potential insufficiency of the supply of personal protective equipment provide examples of the consequences of inaction.

Proactivity during the crisis regards real-time, dynamic modelling. Based on the expected events, what is the challenge that will materialise tomorrow, next week and next month? From the earliest signal of disease, laboratory medicine colleagues at my institution were developing testing capability for COVID-19. The result is that as of 20 March 2020, roughly two-thirds of all the positive tests in the US state of Ohio were performed at my institution, where local testing capability was developed early. As another example, medical students, respiratory therapists, intensivists and biomedical engineering colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic are currently advancing designs for a rapid production ventilator in anticipation of a need for ventilators that will exceed supply should a surge occur. Also, in the spirit of ‘little l’ leadership that can be so impactful, medical students in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine have launched an online repository to identify volunteer activities to help busy interns, residents and fellows. Proactivity abounds. Leadership is occurring diffusely, both by those with leadership titles and those without.

Proactivity is captured in the Kouzes and Posner leadership commitment of ‘challenging the process’. The centrality of seeing the current state—a projected shortage of equipment and personal protective equipment, developing models with contingencies and, most importantly, using these predictions to drive action has been underscored by the coronavirus pandemic.

Clarify governance for the crisis

Crises test the adequacy of existing governance structures and also require deployment of new ad hoc roles. For example, in the coronavirus crisis, the primacy of supply chain and sourcing personal protective equipment from novel sources, like the paint and construction industries, has become evident as we plan for and ready ourselves for the surge of affected patients. Development of an ‘incident command’ centre which convenes key leaders regularly, makes real-time decisions based on harvesting the group’s wisdom, and cascades awareness of these decisions broadly is a critical step. Communicating the structure and membership of this incident command team has been an institutional priority. The emphasis on how to organise the institutional response and how to cascade information bespeaks a commitment to ‘inspiring a shared vision’ and to ‘enabling others to act’. The governance structure gives people the latitude to innovate locally and the mandate to share their activities and ideas with the critical incident team.


Quick implementation during a crisis is paramount. Forming an incident command centre reflects awareness that decisions will need to be made quickly and provides organisational infrastructure to do so. Also, the aforementioned example of developing COVID-19 test capability locally at a time when national capacity to test was stalled underscores the importance and value of acting quickly.

Of course, quick action is underpinned by a sense of urgency, which underlies Kouzes and Posner’s emphasis on ‘challenging the process’. In the case of coronavirus, there has generally been very little need to communicate urgency, as urgency is widely evident in the daily worldwide tally of affected individuals and associated deaths. 2 At the same time, the fact that college students were still actively convening on beaches to party during spring break on 20 March 2020 reminds us that one can never overcommunicate urgency and that communication must be tailored to the audience. New emphasis is being given to data that young people are not exempt from the risks of serious illness due to COVID-19.

Similarly, an ineluctable consequence of acting quickly is making mistakes. Wisdom from Voltaire that ‘The perfect is the enemy of the good’ and from Confucius that ‘Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without’ 4 is central to being able to act quickly. Leaders must (and, at the Cleveland Clinic) have amply acknowledged fallibility and the inevitability of making mistakes in our response to coronavirus. At the same time, these leaders have reaffirmed that any mistakes will be made in service of the organisation’s mission—‘better care of the sick, investigation of their problems, and more teaching of those who serve’ and in the current coronavirus crisis, caring for our patients and protecting our fellow caregivers. Furthermore, creating psychological safety 5 is paramount in a crisis because the event calls on harvesting wisdom from every part of the organisation and, indeed, the world. Leaders’ acknowledging their own fallibility in this effort helps create psychological safety, as does leaders’ acknowledging others’ efforts, even if incompletely successful. As has happened at my institution, when leaders acknowledge that in moving quickly, we will naturally make some mistakes, change course repeatedly and revise our thinking, they create space for colleagues to ‘experiment, take risks, and learn from the accompanying mistakes’. 3 Again, this validates the centrality of having psychological safety and of ‘challenging the process’. Also embedded in acting quickly is the leadership commitment of ‘enabling others to act’.

Communicate actively

A successful response to a crisis is the ultimate team effort because all members of the team must be aligned in service of a common goal. Communication is a critical part of achieving the needed alignment. In the context of George Bernard Shaw’s admonition that ‘the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place’, 6 communication must be frequent, iterative, and must use multiple dissemination media. Virtual meetings to assure communication have ramped up quickly at my institution, with twice daily calls for the command centre, among institute chairpersons, and the executive team. In addition, information is being cascaded to all stakeholder audiences through daily podcasts, emails, and so on. Videos of the CEO, Dr Mihaljevic, communicating with all 66 000 caregivers are regularly posted. Indeed, communication since the very beginning of our planning (on 21 January 2020) has been an absolute priority in service of aligning caregivers and, through forthrightness and compulsive and thorough planning, assuaging anxiety by providing direction about how we will cope and prevail together. The primacy of acting in a synchronised, aligned fashion reflects the very origins of the Cleveland Clinic, which was forged in 1921 in the aftermath of World War I around the concept of ‘acting as a unit’. In communicating today, leaders are able to connect our current efforts with our deep-seated culture and the organisational DNA.

Indeed, communication is needed to ‘inspire a shared vision’.

Be both realistic and optimistic

F Scott Fitzgerald’s quote that ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function’ 7 is especially germane here. Leadership in a crisis requires both framing the challenge ahead while profusely acknowledging the contributions that have been made to date and optimistically capturing the reality that we will ultimately emerge from the crisis back to a state of normality. As an example, consider Winston Churchill’s famous ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ speech to the British people in the throes of World War II and London bombings. Churchill amply acknowledged the formidable current challenge while articulating the resolve that ultimately allowed the UK and the allies to prevail. Churchill was truly ‘encouraging the heart’.

Leadership communications at the Cleveland Clinic are anchored in realism that coronavirus poses an existential challenge while coupled with optimism—exemplified by sharing specific stories—that our talent, commitment and organisational culture will assure ultimate success. Even when, as now, we are just approaching the eye of the storm, optimism and acknowledgement of colleagues’ contributions to date galvanises people’s commitment and provides stamina for the long haul.

That leaders demonstrate optimism in their demeanour and behaviours is also key. Embodying the principle of ‘modelling the way’, colleagues look to leaders’ affect to guide their responses. As they see clinician leaders on the front line of clinical care, their resolve to pitch in increases. This opportunity underscores a major advantage of a physician leadership model in which leaders engage in active clinical practice, perhaps especially in times of pressing need as now. 8

Overall, a crisis heightens the need for great leadership and underscores needed leadership competencies, both through success in their presence and through failure in their absence. Along with specific leadership practices that may hold value to others as they navigate the current coronavirus pandemic or the next challenge, this reflection invokes the five leadership competencies articulated by Kouzes and Posner 3 as well as the primacy of creating psychological safety. 5

  • ↵ . Available: www.Worldometers.info/coronavirus/ [Accessed 20 Mar 2020 ].
  • ↵ . Available: https://www.entrepreneur.cpm/article/249676 [Accessed 20 Mar 2020 ].
  • Edmondson AC
  • ↵ . Available: https://www.visualworkplace.com/2016/06/01/the-single-biggest-problem-in-communication-is-the-illusion-that-it-has-taken-place [Accessed 20 Mar 2020 ].
  • Scott Fitzgerald F

Contributors This is an original commentary of which JKS is the sole author. The paper is being exclusively submitted for consideration to publish in BMJ Leadership.

Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient consent for publication Not required.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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Home > Books > Contemporary Leadership Challenges

Reflective Leadership: Learning to Manage and Lead Human Organizations

Submitted: 02 July 2016 Reviewed: 20 July 2016 Published: 01 February 2017

DOI: 10.5772/64968

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This chapter mainly focuses on the concept of reflection as a process, both individual and collaborative, involving experience and uncertainty under the theme of reflective leadership. This type of leadership basically means learning to manage and lead human organizations. It originates from the concept of reflection defining leadership roles and responsibilities in all types of organizations. Focusing on reflection for learning in an effort to create reflective learning communities for all stakeholders taking part in both administrative and executive positions in organizations, this chapter is expected to contribute to leadership theories, to link theory and practice in concrete terms describing new leadership roles and responsibilities under the reflective thought considering its unique impact on organizational functioning.

  • reflective practice
  • organizations
  • reflective learning

Author Information

Süleyman davut göker *.

  • Department of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Education, Artvin Çoruh University, Turkey

Kıvanç Bozkuş

*Address all correspondence to: [email protected]

1. Introduction

In the literature, leadership is defined by many theories that try to explain what leadership is, in terms of different standpoints. However, the real world is very complicated that cannot be prescribed in some given patterns. This is the very first fact that leaders realize once they enter into professional practice. This is when prescribed theories do not meet the requirements of real practice. How can leaders be effective in an environment that is so distinct from those portrayed on paper? The answer is the grail that many if not all practising leaders had committed him-/herself to following of it. Reflective leadership goes to bat for anyone in the realm of leadership which is not mapped yet.

We start to explore reflective leadership by discussing what reflection is and then its role in creating reflective learning communities in organizations. The route to leadership through reflective thinking is the next topic we will address. Finally, we conclude with reflective practice which is the essence of reflective leadership and its models of implementation.

2. Reflection

Reflection is not only a personal process but also a collaborative one, which involves uncertainty along with experience, and consists of specifying inquiries and essential components of a thing that came out as important, later taking a person’s thoughts into dialogue with himself or herself and with other people. Individuals evaluate insights developed from that process in regard to additional perspectives, values, experiences, beliefs and the larger context within which the questions are raised. Through reflection, new-found clarity to base changes in action or disposition is achieved. New questions naturally arise, and the process spirals onwards [ 1 ].

Within this context, we argue that reflection is a vital component of leaders’ daily life, not a detached or disconnected action but primal, promoted by the culture and structures of an organization, which affects choices, policies and decisions together with the emotions and politics related to them. Considered from this angle, to be reflective should not be considered as a method, which has been acquired and occasionally used, but an inherent component of what to manage or lead means.

2.1. Dewey: father of reflection

Thinking includes all of these steps, - the sense of a problem, the observation of conditions, the formation and rational elaboration of a suggested conclusion, and the active experimental testing. [ 2 ]

For him, reflection is a deliberate and cognitive process triggered by a state of doubt, mental difficulty and hesitation. He sees reflection as a process of researching, clarifying and finding the right way that eliminates the doubt and difficulties. The mental process of reflection is activated by a problem, unstructured ideas and complicated situations to find a solution.

Forestalling something of the spirit of the progresses we maintain in this chapter, Dewey conceptualized this aspect of learning as more important than a problem-solving process. Dewey’s vision was of an educational process which had reflection and action linked at its core and was the means by which individuals gained ‘a personal interest in social relationships and control’—a platform for social change to a more democratic social order and preparation for membership of it [ 2 ].

2.2. Schön: reflection in action

Schön sees reflection as closely related to action and personal experience. The reflective practitioner engages in thinking along with the effect of action. Thus, Schön classified reflection into two types: reflection in action and reflection on action. Reflection in action is conscious thinking and modification while on the job [ 3 ]. The reflective practitioner immediately reflects on the action upon confronting it. Reflection on action is the reflection done after experiencing the action. The practitioner evaluates to understand whether the activity was successful or not by making judgements.

On-the-spot surfacing, criticizing, restructuring, and testing of intuitive understanding of experienced phenomena; often it takes the form of a reflective conversation with the situation. [ 4 ]

… on the feeling for a situation which has led him to adopt a particular course of action, on the way he has framed the problem he is trying to solve, or on the role he has constructed for himself within a larger institutional ‘context.’ [ 4 ]

As discussed above, this included ‘reflection on action’ and ‘reflection in action’ in practical terms. Human beings always tend to take shelter in experienced and accustomed forms of working and in practised processes or similar methods. That is to say, all endeavours to see the unknown in everyday life let people confront routines and connections and to alter those sides of working thought and practice taken for granted. For example, the capacity to make use of certain images, emotions, metaphors, to engage both rationally and aesthetically and to look at relational dynamics considering settings allows for the production of discrete styles of practising and thinking.

2.3. Reflection for learning: creating reflective learning communities in organizations

Ultimately, the outcome of reflection is learning [ 6 ]. It widens our perspective on a problem (broadens knowledge). It helps us develop strategies for dealing with it (develop skills). It helps us acquire new insights into our behaviour (changes attitudes).

Learning is not an individual behavioural attribute or capability but a ‘double-loop’ cognitive learning process that can be shared, and if everyone can participate in shared learning, then, in principle, everyone is capable of leading [ 7 ]. Within this context, the learning organization assures whatever the classical human-centred view about learning treasured at all times that commitment to learning will rescue us from obedience in blind authority in the end.

Even though learning itself as an action could seem self-evident, it is concerned with many issues in determining in what ways learning individually could be ‘effective’ or ‘rational’ against ‘self-deception’ and ‘defence reasoning’ [ 8 ]. As the difference between reflexivity and learning is hard to understand, in all attempts to understand that difference, reflexivity in the organizational development tradition has often been problematic [ 4 , 9 , 10 ]. The question is so clear: is it a neutral and instrumental expression of expert knowledge and control, or is it a methodology of feedback and diagnostic practice that pursues to develop really inclusive forms of distributed knowledge and learning [ 11 ]. The former position treats self-reflection as ‘I think’, whereas the latter tends to treat it as an expression of ‘I do’ [ 12 – 14 ]. What can be said here is that these two conflicting positions usually finish up as remedial approaches to learning. Learning could be thought as a deliberate way of ‘reflexive thinking’, allowing us to keep our distance from existent actions or behaviours and alter them. In contrast, learning as doing is bound by pre-reflective practices, so it is difficult to retrospectively translate or transmit learning or knowing in practice into intentional actions designed to change behaviour [ 13 ].

Leading for learning is an essential aim in creating reflective learning communities, which aim to create strong and fair opportunities of learning for all in an organization and encourage them to benefit from these opportunities. Leaders can accomplish this by committing themselves to the following areas of action: establishing a focus on learning, building professional communities that value learning, engaging external environments that matter for learning, acting strategically and creating coherence [ 15 , 16 ]. The perception suggested centres on supplying each learner, no matter what problems they confront, the ways to overcome intriguing skills and to advance habits of mind for additional and autonomous learning.

‘Let’s try it out and see how it works’ is an active learner’s phrase; ‘Let’s think it through first’ is the reflective learner’s response in a reflective learning community [ 17 ]. Leaders’ learning incorporates skills, the knowledge and standpoints, which they obtain while getting ready for and regenerating their practice. Interacting with other professionals who offer moral support, critique, ideas and inspiration for the renewal process will also promote opportunities for effective professional development.

Nearly all managers wish to create more powerful and equitable learning opportunities when they are given time to reflect. Nevertheless, their abilities depend on how they perceive the existent and prospective links between learning and leading in their own context. Managers can use reflective tools like optimizing video as a self-assessment tool, strengthening electronic portfolios with reflective journal writing, making use of associated resources on the Internet, taking advantage of on-line peer mentoring and stimulating reflection via learning communities as part of professional development.

Creating such a reflective learning community requires building professional communities that value learning, acting strategically and sharing leadership and engaging external environments that matter for learning. This type of reflective learning also fosters system learning, in which opportunities come up by means of evaluation of policies, programmes and resource use, strategic planning endeavours, action research focused on system-wide issues and application of indicators to measure progress towards goals defined. Leaders will be able to support system learning through inquiry into how an organization performs.

2.4. The route to leadership through reflective thinking

Reflective thinking is not only an internal process but an external one promoting improved critical thinking skills together with self-understanding as an essential way of inner work which emerges in the energy for employing in outer work. This type of thinking is required for understanding what it means to be significant for oneself and in one’s organization or practice. Being aware of one’s thinking is essential to make informed and logical decisions while working with others. In other words, taking to heart the feelings, thoughts and behaviours of other people also eases improvement in accomplishing organizational and professional objectives. In this chapter, we keep focusing on becoming a reflective thinker as a means to becoming a reflective leader. Therefore, we believe that managers can raise their awareness on their potential capacity for leadership.

Reflective leaders regard learning as a lifelong process, and they tend to equilibrate the practice ‘telling’ with ‘asking’ and frequently depend on the collective intelligence capacity of the teams formed in their organizations. Rather than being ‘in judgement’, these leaders ‘use judgement’ in handing down significant decisions. They regularly tend to step out of their routine and accustomed settings to think, explore and learn. Because the business environment has grown more complex, volatile and fast paced, leaders are more and more willing to adopt a ‘bias for action’, but effective leaders reflect on their past experiences and search for relevant, different insights before decision-making process.

What have I learnt?

What were my feelings and thoughts as it was happening?

How could I explain my experience?

How could I make use of learning for my future actions?

What is your opinion of way I felt and acted?

How have I reacted and behaved?

Based on the answers to the questions asked above, reflective leadership can be considered as a way of approaching the work of being a leader by leading one’s life with presence and personal mastery. In other words, it requires learning to be present, to be aware and attentive to our experience with people in our daily life, and it regards leadership from the standpoint of human experience. Taking the science of phenomenology into consideration, self-awareness and reflection on one’s own experience together with the experience of other people are the starting point for the process of reflective leadership, which ultimately aim to achieve improved communication changing leadership practice.

We have developed further questions and possible responses to encourage managers to become reflective leaders. Through these six questions and responses, we aim to create awareness on how to become a reflective leader in practice:

2.4.1. In what ways can reflection evoke my self-interests?

People’s self-interests can be met if they reflect on how their work has affected their learning and lives. These effects entail their progress and apprehension in some fields like career search, development of leadership, social justice, civic responsibility and consciousness, intellectual interests and self-actualization. People tend to concentrate on self-learning on particular occasions. They also consider issues related to career search when they finish university. For example, people remember their civic responsibilities only when they vote. The forms of reflection we have been discussing are drawn up to link people’s work experiences to personal development.

2.4.2. How should I proceed to be a reflective thinker?

A reflective thinking model illustrating the process of reflective thinking was developed by Taggart and Wilson [ 18 ]. To identify a problem, dilemma or challenge could be one of the initial efforts. As the next step, you should draw back from the problem concerned for a while and use an outsider perspective to re-evaluate that problem. Within this process you can employ ways of observation, data collection and reflection. They will help you obtain a cognitive picture about the way you think for the sake of defining the setting of that circumstance. This position may be integrated with a similar event in the past to lead you to get probable ways to attempt to solve the problem. You should ask a question at this stage: How have I dealt with the almost identical situation in the past and what makes the present situation different from the one in the past? You will naturally remember your experiences and make predictions and create different approaches. Doing so, you will also have tested the approaches used systematically. Finally, you will review the actions you have taken together with the consequences, and that process will provide you with a new opportunity to reframe the situation concerned.

2.4.3. What do I understand by reflective leadership?

As discussed earlier, a dedication to the continuous process of maintained critical self-awareness and development is essential in reflective leadership. How can you do that? If you are determined to become a reflective leader, you should exchange reflective thoughts of yours with those of others establishing new relationships and ask them to see the situation. We tend to make use of feelings that we highly value, let ourselves experience them and pass along them whenever available. This sort of approach, which is genuine, will certainly give us a space where we will be able to value the contributions of others. This is how we support other people by means of our own reflective practice.

Learning from others basically requires listening to them within the framework of reflective leadership, which will require receptivity to other people. Listening attentively is both an art and a skill to be practised. Effective leaders must listen to cases and stories from all workers to reflect on in what ways they could enrich and change practices. Within this context, those stories providing data about what does work or what does not will tell us to look for significance. Any discussion and reflection on those stories will enrich, change and provide us with opportunities to install any possible changes into practice.

2.4.4. What types of strategies, resources and tools do I need to be more reflective and self-aware?

Awareness is created through communication. To achieve a high level of communication, awareness on what you have been thinking is necessary. In other words, it will enable you a tool to discover yourself and become more self-aware. To do so, any sort of conflict should be seen as an opportunity to understand more of your true self as well as other people. The questions and answers to what you are sensing, thinking, feeling and willing or not willing to do will take time to get. So, you should go on asking them till you could past strong emotions like resentment and anger, because those emotions play a key role in guiding you to what you have been thinking. After reflecting on genuine answers, you can share them with other people directly. Whatever language you use in answering to those questions will encourage ownership, thus enhancing connection. Through this process, you could get a tool to monitor your awareness, expand your opinions and listen to others attentively to resolve problem.

Another efficient approach to work with other people effectively is to be aware of your natural talents. This is something to do with exploration of your strengths. Identifying your talents will naturally provide you with many strategies to build them into your strengths. Knowing what gifts and talents you possess will help you see your weaknesses and align your goals and job with your own talents.

2.4.5. In what ways do reflective leaders affect leadership practice positively and create reflective leaders to be?

Reflective thinking lets you both share your concerns and reveal the concealed issues for you and other people concerned. This process will create an opportunity for you and other people to reflect on your and their point of view, thus providing a sort of catharsis. Doing so will help you develop a wider viewpoint, a new appreciation for everybody and deeper understanding.

As reflective practice is seen as a transformative process, you and the other people around could proceed in a more interconnected way. So, you could define common objectives and goals together with guidelines to avoid possible conflicts in the future. In creating open channels of communication, this environment will bring informal and regular meetings to allow reflective practices supporting reflective leadership. These types of meetings are highly valued by reflective leaders as they see them as productive environments to provide collaborative work supporting the greater sense of collegiality.

Being open and letting testing of propositions and inquiring about one’s strength are another significant task for reflective leaders. It could be necessary for you to face problems like defensiveness of yours and that of other people and the inefficiency of your team for the sake of ensuring the impact of approach you use. So, a reflective learning community, in which reflection is an ideal way of support and learning, should be created by reflective leaders. In such a community, you provide a safe environment for self-expression, identify objectives, give feedback and stimulate self-observation. In defining the strengths of the individuals, you offer other people optional approaches to be successful in their work.

2.4.6. Which leadership processes enhance reflective leaders’ powers and achieve success in other people?

First of all, peer reflection, which helps question assumptions, is one of the main means for reflective leaders to carry out with other reflective leaders. Peers are of paramount importance in clarifying our values. This process helps us build our and peers’ strengths, compensate weaknesses and search for better problem-solving approaches [ 19 ].

To be able to achieve the task, effective leaders should form and maintain the teams in developing individuals. The aspirations can best be achieved if leaders can function in a collegial and collaborative ways by means of reflective practices, which initiate the process of perspective transformation. In other words, reflective leadership is considered to be transformative as long as it builds success in other people by reducing barriers while implementing leadership behaviours. Barriers, to a certain extent, are determined by means of reflection. They are regarded to be intrinsic to our human ego—strivings to achieve, to manage our situation and to compensate for our lack of confidence. The barriers can be reduced by deliberately reacting to what challenges us as a leader under different circumstances. Reflective leaders do that by having a deeper awareness of what sort of leader he/she wished to be, what sort human being is required and what sort of legacy is left by them. These choices direct leaders in how they take up daily leadership. That is to say that the way how leaders go about their day will determine ultimately whether they feel successful and rest with integrity and peace of mind or not.

The rapid rate of changes in our age seems to be one of the biggest demands for leaders. The other striking demand is the need for new frameworks for leadership skills. Leaders can cope with those challenges as long as they can bring each individual to the table to model the future with strong collective dialogues and cooperative actions. Among the other reflective leadership skills, they should be able to manage conflicts, model an adaptive capacity and be efficient in establishing and maintaining relationships. As they are expected to be the cocreators of change, they should accept that any individual or circumstance cannot move out their individual peace or competency. Viewed in this light, they should be able to communicate those feelings to other people in a way that will encourage and enable them to clasp the future and partake in its formation. Ultimately, they should be able to act as a model for other people in their exploration of the value and meaning of whatever they do. They can exhibit behaviours of personal growth and self-awareness if they have a commitment to the ongoing reflective practice.

To conclude, being a reflective leader is initiated through reflective practice. You can begin by being more fully present in every task in your daily life. This requires attending to verbal and nonverbal communication in your interaction with others, often inquiring and clearing up worries and being an attentive listener. You should further take your own experience into consideration together with the experience of other people and each assumption before making decisions. Only after these reflective practices can you establish a sense of mutual respect and sound relationships and see that other people are drawn to you and search for your compassionate consideration about any problem encountered. This transformative process followed will make advance on the way to becoming a reflective leader.

3. Reflective practice

Managers and leaders focus upon events through an intellectual exercise in order to determine in what ways individual assumptions and beliefs together with their experiences and background impact organizational functioning. This is what we call reflective practice that inculcates the intellectual discipline needed to discern ‘what is’ in practice episodes as well as to engage in the self-growth necessary if one is to manage and lead others.

The success of reflective practice depends on learning. For reflective leaders, doing immerses learning. Being aware of what we have been doing does not always create learning as it is a purposeful endeavour. Approached from this angle, realizing the required role of reflection in taking out learning from experience and being aware of the essential principles of a reflective practice will let leaders begin to act on the conception that knowledge is planted in their experience and understand the significance of that knowledge in fostering their practice.

Through learning from experience, reflective practice aims to create a structure, habit or routine. So, a reflective practice can differentiate with regard to how much, how often and why reflection is carried out. Carrying out a reflective practice requires not only clearing the aims it needs to serve but also creating opportunities to install reflection into our activity that are down to earth and yet come about at the right intervals and with adequate depth to be meaningful. However, it is structured; sustaining a reflective practice will transform the probability of learning from our practice into an actuality.

Sergiovanni [ 20 ] classifies three distinct knowledge of leadership conceptions regarding the relationship between theory and practice: (1) there is no relation, (2) theory is superordinate to practice, and (3) practice is superordinate to theory (p. 7). People who adopt the first conception believe that professional practice in leadership relies solely on intuitive feelings disconnected from theory and research. People who put special emphasis on theory feel that leadership is an ‘applied science’ which can be prescribed by theoretical concepts, strategies and depictions. Believers of the last conception see leadership as a ‘craft-like science’ consisting of reflective practice not prescribed but informed by theory.

Since the first conception claims no relation between theory and practice, implication of leadership as no science makes no sense to many, and thus it did not find enough grounds to permeate. Unlikely, the theory-oriented conception of leadership as an applied science pervades throughout the literature on leadership. Its clear-cut linear fashion simplifies every decision to be made into steps and processes predefined in literature. When one has to end organizational conflicts, then there are models of conflict management. When some important decisions have to be made, there are decision-making processes that explain every step in detail. This tool-based approach to leadership has long lived for its feasibility, but when it was realized that the real life is more complicated that it cannot be predetermined to a degree which enables theory to make tools for every situation in leadership, then reflective practice seemed a more realistic way of generating professional knowledge that is different from scientific knowledge. It is different because professionals create it by crafting their intuitions once they encounter situations not defined by scientific knowledge unlike ones in applied science conception. Thus, the craft-like science conception distinguishes professional knowledge from scientific knowledge; the former is created on demand, while the latter is predetermined as a contingency. Reflective practice is about professional knowledge creation by ‘deciding what to do. What purposes should be pursued? What strategies and practice should be used? What should be emphasized and when? In what ways should resources be deployed? How will we know we are on track, and so on’ [ 20 ].

Another distinction implicit in our understanding is that scientific knowledge is prescribed by theory, while professional knowledge is informed by theory. It is informed by interacting elements of reflective practice: practice episodes, theories of practice and antecedents (p. 15). Practice episodes consist of intentions, actions and realities. Leader’s priorities, preferences, strategies and decisions determine his or her intentions that impel actions in the form of leadership and management tactics and behaviours. After actions are performed, realities occur as results, outcomes and consequences. The realities further affect intentions and then actions in a loop which never ends ( Figure 1 ). This infinite loop of practice episodes affects and is affected by theories of practice and leadership antecedents. Theories of practice are mental scenes of a leader’s beliefs and assumptions about how things work in the real world. These are greatly affected by leadership antecedents especially by the theoretical knowledge antecedent. These mental images perform as mindscapes that govern leadership actions both consciously and unconsciously. ‘A reflective mindscape is a perspective in which purposeful activity…is always subject to disciplined examination and re-examination using whatever resources are helpful’ [ 21 ]. Theories of practice may arise from social interactions between leader and others or even from myths on how organizations work. ‘The bundles of beliefs and assumptions about how organizations work, the role of power, authority, management, and leadership, the organization’s purposes, the role of competition, and the nature of human nature’ may evolve into theories [ 20 ]. Workplace is where leaders can best learn about their theories of practice. Therefore, a detailed explanation of these implicit theories cannot be made.

reflective essay on leadership competencies

Figure 1.

Elements of reflective practice [ 20 ].

At this point, we will focus on five key leadership antecedents, which play an essential key role in understanding the reflective practice. They are cultural milieu, theoretical knowledge, craft knowledge, self-knowledge and critical knowledge.

3.1. Cultural milieu

As reflective practice is expected to be contextualized in work, it should not be considered separately from the cultural milieu together with the setting and purposes of organization. The cultural milieu includes the elements of educational background, social background, religious background, economic background and historical background, which plays a key role in shaping in what ways a person sees and interprets the outer world. This means that reflective practices will differentiate from individual to individual and from organization to organization and that companies will form different reflective practices that emerge from and further inform their backgrounds mentioned above.

On the other hand, reflective practice can occur through a visioning process or a bigger process of culture change or organizational change. Tucker and Russell [ 22 ] concluded that transformational leaders can have a major influence on organizational culture and change. As culture is a medium by means of which leadership travels and affects performance of the organization, reflective leaders play a key role in transmitting the culture that they believe will most augment organizational functioning.

3.2. Theoretical knowledge

The second antecedent of leadership is the theoretical knowledge, which consists of technical, cognitive and rational knowledge. It means that theoretical knowledge is factual in nature, based in scientific rationality. Reflective approach to leadership is important to the integration of theoretical knowledge, skill development and individualized contexts. The learning organization was often based on a systems theory that handled practice as a result of theoretical knowledge [ 23 ]. Professional learning communities, the name given to leaders’ collaborative professional learning, have become so overused that the term’s meaning is often lost. Only when leaders reflect on their practice based on their theoretical knowledge, consider the impact leadership has on workers and implement insights gained from a meeting to improve their leadership performance can this process be called a professional learning community.

3.3. Craft knowledge

Craft knowledge is believed to be implicit in practitioner; it provides the ‘feel for’ what one does [ 24 ] and manifests itself in the refined ability to interpret what is and to discern what ought to be and what one should do to get there. According to Kluge [ 25 ], knowledge management shows unique leadership challenges. ‘From a leadership perspective, knowledge management has been viewed more like a craft and less like a science. Because of the very nature of knowledge, it is difficult for managers to predict what measures can really improve performance, and how to encourage and guide knowledge flows within an organization’ [ 25 ]. The leaders, according to them, should presume the function of advancing leadership and knowledge in the organization. They should set the tone for the organization and demonstrate that knowledge together with its administration are carefully taken into consideration.

Leaders, from this standpoint of view, should signal a shift in tone when they ask their team to reflect on their learning. Reflective leaders help them realize that they can now look back rather than move forwards. They will take a break from what they have been doing, step away from their work and ask themselves, ‘What have I (or we) learned from doing this activity?’ Some leaders could use music to signal the change in thinking.

In the reflective settings, leaders could invite the teams to learn from their experiences orally or in written form. They ask them to reflect on their learning, to evaluate their metacognitive strategies, to compare intended with actual outcomes, to analyze and draw causal relationships and to synthesize meanings and use their learning in different and future events. Members of the team realize that they will not ‘fail’ or make a ‘mistake’, because these terms are broadly described. Nonetheless, reflective teams realize that they can learn from all their experiences and develop personal insight.

3.4. Self-knowledge

Self-knowledge, even though it is often neglected, enables a vital lens through which leaders could better understand, realize and interpret organizational reality and their position in it. It mainly includes self-awareness, self-understanding and self-management. Without self-knowledge, it is hard for the leaders to understand their weakness and strengths together with their super powers. It lets the best business builders walk the tightrope of leadership: projecting conviction while at the same time staying humble enough to be open to different ideas and opposite thoughts since it is an essential element for organizational functioning. To improve self-knowledge, we highly recommend reflective leaders to (1) observe yourself to learn, (2) keep testing and knowing yourself better and (3) be conscious of other people as well.

While building a team, self-knowledge is also a crucial factor as being aware of one’s weaknesses together with strengths makes them a better recruiter and allocator of talent. In the meantime, you should also be an acute observer of others’ weaknesses and strengths. Reflective teams consist of people who both understand and complement each other. Whenever you notice people developing a common goal by pursuing different ways, there is an implied feedback loop based on peers and systemic learning in that observation itself. Should you have the right complement of people as well as a supportive learning organization, it lets you look at yourself and other people.

That is called the leash of self-awareness: know, improve and complement thyself. They are the common sense principles even though they are not generally practised. In other words, people do not often commit to stand in the face of truth. Rigorous commitment, intellectual honesty and active truth seeking are sine qua non to any process of self-awareness.

3.5. Critical knowledge

The final antecedent of reflective practice is critical knowledge, which includes assumptions, beliefs and values. In other words, critical knowledge (sometimes called ‘philosophical’ or ‘ethical’ knowledge) is a conscious awareness of that which is of transcendent or ultimate value and which perjures beyond the individual. Reflective practice creates an opportunity for development for people holding leadership positions. If you want to manage a team, you should have a clear balance between technical expertise and people skills because this type of role is hard to play. Reflective practice gives an opportunity to leaders to re-evaluate what has been achieved and what improvements could be made.

As discussed earlier, reflection is the conscious and intentional examination of one’s behaviour. Through this process, new understandings and appreciations may be acquired. Leaders should be an active reflector keeping their personal journals. When a difficult event takes place, they can often scribble in their journal to decanter their emotions and thoughts. Schön [ 4 ] described three processes to reflection—awareness of uncomfortable feelings or thoughts, followed by a critical analysis of experience, leading to the development of new perspectives. The phases are not necessarily linear and can involve both looking forwards and looking back.

Asking open and curious questions: let yourself practise asking genius-level questions, which only other people can answer, and about which you should not have any possible theory. For example, you could ask your colleagues about what they are genuinely excited in their work or what their biggest worries are.

Reflecting on the iceberg: doing so takes us back from repairing symptoms and being sensitive to what is going on around us. For example, you can think of a certain event and detail whatever you saw at the level of any event or action. You can then note the different patterns of behaviour seeming to contribute to that action. Detail on different organizational structures and cultural milieu, which created those behaviours.

Using visual art: this is basically a practice for shifting out of words. You could use newsprint or flipchart material with large coloured magic markers and start scrawling, drawing, scribbling or sketching whatever you think. Do not use any words till you feel that you are tired and leave the ‘artwork’ overnight. Look at it for a few minutes, give a name and date it the following day.

Journal writing: to give a chance to what our own inner wisdom says and listen. Doing so, you could learn from your own lives. This sort of practice helps create a greater awareness of your processes of thought. Give yourself some time every day to write in a free way with no prejudice. This process of writing might reflect the sense you possess about tomorrow or what now breaks for you about yesterday.

Role models: without any prejudice, you could observe a leader having a different approach different from that of ours. This practice will help you identify leaders whom you admire. To shadow those leaders, give yourself a day and observe them. Try to have a short interview with any of them asking how they think about leadership and handle the change.

Tackling creative endeavour: spend some time each day for some creative capacity such as writing poems, cooking, playing music, painting or sketching. These can rest our mind placing you in a flow state and enable significant perspectives to understand the world in different ways.

Reaching physical wisdom: to have a better reflection, you should devote to attempt in processes creating different understanding in your body. You may spend some time for some activities like playing golf, jogging, taking up skiing, woodworking or gardening courses.

Discovering people who draw the best out of you: identify who in your life draws your best energies and in whose presence you are the one who you would like to be. Also identify what you have in common. Spend more time with those people who give you best energies.

Through these processes, it will be much easier to learn from colleagues; write downshifts in your awareness and in your sense of purpose. Ask yourself whether you are aware of things you have not noticed earlier, by virtue of any of these processes or practices. The possible responses you will have will contribute to your effectiveness as a leader; increase the capacity to lead change. When people are asked about the most effective leaders, they will talk about the extraordinary capacity of leader to listen. Listening is an essential cognitive skill for a leader. One might conclude from this that reflective practice begins within yourself, and it is a significant transformational leadership skill, which will help you notice and change the profound processes of thought.

3.6. The models of reflective practice

To make reflective practice more concrete, there are some models offered to leaders. A useful model that explains reflective practice is the ALACT model of Korthagen [ 26 ]. The model has continuous phases of action, looking back on the action, awareness of essential aspects, creating alternative methods of action and trial ( Figure 2 ). A leader or manager does an action; judges how well he or she did the action; considers elements that attributed to success of the action or prevented the action to be successful, based on that judgement develops better ways of doing action; and finally tries the action in a better way. Note that the first and the last phases are the same. A sample implementation of this approach would be like this one [ 26 ]:

A: A mathematics lesson was given.

L: This lesson went fine. They were a bit noisier than usual, but I could control them all the same.

A: Ronnie was not present; that may have been a cause of the extra noise. In my opinion he is a kind of ‘leader’, and because he was always cooperative, the others cooperated too. Now that he wasn’t there, the others didn’t know how to behave. Yet they all worked well. Another cause may be that we started at 8:30, which is earlier than usual. The children hadn’t blown off steam yet, but I wanted to start quickly all the same, for I had only 1 h.

reflective essay on leadership competencies

Figure 2.

The ALACT model of reflection [ 26 ].

C: The next time I will take more time.

Reflective questioning is another way of performing reflective practice. This model offers questions to be asked by reflective practitioners in three levels of reflective practice, which are descriptive, that is, theory-building, knowledge-building and action-oriented levels of reflection ( Table 1 ). The levels are a type of reflection in action. Reflective leaders first describe the situation they are in and then move to scrutinize the situation to construct knowledge to be used in the action-oriented level of reflection. In this final level, questions to improve the consequences of the action are asked by the reflective leaders.

Table 1.

Reflective questioning [ 27 ].

Gibbs’ model of reflective cycle takes feelings into account when reflecting on and learning from experience. It starts with a brief description of an event and then feelings about the event are expressed ( Figure 3 ). In the evaluation stage, value judgements are made for further analysis in the next stage to draw a personal understanding of the event. In the conclusion stage, insights into how behaviour affected the outcome of the event are developed. Finally, an action plan is developed to be used when encountered the same or similar event. The plan should constitute learned intuition of what a leader would do differently in the next time. This model is a type of reflection on action. A very good example reflection done by a leader using Gibbs’ model can be read at [ 29 ]. Instructions about how to implement each stage are further detailed in Table 2 .

reflective essay on leadership competencies

Figure 3.

Reflective cycle [ 28 ].

Table 2.

Stages of reflective cycle [ 28 ].

Kolb’s reflective model presents another circular approach to reflective practice ( Figure 4 ). New knowledge is generated upon experience building on prior experiences and knowledge. The cycle starts with a concrete experience in which a person is actively involved. In the reflective observation stage, reviewing of what has been done and experienced takes place. The next stage is called abstract conceptualization that involves making sense of what happened by interpreting relations between events. The final stage of active experimentation is about testing implications of concepts, which are developed in the previous stage, in new situations.

reflective essay on leadership competencies

Figure 4.

Kolb’s reflective model [ 30 ].

Experience needs to be seen as constructed, shaped and contained by social power relations.

Complex and unequal relations around knowledge are constructed between people as an integral part of the learning process.

There is a need to focus on the here-and-now experience and the mirroring process between the people within the education environment and the organizations they represent.

Finding ways of working with underlying and unconscious processes, particularly defence mechanisms, is necessary.

Second-order or metaprocesses relating to each aspect of the cycle are included.

4. Conclusions

Leadership is so complex that everything about it cannot be written in a handbook nor can be prescribed in the literature on leadership. So, how can new knowledge about leadership be generated when it is needed but not available at hand? Reflective leadership fills the gap between theory and practice by enabling leaders to construct their own theories of practice during, after and even before their actions. It teaches leaders how to catch fish instead of giving them fishes. It is a self-development tool and requires little mastery to use. We believe that this chapter is a good starting point for all leaders to acquire this mastery that paves the way for growing as reflective leaders who are self-efficient in creating and updating their own practice of leadership.

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Self-evaluation and evaluation of nursing leaders Leadership Styles *

Autoavaliao e avaliao nos estilos de liderana dos gestores de enfermagem, autoevaluacin y evaluacin en los estilos de liderazgo de dirigentes de enfermera, angie lorena riao castillo.

1 Universidad Autnoma de San Luis Potos, Facultad de Enfermera y Nutricin, San Luis Potos, San Luis Potos, Mexico.

Ma. Elsa Rodrguez Padilla

Daro gaytn hernndez.

Authors Contribution:

to evaluate the concordance between the leadership styles self-evaluated by the Nursing managers and evaluated by their subordinates in a private hospital.


an observational, cross-sectional, quantitative, and analytical study, with population of 31 managing nurses and 125 subordinates. Herman Bachenheimers instrument of Situational Leadership was employed, adapting it to the subordinates. The concordance between self-evaluation and evaluation by the subordinates was analyzed in the four leadership styles (Directing, Guiding, Participating, Delegating), with the Kappa coefficient statistical test, test statistic (Z) >1.96, 95% confidence interval and PASW Statistics, version 18.

the self-evaluation of the Nursing managerial staff has a tendency for the Guiding Style and, according to the evaluation by their subordinates, there is a minimum difference among the four styles. Their concordance is low, but significant, with 19.3%. It was identified that the subordinates perceive that they possess the necessary competences to autonomously perform the tasks assigned, and that there is trust and assertive communication between both groups, which facilitates knowledge exchange.


the Nursing managers and their subordinates perceive various leadership styles, and concordance is low. To attain superior leadership styles, the subordinates must develop autonomy and empowerment.

avaliar a concordncia entre os estilos de liderana autoavaliados pelos gerentes de enfermagem e avaliados pelos prprios liderados em um hospital privado.

estudo observacional, transversal, quantitativo e analtico, com populao de 31 enfermeiras gestoras e 125 liderados. Foi utilizado o instrumento de Liderana Situacional de Herman Bachenheimer, adaptando-o para os liderados. Foi analisada a concordncia entre a autoavaliao e a avaliao dos liderados nos quatro estilos de liderana (Determinar, Persuadir, Compartilhar, Delegar), com o teste de significncia estatstica coeficiente Kappa, teste estatstico (Z)> 1,96, intervalo de confiana de 95 % e programa PASW Statistics verso 18.


a autoavaliao dos gerentes de enfermagem tende ao estilo Persuadir e, de acordo com a avaliao de seus liderados, existe diferena mnima entre os quatro estilos. A concordncia pobre, porm significativa com 19,3%. Identificou-se que os liderados consideram-se a si mesmos como possuidores das competncias necessrias para realizar as tarefas atribudas com autonomia, h confiana e comunicao assertiva entre ambos os grupos, o que facilita a troca de conhecimentos.

os gerentes de enfermagem e seus liderados reconhecem diferentes estilos de liderana e a concordncia pobre. Para alcanar estilos de liderana superiores, os liderados devem desenvolver autonomia e empoderamento.

evaluar la concordancia entre los estilos de liderazgo autoevaluados por los directivos de enfermera y evaluados por sus propios seguidores en un hospital privado.

estudio observacional, transversal, cuantitativo y analtico con poblacin de 31 enfermeras directivas y 125 seguidores. Se emple el instrumento de Liderazgo Situacional de Herman Bachenheimer, adaptndolo para los seguidores. Se analiz la concordancia entre la autoevaluacin y evaluacin de los seguidores en los cuatro estilos de liderazgo (Dirigir, Guiar, Participar, Delegar), con la prueba estadstica coeficiente de Kappa, estadstico de prueba (Z) >1,96, intervalo de confianza del 95% y programa PASW Statistics versin 18.

la autoevaluacin del personal directivo de enfermera tiende al estilo Guiar y, segn la evaluacin por sus seguidores, hay mnima diferencia entre los cuatro estilos. Su concordancia es pobre, pero significativa con el 19,3%. Se identific que los seguidores se perciben con las competencias necesarias para realizar con autonoma las tareas asignadas, existe confianza y comunicacin asertiva entre ambos grupos, lo que facilita intercambio de conocimientos.

los directivos de enfermera y sus seguidores perciben diversos estilos de liderazgo, y la concordancia es pobre. Para alcanzar estilos de liderazgo superiores, los seguidores deben desarrollar autonoma y empoderamiento.


It is but a challenge to keep professionals with sufficient competences to occupy leadership roles, since the Nursing professionals who hold Leadership roles must be able to influence on the mechanisms for the adoption of decisions that establish priorities, as well as to allocate resources to attain health ( 1 ) ; likewise, the lack of managerial and leadership ability at all levels of the health system is more frequently cited as a determinant obstacle to improving care quality, expanding the health services, and attaining the development goals of the millennium ( 2 - 3 ) .

On the other hand, to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Objectives and to address a whole series of challenges, including the worldwide scarcity of Nursing staff, it is necessary that the national Nursing leaders of the world work together to formulate a strategy for long-term sustainable development, promoting the progress of the Nursing science, the development of the Nursing course, the advance of industrial Nursing, and the improvement of peoples general health ( 4 ) .

It is also acknowledged that the Nursing leaders are integral actors not only in the provision of quality medical care, but also in operational excellence in various medical care environments ( 5 ) ; in addition, it is considered that leadership plays a fundamental role in the nurses lives and requires strong, coherent, and well-informed leaders ( 1 ) .

Therefore, well-prepared leaders are required who are able to assume the corresponding role, influence on their subordinates (the individuals who are responsible for the direct care provided to the patients), and favor conducts and behaviors in the health staff; these conditions are fundamental so that the Nursing practice can advance to a leadership with a favorable and participative behavior which generates a working atmosphere that eases teamwork with good communication, respect and team autonomy, thus actively including their personnel in the decisions, for a humanized and good quality management practice ( 1 ) .

The Situational Leadership model proposed by Hersey & Kenneth H. Blanchard, identified as the Situational Leadership Theory (SLT), emerges from the basic principle that the leaders must adapt to the situation prevailing in the organization, that is to say, if the situation changes, the leaders must be able to change and adapt to this new situation in order to attain the goals and objectives that have been set out; their efficiency for their subordinates to be well-directed and to identify them as a guide who generates trust will depend on that. This leadership style is defined as the process of influencing on the activities of an individual or group in the efforts to attain goals in a given situation, attributing special relevance to the situation in which each leader can have a preferred style ( 6 ) .

This model implies the integration of two dimensions: task or relationship conduct (similar to those defined by the University of Ohio), according to the different situations experienced. The first refers to the communication from the leaders to their subordinates in a detailed manner regarding the tasks to be performed, indicating specifications that leave no room for doubts; the second refers to bilateral communication, in order to offer support not only in relation to the assigned task but also to situations relating to personal emotions, health, and communication among peers, since the leaders listen, guide, and support their subordinates ( 3 ) .

According to these two behavioral dimensions, the leaders have two possibilities (high or low) in the four leadership styles (Directing, Guiding, Participating, Delegating); in the first, they monitor, give specific instructions, and closely supervise performance, are little encouraging and very governing; in the second, they explain to their subordinates aspects referring to the decisions made and allow them to clarify situations; the third style is characterized by sharing ideas, making suggestions, and conveying confidence to the subordinates so that they take risks and, in the fourth, they transfer responsibility for the decisions and their materialization, there is autonomy and trust, and the subordinates are duly qualified and trained ( 7 ) .

In this style, the behavior that the leaders adopt with their subordinates regarding the tasks is of paramount importance, since an harmonic and dynamic work environment where interaction is enabled both among the subordinates and between subordinates and leaders is required by public and private institutions, integrating professional nursing staff with sufficient competences, efficient and prepared to act as leaders, capable of managing adequately with reliability and innovation ( 1 ) , in addition to being able to successfully face the changes required by the situation; to such end, they must have the skill and ability to modify their style as necessary ( 8 ) .

The leaders have indicated that it is difficult to solve conflicts and to carry out their leadership activities ( 1 ) , there is a tendency in the leaders to perform tasks instead of having their subordinates perform them ( 9 ) , and the main activities are those regarding the accomplishment of the task ( 7 ) , leaving to a second place the relationships with the subordinates, which becomes more noticeable with the high workloads which are the result, among other causes, of the demands from the institutions, the need to meet the established goals, and the diversity of characteristics in terms of aptitudes, attitudes, and capabilities of the personnel under their charge ( 1 ) .

There is not enough data referring to the evaluations conducted on the Nursing managers by their subordinates, although the results of a research study show that only three of the four learning styles are frequently used, which, according to their frequency of use and in descending order, are the following: Delegating, Guiding, and Directing ( 10 ) . It is believed that this situation can be related to the managers control scope, which has undergone an expansion due to the reduction in the number of intermediate managers in their organizational structure, thus extending the control space ( 10 ) .

However, society does not value the leadership process ( 1 ) ; on the other hand, assuming leadership is no guarantee as to its efficacy ( 11 ) but, in addition to influencing on the direct care provided to the patients, it also exerts an influence on other important aspects like administration, education, decision-making, and peer autonomy, among others ( 1 ) . In view of the aforementioned, for Nursing leaders to provide quality care, they must possess certain characteristics, such as the competences which allow for teamwork ( 2 ) , combined with the need to analyze the current preparation of the nursing professionals to exercise leadership; but not only that, they must also wonder if they are seen as prepared to adapt to different leadership styles according to the situation and to verify if there is concordance between their self-evaluations and the evaluations by their subordinates.

One of the theories that can contribute for the Nursing leaders to visualize different perspectives and, in doing so, favor their own professional development and that of their subordinates, as well as the managerial skills, is Joharis window; according to this theory, it is recommended that the best area where Nursing managerial staff can be found is the free area, since it allows exchanging information among peers and subordinates, thus favoring interpersonal relationships, among other beneficial aspects to attain the institutions goals and objectives ( 12 ) .

It is for this reason that, when solving those questions in future studies, it could direct the strengthening of the quantitative trend on leadership and its styles according to the SLT, as well as it would bolster the theoretical and empirical knowledge of the existing concordance between the leader, the subordinate, and Joharis window, which could go beyond what some authors have expressed directed to the relation with negative feelings ( 13 ) , proactive personality ( 14 ) , satisfaction ( 15 ) , innovation leadership predictors, and self-esteem in the subordinates ( 16 ) .

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the concordance between the leadership styles self-evaluated by the nursing managers and evaluated by their own subordinates in a private hospital.

This is an observational, cross-sectional, quantitative, and analytical study, conducted in a private hospital in the city of San Luis Potos, Mexico. The target population was made up by 31 managing nurses and 125 of their subordinates; in turn, 30 of these leaders participated as subordinates.

The criteria for inclusion considered were the following: leaders with a managerial position, with no age limit, with a minimum of 6 months in their current positions; regarding the subordinates, they had to have a leader at the managerial level, with no age limit, and a minimum of 1 month working with the leader; both had to accept to participate and voluntarily sign the informed consent. Finally, the exclusion criteria contemplated were the following: leaders and subordinates who were on vacation, on disability leave, or those who have not participated voluntarily in the research.

The project was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Nursing and Nutrition School (CEIFE-2016-185) and by the Ethics and Research Committee of the private hospital. The ethical considerations set forth in the regulations of the General Law on Health Regarding Research in Health of the Mexican United States were met, as well as the Declaration of Helsinki by the World Medical Association for medical research studies, and the inclusion of the participants who read and signed the informed consent letter, freely and independently.

Two structured instruments were used for data collection, enumerated, without disclosing the name of the manager evaluated by the respective subordinates and without any kind of personal data of the evaluators; each survey lasted approximately 30 minutes and the managers and subordinates freedom to withdraw from the study at any moment was respected at all times. Data collection was carried out from January to June 2017.

The dependent variables analyzed were the four situational leadership styles described in Hersey & Blanchards theory, namely: Directing, Guiding, Participating, and Delegating. The independent variables were age, gender, job position, time working in the position, and time working as a leader.

For data collection, an instrument by Riao and Rodrguez that assesses situational leadership was adapted to the Mexican population; an item was added with sociodemographic and work data. The instrument has 17 questions with four answer items each instrument, indicating the four situational leadership styles with content and construct validation, both for the leaders self-evaluation and for the evaluation by the subordinates. This instrument had been previously used in a study called Situational leadership in nurses working in a health institution of Bucaramanga (Colombia) ( 17 ) . It was originally designed by Dr. Herman Bachenheimer, who conducted the entire validation process.

The usual situation in any organization is that the leaders and their subordinates indicate the actions that the leaders must take, that is, the choice of their behavior when facing these situations; in this way, an analysis is accomplished of the different leadership styles and of their adaptability to the new needs, so that it is possible to identify their flexibility and ability to change their style.

To identify the leadership style, the answers which fit each style were considered; based on the transformation table attached to the instrument, the leadership style with the highest total percentage was considered. The possible answers were labeled as A, B, C, and D, without any pre-established order, or with different values; each column referred to a different style.

Data collection was conducted in three stages: in the first, the instrument was applied to the managerial staff (Nurse in Chief, Nursing Supervisors, Service Chiefs, and Shift Managers) and to their corresponding subordinates; in the second, the instrument was applied to the leaders to evaluate the manager and, in the third, the second instrument seen by the subordinates was applied to evaluate the leader who has to be assessed by the subordinate. In all the cases, the applications were responsibility of the lead researcher and, before applying the instrument, the participants were given the informed consent form; the instrument was applied after they signed such form.

Data capture was performed in Excel and, for their processing, they were exported to PASW Statistics, version 18, in Spanish. Relative and absolute frequencies were estimated in the qualitative variables and, for the quantitative ones, some measures of central tendency and dispersion were estimated. To evaluate the concordance between the leaders self-evaluation and the evaluation by the subordinates with respect to the four leadership styles (Directing, Guiding, Participating, and Delegating), the Kappa coefficient statistical test was used, observing that the test statistic (Z) was higher than 1.96; in order to consider a significant concordance, such criterion is similar to p<0.05, when working with a 95% confidence interval.

Table 1 shows the results of the self-evaluation of the Nursing managerial staff, and the variations in the results are identified; globally, the styles with the highest and lowest percentages were Guiding and Delegating, respectively; when analyzing by job position: the Nurse in Chief was identified as a leader with the Directing style, and the Nursing Supervisors, Service Chiefs, and Shift Managers are visualized as employing the Guiding style: both globally and by job position, the Delegating style was the least identified.

According to Table 2 , the leadership style is very variable: the subordinates identify that, globally, the leaders apply the Guiding style first and that Directing is the one they practice the least. Likewise, the Nurse in Chief mainly makes use of Participating, the Nursing Supervisors of Directing, the Service Chiefs of Delegating, and the Shift Managers of Participating. It is important to clearly identify that only the Service Chiefs delegate and that both the Nurse in Chief and the Shift Managers Participate and Guide, whereas the Nursing Supervisors direct and Guide.

Table 3 shows the concordance between the leaders self-evaluation and the evaluation by the subordinates; only in the case of the Nurse in Chief no significant concordance was found (Z=-0.656); whereas with the Nursing Supervisors, the Service Chiefs, and the Shift Managers there was low concordance, but significant (Z>1.96), while good and significant concordance was found globally.

Table 4 shows that, in the vast majority (80.65%) of the leaders, their self-evaluation did not coincide with that of their subordinates. According to the job position, the Nurse in Chief recorded concordance in 0.0%; the Nursing Supervisors in 50.0%; the Service Chiefs in 12.5% and Shift Managers in 12.5%; and there was global concordance in 19.35%.

The Nursing managerial staff presents different leadership styles, within the framework of the two conducts established in the model itself, with the Guiding Style showing significance from the managers self-evaluation, followed by Participating, Directing, and Delegating. These findings were consistent with those of a study conducted in Mexico ( 18 ) and with studies from Colombia ( 7 ) and Spain ( 19 ) , a fact that signals that there has not been any change for an extended period of time. The Participating style prevails in second place, with Delegating last. However, there is a study conducted in Chile which does not coincide with the findings of this research, with its starting point based on the fact that there is no leadership style better than other, but more adequate for each situation. The style they mostly perceive is Guiding, followed by Delegating, Participating and, to a lesser extent, Directing ( 3 ) .

Now, based on the analysis by job position, the Nurse in Chief and the Nursing Supervisors employ a style towards Guiding, task-oriented, which might be related to the political-institutional demands and to the mandatory compliance goals which, according to a study conducted in Chile, leave aside the motivating and encouraging conducts for the staff to attain outstanding performance ( 1 ) .

Likewise, a study conducted in Pakistan and another from Brazil suggest that, to attain higher leadership styles, the leaders must improve their personal relationships, with particular interest in their subordinates needs ( 20 - 21 ) , as well as show concern for the personal development of each subordinate ( 1 ) . The participative style focuses on communication and on the relationships with the subordinates so as to achieve better results in health and to overcome the challenges inherent to the profession ( 3 , 7 , 20 - 21 ) ; and, for the delegative style, this is only possible when the subordinates possess a high level of preparation and when they are sufficiently motivated to perform the task, since the leader includes them in a task in a more direct manner ( 22 ) and knows that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform it ( 7 ) .

Therefore, the leaders are agents for transformation and need to work hard with their subordinates training them in their job positions, so that they can perform autonomously, solve conflicts, and make decisions ( 22 - 24 ) , thus managing to empower them in the assigned and delegated activities ( 9 , 23 - 24 ) . The aforementioned would promote the subordinates to be labeled as leaders ( 25 ) of their own process in providing direct quality care. However, it is essential that the institutional policies, as well as the managers of each institution, present a transformational view to attain the high leadership styles and outstanding performance in the achievement of the objectives set out ( 1 ) .

However, the subordinates identify that their leaders employ the four leadership styles with a minimum difference among them, which means that the leaders do not have a single and preferred style, that they act differently according to the circumstances that the institution is going through, and that their leadership is molded according to the ongoing situation, as the SLT states. However, there is greater predominance of the Guiding style, followed by Participating, Delegating, and Directing.

Likewise, the subordinates perceive a supporting behavior and bilateral communication, where they can participate autonomously in decision-making and in conflict resolution, thus being conducts guided towards participation and delegation by the Nurse in Chief, the Service Chiefs, and the Shift Managers.

However, these results that have been detected differ from others published, where the subordinates report needing a Guiding leadership style (high in direction and in support), but that the most frequent leadership style they receive is Delegating, followed by Guiding and Participating (33%), and by Directing (3%). That is to say, 42% reported the Delegating leadership style (low in direction and in communication), and only 13% mentioned needing it. The possible explanation for this reality is that the managers are very sensitive to the exclusive use of the managerial behaviors ( 10 ) and that, during the 1980s and 1990s, many corporations reduced the number of intermediate managers in their organizational structures, thus extending the control scope for which several managers are responsible ( 10 ) .

On the other hand, there is low, positive, and significant concordance between both evaluations globally, according to the job position they held at the managerial level (Nursing Supervisors, Service Chiefs, and Shift Managers), and 19.3% with their subordinates. This finding is consistent with a study conducted in the United States of America, which signals that there is concordance as the professionals devoted to the development of Human Resources seek to educate and train their leaders on how to be more effective. In addition, as there is adjustment between the leadership behaviors the subordinates need and those they receive, there is a greater positive impact on the work performed, greater cognitive and affective confidence in the leader, and higher levels of favorable work in the employee ( 10 ) . Consequently, and due to the aforementioned, the institution can be benefited, since the necessary tasks to fulfill its mission will present more probability of success if there is concordance in the perceptions between the leaders self-evaluation and the evaluation by their subordinates.

There is evidence signaling that, as the congruence of the managers perceptions on their own competences increases, self-development needs decrease with time; which might induce us to think that, when employing appropriate feedback measures ( 26 ) , increasing self-knowledge as well as the knowledge of the subordinates, of the task to be performed, of the institution, and of the general setting, the concordance level might improve ( 22 ) .

The non-concordance detected in the managerial staff (80.7% of the population), is justified as an obvious indicator according to another study ( 13 ) for two reasons, namely: first, the solitude of the leader might influence the way of evaluating and trusting the subordinates, which would have an additional impact on the role the leaders assign to their subordinates; and second: the solitude of the subordinates might influence how they judge their own skills, which would further affect their willingness to accept the roles that the leaders assign to them. It is for this reason that, according to an analysis of their job position, as the managerial level increases, so does the gap between self-esteem and the qualifications of others ( 26 ) .

The discrepancies between the findings can be the result, at least in part, of the instrument employed, of the characteristics of the population, of the methodology used, of diverse incentives, and of safeguarding against negative consequences when giving honest evaluations ( 26 ) by the subordinates, elements that must be mitigated and considered in future studies.

What matters here is the contribution that could be made from the results obtained with the SLT and from the contributions of the communicational model, Joharis window ( 12 ) ,since low concordance is situated in the ideal window, the free area, that is, both the leader and the subordinate that coincide with the leadership styles evaluated are in this area. Working on interpersonal learning will expand the free area and will reduce the other areas of this model ( 12 ) ; for this reason, the institution will have to generate important changes, work on the level of trust between the two groups with criteria of giving and receiving feedback, strengthening assertive communication; that will ease the exchange of knowledge, conducts and expectations, aligned with the institutional vision, with facilitating work with their subordinates, with employing higher leadership styles and with greater variability, due to the use of the groups managerial skills.

The presence of such low concordance indicates that most of the leaders behavior is liberated and open to the subordinates and to other professionals; consequently, the tendency is lower for the collaborators to misinterpret or project wrong personal and work meanings on the leaders behavior ( 12 ) . The blind area between both groups must be avoided, since it hinders the improvement of the necessary interpersonal relationships to attain the higher leadership styles set forth by this situational theory; for this reason, the leaders must expand the free area and broaden its action radio together with their subordinates.

To the extent that access to information is enabled, the subordinates will feel more capable and with more power to make good decisions, congruent with the goals, objectives, and values of the organization ( 25 ) , since obstacle-free sharing and easing of information and communication motivates and generates confidence in the individuals to feel ownership towards the organization where they work. Direct and obstacle-free communication between the leader and the subordinates is the fundamental component of the organization; among other aspects, it reduces the danger of division among work peers, favors dialog, and maintains health, agility, flexibility, and fluency in the organization ( 25 ) . Thus, the subordinates can be able to innovate processes and to propose solution options to the leader, since the free area has been strengthened.

In view of the aforementioned, it is clear that efficient leaders are those who are willing to share their opinions on how to direct and motivate people with their subordinates ( 25 ) , but it is also evident that, to be an efficient leader, the individual must also have a sound point of view on leadership.

This study is very useful as a starting point, since it is necessary to further deepen the analysis through other methodological tools, given that it is very probable that both the leaders and the subordinates have biased their answers.

It is recommended that, in future research studies, the competences and the commitment of both leaders and subordinates are valued, as well as their maturity (level of preparation), in a personalized manner with objective methodologies that reduce the risk of bias in the answers. On the other hand, the limitations were the following: 1) small sample, 2) limited time for the staff to answer the surveys (both subordinates and leaders), 3) fear to express the desired answers in the instrument, 4) some subordinates had two leaders, and 5) limited theoretical and empirical studies that evaluated the situational leadership styles in the Mexican reality, conducting the analysis with Joharis window.

It is necessary to work on the strengthening of the interpersonal relationships between the leader and the subordinates, as well as among peers, in order to attain assertive communication, strengthening trust, self-confidence, and the development of managerial skills and better leadership styles. Reason being that no single leadership style was found, but a great variety, as well as weak concordance.

The nursing managers employ different leadership styles, their predominance is task-oriented, it is necessary that there is a tendency towards superior styles targeted to the relationships, where the leaders and the subordinates development is favored in the different managerial skills, in the autonomous performance of the activities and with the use of motivation, factors which will favor empowerment in the care process and, consequently, its adequate management.

The subordinates do not perceive any notoriously prevailing single leadership style; they mainly identify Guiding, Directing and Participating, as well as Delegating to a noticeable lesser extent; in the case of the leaders, no single style is either perceived which is well-differentiated from the others. In other words, various styles have been found transitorily. It is because of this situation that it is likely that the subordinates potentialities are not exploited. On the other hand, the leaders must self-perceive that their subordinates recognize them as with communicative, teamwork, and motivation skills so that their self-knowledge, self-confidence, management ability, and strategic decision-making are enhanced.

The non-concordance between the Nurse in Chief and her subordinates can be due to multiple factors, namely: subjectivity, culture, work environment, and biases due to the interpersonal relationships both by the leader and by the subordinates.

The leaders must compel themselves to using the different tools offered by leadership, to being education promoters and examples for their subordinates, to expanding the spaces for feedback, communication, and interpersonal relationships; this is how we will advance from the leadership styles we have had for a long time and transcend the history of Nursing.

This type of study is useful to identify leadership and, with that, being able to potentiate the very managerial processes of the institution, increase the subordinates levels of motivation and creativity, and develop their abilities. Likewise, for future studies, it is necessary to add other variables like innovation and business performance in order to evaluate their relation with leadership concordance. Finally, this study contributes evidence of how situational leadership is being developed in a health setting, specifically in the Nursing staff. Additionally, no scientific evidence was found on the subject matter.

* Paper extracted from masters thesis Estilos de liderana de lderes de enfermagem: concordncia entre a autoavaliao e avaliao dos seus seguidores, presented to Universidad Autnoma de San Luis Potos, Facultad de Nutricin y Enfermera, San Luis Potos, San Luis Potos, Mexico.

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Leadership and influence go hand in hand. All successful business leaders have influence. Influence comes from establishing relationships. The best way of making significant relationships is through maintaining trust.

In the business world, maintaining quality relationships with others is very significant. In fact, success in business largely depends on how managers to create and develop relationships.

Examining the most successful leaders confirms that leadership is not about power, money or technical aptitude. Rather, leadership is about maintaining the trust of followers and being loyal to them. In addition, leadership is about stewardship, concern, modesty and creating an environment that develops these elements.

One cannot change people’s minds by just doing the right things. Rather, one can easily change people’s mindsets by showing care and concern to them. Showing care and concern to people makes them to create a philosophical position that surpasses logic.

An excellent leader knows how to unify opposing parties for a common good. Most differences that exist among people are solvable through listening to them, as opposed to applying logic. When a leader listens to his people, they feel appreciated and esteemed. Thus, he builds lasting relationships with them.

Today, most leaders are not successful because they lack influence. Such leaders should try to invest their time and energy into building meaningful relationships with others.

Ten Leadership Lessons I Wish I Learnt In My 20’s

A leader must have a vision. Obviously, you cannot lead people unless you know where you want to take them. Therefore, leadership is about sharing a vision with others.

A leader should maintain contacts. These include contacts of people you know and those that your friends know. Contacts are essential in establishing a relationship network.

A leader should share his knowledge with others. A leader should not only seek personal gains, but to help others too. He should therefore engage in dialogues and share his knowledge with others.

A leader should maintain a valuable network. A strong network leads to sustainability of a business.

A leader should always be positive. A leader should keep away from small thinkers and people who are out to discourage him. He should always surround himself with people who think big and those that understand his vision.

A leader should understand his value and use his position to help others. Helping others is essential in leadership as it builds more relationships.

A leader should be honest, competent and empathetic. A leader who demonstrates these characteristics is likely to have more influence and authority.

A leader should make others successful. When you make others succeed, you build more relationships and expand your sphere of influence.

A leader should be trustful. The more trustful a leader is the more influence he is likely to have.

A leader should not only concentrate on the quantity of networks, but also on quality. A leader who has few contacts of people that he can influence is superior to a leader who has many contacts of persons that he can hardly influence.

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IvyPanda. (2019, May 7). Leadership Competency Model. https://ivypanda.com/essays/leadership-11/

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College of Nursing

Driving change: a case study of a dnp leader in residence program in a gerontological center of excellence.

View as pdf A later version of this article appeared in Nurse Leader , Volume 21, Issue 6 , December 2023 . 

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) published the Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Practice Nursing in 2004 identifying the essential curriculum needed for preparing advanced practice nurse leaders to effectively assess organizations, identify systemic issues, and facilitate organizational changes. 1 In 2021, AACN updated the curriculum by issuing The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education to guide the development of competency-based education for nursing students. 1 In addition to AACN’s competency-based approach to curriculum, in 2015 the American Organization of Nurse Leaders (AONL) released Nurse Leader Core Competencies (updated in 2023) to help provide a competency based model to follow in developing nurse leaders. 2

Despite AACN and AONL competency-based curriculum and model, it is still common for nurse leaders to be promoted to management positions based solely on their work experience or exceptional clinical skills, rather than demonstration of management and leadership competencies. 3 The importance of identifying, training, and assessing executive leaders through formal leadership development programs, within supportive organizational cultures has been discussed by national leaders. As well as the need for nurturing emerging leaders through fostering interprofessional collaboration, mentorship, and continuous development of leadership skills has been identified. 4 As Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) nurse leaders assume executive roles within healthcare organizations, they play a vital role within complex systems. Demonstration of leadership competence and participation in formal leadership development programs has become imperative for their success. However, models of competency-based executive leadership development programs can be hard to find, particularly programs outside of health care systems.

The implementation of a DNP Leader in Residence program, such as the one designed for The Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence, addresses many of the challenges facing new DNP leaders and ensures mastery of executive leadership competencies and readiness to practice through exposure to varied experiences and close mentoring. The Csomay Center , based at The University of Iowa, was established in 2000 as one of the five original Hartford Centers of Geriatric Nursing Excellence in the country. Later funding by the Csomay family established an endowment that supports the Center's ongoing work. The current Csomay Center strategic plan and mission aims to develop future healthcare leaders while promoting optimal aging and quality of life for older adults. The Csomay Center Director created the innovative DNP Leader in Residence program to foster the growth of future nurse leaders in non-healthcare systems. The purpose of this paper is to present a case study of the development and implementation of the Leader in Residence program, followed by suggested evaluation strategies, and discussion of future innovation of leadership opportunities in non-traditional health care settings.

Development of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle has garnered substantial recognition as a valuable tool for fostering development and driving improvement initiatives. 5 The PDSA cycle can function as an independent methodology and as an integral component of broader quality enhancement approaches with notable efficacy in its ability to facilitate the rapid creation, testing, and evaluation of transformative interventions within healthcare. 6 Consequently, the PDSA cycle model was deemed fitting to guide the development and implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence Program at the Csomay Center.

PDSA Cycle: Plan

Existing resources. The DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership Program offered by the University of Iowa is comprised of comprehensive nursing administration and leadership curriculum, led by distinguished faculty composed of national leaders in the realms of innovation, health policy, leadership, clinical education, and evidence-based practice. The curriculum is designed to cultivate the next generation of nursing executive leaders, with emphasis on personalized career planning and tailored practicum placements. The DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership curriculum includes a range of courses focused on leadership and management with diverse topics such as policy an law, infrastructure and informatics, finance and economics, marketing and communication, quality and safety, evidence-based practice, and social determinants of health. The curriculum is complemented by an extensive practicum component and culminates in a DNP project with additional hours of practicum.

New program. The DNP Leader in Residence program at the Csomay Center is designed to encompass communication and relationship building, systems thinking, change management, transformation and innovation, knowledge of clinical principles in the community, professionalism, and business skills including financial, strategic, and human resource management. The program fully immerses students in the objectives of the DNP Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership curriculum and enables them to progressively demonstrate competencies outlined by AONL. The Leader in Residence program also includes career development coaching, reflective practice, and personal and professional accountability. The program is integrated throughout the entire duration of the Leader in Residence’s coursework, fulfilling the required practicum hours for both the DNP coursework and DNP project.

The DNP Leader in Residence program begins with the first semester of practicum being focused on completing an onboarding process to the Center including understanding the center's strategic plan, mission, vision, and history. Onboarding for the Leader in Residence provides access to all relevant Center information and resources and integration into the leadership team, community partnerships, and other University of Iowa College of Nursing Centers associated with the Csomay Center. During this first semester, observation and identification of the Csomay Center Director's various roles including being a leader, manager, innovator, socializer, and mentor is facilitated. In collaboration with the Center Director (a faculty position) and Center Coordinator (a staff position), specific competencies to be measured and mastered along with learning opportunities desired throughout the program are established to ensure a well-planned and thorough immersion experience.

Following the initial semester of practicum, the Leader in Residence has weekly check-ins with the Center Director and Center Coordinator to continue to identify learning opportunities and progression through executive leadership competencies to enrich the experience. The Leader in Residence also undertakes an administrative project for the Center this semester, while concurrently continuing observations of the Center Director's activities in local, regional, and national executive leadership settings. The student has ongoing participation and advancement in executive leadership roles and activities throughout the practicum, creating a well-prepared future nurse executive leader.

After completing practicum hours related to the Health Systems: Administration/Executive Leadership coursework, the Leader in Residence engages in dedicated residency hours to continue to experience domains within nursing leadership competencies like communication, professionalism, and relationship building. During residency hours, time is spent with the completion of a small quality improvement project for the Csomay Center, along with any other administrative projects identified by the Center Director and Center Coordinator. The Leader in Residence is fully integrated into the Csomay Center's Leadership Team during this phase, assisting the Center Coordinator in creating agendas and leading meetings. Additional participation includes active involvement in community engagement activities and presenting at or attending a national conference as a representative of the Csomay Center. The Leader in Residence must mentor a master’s in nursing student during the final year of the DNP Residency.

Implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

PDSA Cycle: Do

Immersive experience. In this case study, the DNP Leader in Residence was fully immersed in a wide range of center activities, providing valuable opportunities to engage in administrative projects and observe executive leadership roles and skills during practicum hours spent at the Csomay Center. Throughout the program, the Leader in Residence observed and learned from multidisciplinary leaders at the national, regional, and university levels who engaged with the Center. By shadowing the Csomay Center Director, the Leader in Residence had the opportunity to observe executive leadership objectives such as fostering innovation, facilitating multidisciplinary collaboration, and nurturing meaningful relationships. The immersive experience within the center’s activities also allowed the Leader in Residence to gain a deep understanding of crucial facets such as philanthropy and community engagement. Active involvement in administrative processes such as strategic planning, budgeting, human resources management, and the development of standard operating procedures provided valuable exposure to strategies that are needed to be an effective nurse leader in the future.

Active participation. The DNP Leader in Residence also played a key role in advancing specific actions outlined in the center's strategic plan during the program including: 1) the creation of a membership structure for the Csomay Center and 2) successfully completing a state Board of Regents application for official recognition as a distinguished center. The Csomay Center sponsored membership for the Leader in Residence in the Midwest Nurse Research Society (MNRS), which opened doors to attend the annual MNRS conference and engage with regional nursing leadership, while fostering socialization, promotion of the Csomay Center and Leader in Residence program, and observation of current nursing research. Furthermore, the Leader in Residence participated in the strategic planning committee and engagement subcommittee for MNRS, collaborating directly with the MNRS president. Additional active participation by the Leader in Residence included attendance in planning sessions and completion of the annual report for GeriatricPain.org , an initiative falling under the umbrella of the Csomay Center. Finally, the Leader in Residence was involved in archiving research and curriculum for distinguished nursing leader and researcher, Dr. Kitty Buckwalter, for the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging, the University of Pennsylvania Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, and the University of Iowa library archives.

Suggested Evaluation Strategies of the DNP Leader in Residence Program

PDSA Cycle: Study

Assessment and benchmarking. To effectively assess the outcomes and success of the DNP Leader in Residence Program, a comprehensive evaluation framework should be used throughout the program. Key measures should include the collection and review of executive leadership opportunities experienced, leadership roles observed, and competencies mastered. The Leader in Residence is responsible for maintaining detailed logs of their participation in center activities and initiatives on a semester basis. These logs serve to track the progression of mastery of AONL competencies by benchmarking activities and identifying areas for future growth for the Leader in Residence.

Evaluation. In addition to assessment and benchmarking, evaluations need to be completed by Csomay Center stakeholders (leadership, staff, and community partners involved) and the individual Leader in Residence both during and upon completion of the program. Feedback from stakeholders will identify the contributions made by the Leader in Residence and provide valuable insights into their growth. Self-reflection on experiences by the individual Leader in Residence throughout the program will serve as an important measure of personal successes and identify gaps in the program. Factors such as career advancement during the program, application of curriculum objectives in the workplace, and prospects for future career progression for the Leader in Residence should be considered as additional indicators of the success of the program.

The evaluation should also encompass a thorough review of the opportunities experienced during the residency, with the aim of identifying areas for potential expansion and enrichment of the DNP Leader in Residence program. By carefully examining the logs, reflecting on the acquired executive leadership competencies, and studying stakeholder evaluations, additional experiences and opportunities can be identified to further enhance the program's efficacy. The evaluation process should be utilized to identify specific executive leadership competencies that require further immersion and exploration throughout the program.

Future Innovation of DNP Leader in Residence Programs in Non-traditional Healthcare Settings

PDSA Cycle: Act

As subsequent residents complete the program and their experiences are thoroughly evaluated, it is essential to identify new opportunities for DNP Leader in Residence programs to be implemented in other non-health care system settings. When feasible, expansion into clinical healthcare settings, including long-term care and acute care environments, should be pursued. By leveraging the insights gained from previous Leaders in Residence and their respective experiences, the program can be refined to better align with desired outcomes and competencies. These expansions will broaden the scope and impact of the program and provide a wider array of experiences and challenges for future Leaders in Residency to navigate, enriching their development as dynamic nurse executive leaders within diverse healthcare landscapes.

This case study presented a comprehensive overview of the development and implementation of the DNP Leader in Residence program developed by the Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence. The Leader in Residence program provided a transformative experience by integrating key curriculum objectives, competency-based learning, and mentorship by esteemed nursing leaders and researchers through successful integration into the Center. With ongoing innovation and application of the PDSA cycle, the DNP Leader in Residence program presented in this case study holds immense potential to help better prepare 21 st century nurse leaders capable of driving positive change within complex healthcare systems.


         The author would like to express gratitude to the Barbara and Richard Csomay Center for Gerontological Excellence for the fostering environment to provide an immersion experience and the ongoing support for development of the DNP Leader in Residence program. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

  • American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The essentials: core competencies for professional nursing education. https://www.aacnnursing.org/Portals/42/AcademicNursing/pdf/Essentials-2021.pdf . Accessed June 26, 2023.
  • American Organization for Nursing Leadership. Nurse leader core competencies. https://www.aonl.org/resources/nurse-leader-competencies . Accessed July 10, 2023.
  • Warshawsky, N, Cramer, E. Describing nurse manager role preparation and competency: findings from a national study. J Nurs Adm . 2019;49(5):249-255. DOI:  10.1097/NNA.0000000000000746
  • Van Diggel, C, Burgess, A, Roberts, C, Mellis, C. Leadership in healthcare education. BMC Med. Educ . 2020;20(465). doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02288-x
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Plan-do-study-act (PDSA) worksheet. https://www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/Tools/PlanDoStudyActWorksheet.aspx . Accessed July 4, 2023.
  • Taylor, M, McNicolas, C, Nicolay, C, Darzi, A, Bell, D, Reed, J. Systemic review of the application of the plan-do-study-act method to improve quality in healthcare. BMJ Quality & Safety. 2014:23:290-298. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2013-002703

Return to College of Nursing Winter 23/24 Newsletter


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