The Questions in the Mirror

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall Help Me Focus My Leadership Most of All

One of the most courageous and valuable acts any leader can endeavor to take is to hold a mirror up to his or her own leadership. 

If you’re really holding up a mirror, you’ll need the fortitude to ask yourself some hard questions that reconcile “your ask of the people your leading” with “what your own actions say.” In essence, the mirror has two big questions:

  1. “Are you living your ask of others?”
  2. “How are you contributing to what is happening here?”

The old adage that we can’t change other people, we can only control our response is a notion so easily forgotten when we are running in the fray of intense times with high demands ahead of us. Yet without the figurative mirror, leaders fail to make the connection between the power of their intentional modeling and what they are asking of the environment. It is a base ingredient for self-awareness. 

Example: A leader genuinely wants to see an environment of collaboration and transparency between his product and information technology teams that are in a passive war. He wishes people would just be adults and work thoughtfully and truthfully with each other. The message of “we are one team” is lauded and encouraged in large forums – yet this same leader continuously has private and different conversations with each of the heads of product and IT acting as the interplay between groups. He doesn’t hold each of the leaders of the product or IT accountable to invest in the relationships differently with one another instead he enables the current dysfunction as to keep things pleasant, on the surface, and out of the arena of uncomfortable conversations. He doesn’t want to risk losing either leader if “things” escalate and the organization hampers along in the stew of misalignment. 

For some, the mirror understandably can be an odd thing to hold tight for a number reasons. We don’t like to do that kind of work on ourselves as it feels like ridiculous, Dr. Phil, psychobabble stuff that doesn’t belong in business when everyone just has a job to do. It feels too unstructured and maybe unending, like pulling a string that you might regret tugging on – what will I unwind? Where will that leave me? I’m not sure that is good thing. I don’t like it – I can’t see a clear path between asking these questions and what I would (or could) do differently. Maybe for some it’s a threat to what they believe they already know. I already made my call on this place, I don’t need to self-examine to question what I see going on. It is what it is. Yet the mirror is the most powerful tool. It helps us get ahold of that instrumentation between our intention and impact. A mirror is a way to get intentional within yourself first enabling you then to more accurately zero in your energy in order to wisely choose and act on key leadership moments. Without the mirror we can fall into the trap of leading as if our hope is a strategy. We assume too much will just work itself out and under estimate the focus we need to place to land our leadership attention in the right places. 

This is why working with a coach or trusted mentor who is skilled at helping you pick up the mirror and use it productively is often a career impact event in a good way. Great guides here help you decipher what you’re looking at, how that informs you, and what new options are right in front you. 

Are you looking into a mirror? What is it saying to you?


Amy Balog

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