Being an effective leader happens by design, no chance.  Every action you take as a leader should be purposeful, including the informal daily communications you have with members of your team. In the last three articles, we looked at specific actions for building trust as a leader, with character and emotional intelligence (EQ) being the first two competences you must master.  How do you do this?  From where do you get feedback to assess how well you are doing in these areas?

Effectiveness begins with your own self-knowledge and awareness, which require reflection on you part. The pace of daily work makes it hard enough just to find time to breathe, let alone take time to reflect; however, if you don’t MAKE the time your effectiveness as a leader will suffer.  Reflection is a critical component for long-term success, especially as you strive to set and guide the direction of your company.

Reflection need not be an arduous task.  Taking a few minutes each day to release mental energy also relieves mental tension as you put onto paper some of the ideas and thoughts that are reeling within your head.  The most successful leaders are those who devote time to this practice daily.  Here are some practices you can begin to employ immediately.

  1. Begin Journaling. Writing down your thoughts is an automatic release of mental energy since doing so externalizes ideas or thoughts that are occupying space within your brain. The more ideas you put down on papers, the more room your brain has for entertaining additional thoughts and ideas.  Journaling forces you to reflect on the day, which also relieves tension as you write about both positive and negative things that occurred during the past 12-14 hours.


  1. Dedicate 15 minutes at the end your day to Journaling. When you begin journaling, set your watch or phone alarm to 15 minutes. You’ll be surprised at how fast the time will evaporate. As you get into the practice, you may find you need a little more time, but the idea is to reflect on both positive aspects as well as opportunities for improvement.


  1. Begin with an After-Action Review (AAR) approach. Successful organizations use AARs to assess performance, and you can apply this approach to your daily life as well. Here are the basic questions you should ask yourself:
  2. What went well today?
  3. What could have gone better?
  4. What did not go according to plan?
  5. What can I do as a leader tomorrow to ensure better outcomes?
  6. What can we do better as a team and who do I need to engage to make improvements?


  1. Add a Weekly Objective to develop and practice exemplary leadership skills. At the beginning of each workweek, establish your focus for building trust that week. Recall it takes 30 days to anchor a habit, so you need to make a conscious, dedicated effort to strengthen trust. Here are guiding questions to add to your reflection:
  2. How can I model the way this week? What specific actions do I need to take?
  3. How can I inspire a shared vision this week? How can I more effectively communicate our company purpose?
  4. How can I help others challenge the process this week? How have I crafted my weekly calendar to allow for LBWA?
  5. How can I enable others to act this week? How can I coach and guide others by asking the right questions?
  6. How can I encourage the hearts of others this week? What celebrations are planned or what needs to be planned to lift spirits and energize the staff?


These are merely starting points, but you’ll find that once you get into the practice of journaling and asking yourself the right questions, others around you will see changes in your mental approach to your business and respond accordingly.  Employing the right practices will help you improve as a leader and set the right example for others.

Great leadership stems from reflection as well as a commitment to being a life-long learner.  Great leaders are great readers, seeking knowledge from diverse sources on many topics.  For this reason, I have added a Suggested Reading section to the end of each article.  Readings may be either books or articles pertinent to the topic at hand. Readings are taken from an extensive list of sources I share with my students and other practitioners of leadership.

Suggested Reading (Available on Amazon):

Kouzes, James and Posner, Barry. (2017) The Leadership Challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. The Leadership Challenge® a Wiley brand publisher.  This book has been continuously updated since its first printing and is just as relevant today because of its foundation is solid and classic.

Questions for the Week:  What concerns about my business most frequently rattle in my head and cause me to lose sleep?  Where will I put these in my journal so I release daily tension but can still periodically review to assess progress? Who are seasoned executives outside of my company with whom I meet and engage routinely to discuss the challenges I face?


About the Author: Dr. Ray Benedetto is co-founder of GuideStar, Inc.® a practice in organizational leadership for performance excellence ( He is a retired Air Force colonel with a distinguished active-duty military career. He is board certified in Healthcare Management and a Life Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Dr. Ray taught leadership for 12 years for the University of Phoenix Chicago campus. He holds degrees from Penn State (BS), the University of Southern California (MSSM), and the University of Phoenix (DM). He is co-author of “It’s My Company TOO! How Entangled Companies Move Beyond Engagement for Remarkable Results” (Greenleaf Book Press Group, 2012) and numerous ezine articles available online. You can reach him at


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