Lost in the Mirror
The purpose of self-reflection is finding the capacity to bring your best self to challenges and opportunities, not self-obsession.
Find yourself to lose yourself.
Who you are defines how you serve best.
A keen sense of identity allows you to relax and forget yourself. But, when you don’t know who you are, you obsess about what others think of you.
You can’t lead effectively when you’re obsessed with yourself.
Lost in the mirror:
My wife and I spent a day relaxing after I finished an engagement with the Department of the Navy in National Harbor, Maryland. Before lunch, we caught the water taxi to Alexandria, Virginia.
I lost myself in an ice cream shop mirror on King St. in Alexandria. The shop bubbled with gawker’s anticipation. There’s something exciting about paying too much for a sweet treat. Maybe it’s the feeling of “I’m worth it”.
The mirrored wall to our right reflected happy young people with plastic spoons. That’s when the strangest thing happened. I caught a glimpse of a person in the mirror and, after a moment, it hit me. I was looking at myself.
Servant leaders answer two fundamental questions.
- Who is your best self? (Look in the mirror.)
- How can you bring the most value? (Get lost in service.)
You live in a small universe if it’s all about you. The meaning of self-reflection, self-development, and self-compassion is found in serving others, not self-service.
You can’t bring your best self to opportunities and challenges until you identify and develop your best self.
Spend time in self-reflection so you can get lost in bringing value to others.
When does thinking about yourself hinder/help leadership?
Self-thinking is an interesting path.. it can take me in positive (the value I bring is..) and negative directions (..oh poor, poor me!) and like a fun-house mirror we may be subject to distortions. For me there are some valuable aids.. a standard to measure against, and trusted friend/counselors (“..Ken you’re usually good at this, but I think you may have goofed up!”)
Great points, Dan. I have learned it is just as important to invite others to bring their best self. This is a dual invitation: Fee safe to find your best self here, and then powerfully invest it here (with us) too. This invitation process reminds me that hospitality is a critical part of leadership. We can’t find ourselves outside the context of community. I truly found myself when I stopped looking into the (social) mirror, and by looking up. Thanks.
I found that helpful. I’ve always thought I had a pretty strong sense of self but moved to a new role where a rigid management approach was at odds with the flexibility I’ve had to find my own solutions. After 6 months I was increasingly struggle to see what I could bring to any situation…which is when it turned into something a bit more obsessive. Which made me less able to perform, which made the whole cycle repeat and spead up. And after a year, I’m back in a role where I am able to use my skills and feel confident approaching any situation. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our mirrors usually have filters – our memory, other people, previous successes and failures. Always enjoy reading your offerings – thanks Dan
Self-Reflection isn’t necessarily “thinking” as I perceive it. If we can reflect without judgment, it gives us a clearer picture of ourselves, and what we resonate with or not. That alone is huge, because it’s something that many people don’t do. They’d rather be a spectator or game player….anything but self-reflect. Noise is preferred over stillness, to drown out the inner voice.
Self-Reflection isn’t about measuring against others, or their “opinions”, because that’s giving power to other people. And how do you decide “who” gets this power? So many are clamoring for it. Me, Me, no Me!!!
Good morning Dan;
Knowing who you are, what your capable of, and what you stand for allows leaders to start with a ‘clean-slate’ so to speak. It allows you to make solid, reliable evaluation’s of existing systems, employee performance, and clears the garbage that gets in the way of Critical Thinking and Strategic Planning.
I am in total agreement with you regarding self-evaluation. Those who are not totally honest and forthright with themselves rarely if ever engage in self- evaluation. Why you ask? The answer is simple, these folks are very happy just the way they are, “thank you very much.” Alot of these folks are doing quite well & are happy with who they are, plus, they really don’t care what you think.
BTW, very good blog on I believe the 25th. It was regarding a leaders ‘Top 10 List’. Check out my comment and see what you think.
Got to go. I’m working at the moment.
Hope you & Dale enjoy a great Holiday weekend!!!
Very good. I truly believe this based on being a servant leader. It is a distraction when one started thinking of self in the midst of service. Thank you.
As a new manager, I read your blog faithfully. This particular post resonates with me because I’ve been dealing with moving into more of a mentor role to help develop people in entry level IT positions. In order for me to be successful, I totally understand and agree with your post. The more I get to know myself, the more confident I feel in this leadership role. It also aids in helping me acknowledge and discuss when I’m wrong or out of line, etc.
(I have a lot of thoughts about this)
In addition, I was also worried about relating to my team. I straddle the millienial/generation x line and all the people I manage are millennials. However, this post has confirmed that whether or not I relate, I have to be comfortable with myself and ultimately in my approach.
Thanks for this insight.
It takes effort to change, but it can take more effort to recognise that we need to change!