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What enables you to lead at your best?

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on one of your leadership ‘best’ moments? A time when you were proud of the leadership you provided and the difference you made in the lives of those you touched? Whether it was a formal leadership experience or a contribution you made as a community volunteer, those moments provide valuable insights into who you are as a leader, and how you lead at your best.

When I’m facilitating professional development workshops for leaders and professionals, I often devote time to this exercise. Time and again, participants tell me how powerful a process it is for them. For some leaders, it may well be the first time they’ve paused to reflect deeply about their leadership, what matters to them as a leader and what it is that enables them to make their best leadership contribution.

One workshop participant recalled the positive impact she had on others when she took the time to connect and really listen, rather than attempting to multi-task. For another leader, the process served to highlight the importance of clarifying and communicating the organization’s purpose to ensure team members fully appreciate what it means for them and their work, a process that takes time and bears repeating. While the insights that emerge are unique to each leader, this process will give you the opportunity to deepen your awareness of what it is that enables you to lead at your best, while doing your best leadership work.

What does your leadership best look and feel like?

What might ‘leadership best’ be for you? The question is a great one to reflect on from time to time, as one of the ways you can help yourself stay on track, consistently leading at your best. Even better, create your own leadership ‘best’ cheat sheet. That way, if something feels off in your leadership, or you’re feeling you’re just not operating at your best, you’ll have a personal checklist to help you pause, check-in, and ask yourself if you’re leading in the ways you want to be or getting in the way of your own best performance. When you do, you’ll be in a much better place to do more of what’s working well or consider a tweak or course correction to get you back on track.

If you’re curious about how to go about building your own ‘best’ list, carve out a little time to recall one of your leadership best moments and reflect on what made it so. Consider the ways in which you were interacting with those involved as well as what you were doing. Then reflect deeply on the difference you made. As themes begin to emerge, jot a few notes to help you as you articulate your personal leadership values and principles — the bedrock of who you are as a leader and what enables you to lead at your best.

For example, here are some notes other leaders have made about their own leadership ‘bests’:
• Sharing your personal leadership vision and purpose with colleagues;
• Making the time to get to know each member of your team;
• Encouraging those you lead to speak up, and making it safe for them to do so;
• Welcoming opposing views and inviting healthy, respectful debate.

Need some help? Consider asking a trusted colleague, mentor or leadership coach to help you and have them listen deeply to your leadership best story. Ask them to listen specifically for the leadership values and principles they hear in your story and offer them back to you. The process is a great way to help you discover even more about yourself and your leadership, and often deeply inspiring.

The more conscious you are of your own leadership and what enables you to lead at your best, the greater your contribution will be to the people and causes you serve. Periods of reflection help you create the space to know yourself deeply as a leader and stay in tune with all that enables you to lead at your best. Whether you do it on your own, with a colleague or as part of a leadership development program, the process truly informs and strengthens your leadership effectiveness and success. Here’s to your best!