The South African Leadership Standard: reflecting for improvement
By Penny Abbott & Marius Meyer
In the previous four articles we outlined the first four elements of the South African leadership standard, i.e. instilling vision, delivering value, living the values and leading people. In this article we share the fifth element and that is reflecting for improvement. Leaders must be able to stand back and reflect on current progress, including their own leadership performance. Thus, the leadership standard challenges leaders to reflect and identify opportunities for self-correction and improvement. This requires honesty and commitment to continuous improvement. Sometimes leaders become complacent, defensive, aloof and arrogant – all enemies of reflection.
The purpose of reflection is to face reality and to evaluate your performance as an individual leaders, and also as a leadership team collectively. However, most leaders are so busy running from one meeting to the next and leading so many projects and initiatives simultaneously that they do not get the time of reflection. According to the leadership standard it is essential to reflect on performance by creating a reflection culture. Hence, the leadership standard element on reflection outlines four fundamental requirements for good practice, followed by four key questions for leaders and their leadership teams.
Leadership Standard Element 5
REFLECTING FOR IMPROVEMENT
The collective leadership of the organisation has created a culture where leaders individually and collectively take time out to stand back and think about what has been achieved or not and to what extent they have lived up to the values and expectations of the organisation. This reflection has a clear purpose, to reach new insights which will assist with self-correction and continuous improvement of results and development of people and these insights are communicated openly and honestly with stakeholders.
FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENTS FOR GOOD PRACTICE
TRAINING IN REFLECTION AND FEEDBACK
The organisation actively promotes a reflection culture through assigning time and space to regular self-assessment activities of teams and individuals.
Teams and individuals are trained in reflective techniques and in giving and receiving honest and constructive feedback.
Leaders are encouraged to reflect with the support of a reflection partner.
Outcomes of reflection activities are valued, recognised and used to improve leadership, processes, systems and practices in the organisation.
How can we show the strategic benefit of reflection? How can we fit time and space for reflection into our many organisational priorities?
What is the most effective support we can give our leaders to enable them to build a capability for reflection?
How can we recognise those leaders who most effectively practice reflection?
How can we monitor that reflection is occurring and is delivering tangible results for individuals and for the organisation?
Source: © SABPP (2017) South African Leadership Standard. Johannesburg
In conclusion, the fifth element of the draft South African leadership standard is reflection. Leaders must be able to reflect for the purpose of improvement. The key issue for leaders is to evaluate the extent of their leadership effectiveness. Creating a reflection culture in an organisation is a vital first step on the journey to leadership reflection and impact. Admitting your areas for improvement while reinforcing good leadership performance is all part of the process of reflection.
Penny Abbott is Research and Policy Advisor for SABPP, and Marius Meyer is CEO of SABPP. They are the convenors for the development and launch of the South African leadership standard on 26 October. Comments about the leadership standard can be send to firstname.lastname@example.org