Reflection: The BIG Compass of Personal Leadership

Hello everyone and welcome back to the BIG Leadership Series.  I’m Brian Bratti, President of Bratti Innovation Group LLC (BIG) bringing you the final installment for this month’s BIG Leadership theme on Personal Leadership, an essential ingredient to growing yourself as a leader. As a quick recap, we’ve established that you really can’t effectively lead others if you’re not first working on your own personal leadership and growth.  Therefore, authentic leadership requires personal leadership which further requires you to first be intentional, so to avoid the various potholes (or gaps) along your personal growth road that can stall your efforts and thus take you out of the race before you make any serious headway.  We then included the need to take action because without action as a catalyst for your plan, it will always remain just that; a plan.  Next we determined that you need to establish an accountability mechanism to serve as a guardrail to keep you from veering off of your personal growth road and into the ditches of Productive Procrastination, the Shiny Object Syndrome and a host of others. (For more on these subjects check out my previous blog at  Now, we’re going to address the concept of engaging in REFLECTION - The BIG Compass of your Personal Leadership.

John Maxwell’s book “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” dedicates an entire chapter to what John calls “The Law of Reflection – Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up to You.”  We’ll be taking some material from that book and chapter to help you take the necessary time to periodically pause and take stock of your journey.  Your growth road will inevitably have intersections and detours that come with any growth plan and cultivating the regular habit of reflection can help you continuously evaluate your journey as you as you navigate these critical junctures in your growth as a leader to keep yourself pointed in the right direction.  So let’s take a look at REFLECTION – The BIG Compass of Personal Leadership

John Maxwell indicates there is power in pausing to take stock of your experiences and recommends doing so by you using your “I’s”:

Investigation:  Finding meaning in each experience is crucial to self-reflection.  As you pause to reflect about the road on which you find yourself, be sure to seriously examine your experiences and investigate their meaning to you, how they shaped where you are right now and what they mean for you going forward.  I’ve often been told that part of the task of personal growth is the ability to realize that what may have worked for you in the past may not work for you now or in the future.  For example, what served you as an infant to let the outside world know you were uncomfortable (hungry, needed a new diaper, cold, not feeling well, etc.) was to cry, scream and become upset since without engaging in these actions, no one would have any way of knowing about your discomfort.  As you grew, you learned other techniques to address your discomfort (well, at least I hope you have!) and thus what worked for you as an infant does not serve you (or anyone else really) as an adult.  The same goes for your other areas of growth, including your Personal Leadership.  Pausing to reflect and investigate what worked then but doesn’t work now is a great way to get keen insights during your time of reflection by helping you choose your future actions when you come to crossroads in your journey.

Incubation:  John likens incubation to crockpot cooking: it allows experiences and thoughts to grow to their full potential.  In the rush and unrelenting pace of life, especially for someone charged with leading others, decisions often have to be made quickly thus the ability to make quick decisions can become habitual.  Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing.  Quick decisiveness in leadership is an important and necessary skill to acquire and cultivate because many of the problems we face and opportunities that arise before us don’t often wait for us to get comfortable with them or allow us to examine all of the available alternatives as completely and as thoroughly as we would like.  Thus, quick decisions can be very good.  However, when it comes to our Personal Leadership Growth, the habit of making snap decisions may not always serve our best interests and thus the need to pause and reflect so ideas and decisions can incubate can be invaluable.  For example, some people I have mentored in the past have asked me about whether they should pursue an advanced degree.  As someone with a graduate degree with many years of schooling, I have a keen appreciation for higher education.  However, I’ve also learned that a degree alone is not a silver bullet for all things career and professional.  Nor is it necessarily the key to bliss and happiness.  Thus, when asked this question, I have often advised people who are considering obtaining an advanced degree to know why they want it, what it will do for them, what it will not do for them and how they believe it will be a good return on investment in terms of both the time and money it will cost them.  And make no mistake about it, education costs are high in terms of both time and money (for more on the value of time see my previous blog@  In essence, I’ve asked them to engage in deep reflection at this important crossroad decision by asking some reflective questions about their values, goals, tradeoffs, etc.  By doing to so, they stand a better chance of not having buyer’s remorse after they’ve plunked down a large chunk of change and agreed to trade what can be years of time in books and studious isolation in exchange for family time, recreation, hobbies, another career, etc.  Thus, as you move down your growth road, you’ll inevitably come to a crossroad similar to this so making time for regular reflection on matters important to you will better equip you to take the turn or detour that works best for you based on your values.

Illumination:  This involves the process of placing value on your experiences and performance.  One of biggest enemies of reflection is going through our days (and our lives) on autopilot.  Often we go through our day unconsciously, the result of which is our experiences are just that – experiences, with no thought as to what they mean for us to move ourselves forward.  Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.  While people can debate that statement I don’t think there is much debate about the importance of regularly examining or shining light on our lives and experiences.  The idea behind illumination is to daily and intentionally shine a light onto our daily experiences and performance so we capture their meaning while the memory is still fresh.  If you hope to use reflection to ensure your growth compass is always pointing in the right direction, place value on your daily experience and performance so you can take the next step which is…

Illustration:  This is the process of expanding your experiences into teachable lessons. As stated above, you need to shine a light on your experiences and performance so you can give them value.  However, if you were to stop there I think these steps would have been in vain.  Reflecting on your experiences through investigation, Incubation and Illumination wouldn’t help much you if you didn’t learn from them and use that information to keep your compass pointed in the right direction.  Illustration does this.  By viewing your experiences as teachable lessons, you can then use the information derived from those lessons to adjust your compass readings to keep yourself on the proper course.   Be sure to use daily illustration to as your teacher from your experiences to make sure you’re taking the right road for your Personal Leadership Growth.

Now that you have a rough outline of what could constitute elements of a good reflection, I think it’s important to drive home the idea that this exercise needs to be habitual and frequent.  John Maxwell engages in reflection at the end of each day so no day goes by wasted.  In essence, he wrings out the most value he can from each day by choosing to reflect on it via asking himself the following three questions:

  1. What did I learn today?
  2. How can I apply what I learned today?
  3. How can I pass on what I learned today?

I’m not going to go into each question in depth in this article since I think they are pretty self-explanatory.  Suffice it to say that if you could make this exercise part of your daily regimen, it would go a long way to help you keep your growth compass oriented in the right direction and you on the right road.

In closing , bear in mind that the concepts I’ve outlined here and in previous articles are only snippets from the book “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.”  If you have found this and the past articles on Personal Leadership and growth helpful, I encourage you to consider enrolling in one of my BIG Mastermind Groups that cover the entire book (for more what a Mastermind Group is, see my blog of last week on Accountability @ ).  By being part of a BIG Mastermind Group, you not only further invest in your Personal Leadership Growth but you also become a part of a larger online community comprised of other like-minded professionals who are eager to grow themselves as well. I’m available at to help you pursue personal excellence and growth.  In any event, I’d love to hear from you.

Well, this wraps up Part 1 of this Big Leadership Series on Personal Leadership.  I hope you found the material helpful as you seek to be intentional, action-oriented, accountable and reflective about your Personal Leadership Growth Plan while leading your team or organization towards achieving BIG results.  Next month we explore “Leading Others” which is what’s commonly referred to as leadership.  Thanks for letting me be a part of your weekly leadership odyssey for the past few weeks and I’ll be back at you next week.  Take care and have a blessed week.