Essay on the Importance of Reflection in Leadership Development

Published: 2021/11/23
Number of words: 646


In research, education and conversations, leadership development remains to be a subject of discussion. As the workplace becomes more multicultural and complex, effective leaders need reflection as one of the fundamental aptitudes (Roberts & Westville, 2008). Executive education programs, undergraduate and graduate studies have integrated leadership studies in their curriculum as the cries for effective leadership intensifies in the modern workplace. The study of theory and actual skill development are the actual intended outcomes although a variety of universities offer the option of majoring in leadership to students. An all-inclusive program that promotes personal integration of theory and practice over-time is recommended by a number of researchers who are of the opinion that study alone is not enough if the leadership program in question involves development. As students learn how to be effective leaders, they must discover what it means to be an effective leader. Teachers should teach leadership at formative stages of education and as often as possible according to Nahavandi (2006). Reflection is central to this process.

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The way we think critically about our own values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors ably describes the process of reflection. Formal and informal learning processes are impacted substantially by reflection according to several researchers. Reflective observation forms an important part of the cycle of learning according to the experiential learning model by Kolb (Wain, 2017). Reflection could occur within the moment as much as it could occur after an event according to the seminal work by Nesbit (2012) which served to underscore the relevance of reflection in professional practice. The pattern of practice and the body of knowledge learned by professionals may prove arduous to implement in uncertain, complex or unique circumstances. Reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action are the ways through which continuous learning in practice happens. However, reflection has many definitions. Reflection can mean to increase one’s awareness of actions, values, feelings, or thoughts through thinking of one’s experiences or it could also mean problem-solving through seeking out possible options.

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Practical contexts, e.g., social and working settings as well as sociology, psychology and other traditional academic disciplines highlight the uniqueness of leadership as a subject of study in universities. A learner will not merely become an effective leader after completing studies aimed at developing leadership competencies. Over time, progressive competencies are developed from the process of learning from experience since it is impossible to foresee what might happen and how to handle different circumstances. As a matter of fact, learning is intrinsically connected to the leadership process. Development of leadership skill and retention of leadership concepts is dependent on application of key concepts and practice.

Critical reflection can spur self-discovery in professional life and classroom contexts, enable insight, and can integrate theory with practice. A holistic understanding of complex or ambiguous situations can be achieved through critical reflection by encouraging the learner amend his/her personal assumptions and perspectives. Ethical and moral responsibility can also be developed courtesy of critical reflection by stimulating an individual to use his/her experiences and values. A study by Hashim (2008) shows that leadership competency and emotional intelligence are effectively developed through the strategy of self-directed learning that uses reflective questioning during its cycle.


Hashim, J. (2008). Competencies acquisition through self‐directed learning among Malaysian managers. Journal of workplace learning.

Nahavandi, A. (2006). Teaching leadership to first-year students in a learning community. Journal of Leadership Education, 5, 14-27.

Nesbit, P. L. (2012). The role of self-reflection, emotional management of feedback, and self-regulation processes in self-directed leadership development. Human Resource Development Review, 11, 203-226.

Roberts, C., and Westville, I. N. (2008). Developing future leaders: The role of reflection in the classroom. Journal of Leadership Education, 7, 116-130.

Wain, A. (2017). Learning through reflection. British Journal of Midwifery, 25, 662-666.

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