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The Big Reveal – Extraordinary Leaders’ Best-Kept Secret

Written by: Angela Cusack, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” The essential ingredient to both is Executive Reflection. Yet, it is undervalued and underutilized by executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs unless they find themselves in a challenging situation. A pause suddenly happens without thinking. The situation forces leaders to recalibrate, reprioritize, and reconsider.

Silhouette shadow of woman looking at city from office

But what if you weren’t abruptly thrown off track? What if you could see around the corner before approaching the bend? The ability to anticipate in this way is afforded by purposeful reflective pauses. It creates the space for us to see into the space between this moment and the next, giving us the foresight and insight necessary to lead others to peak performance.

Taking purposefully planned pauses daily to consider our own thoughts and actions and their implications on others is the best-kept secret of extraordinary leaders. The funny thing is that these peak performance leaders did not intentionally keep it a secret. On the contrary, it simply is not “rocket science” to them.

They understand what is not always obvious.

Executive Reflection provides insights into ways of artfully leading others. It is a way to stay in touch with oneself while remaining positive and productive in relationships. It is the central component of their learning that contributes to their incredible success.

Planned purposeful pauses give leaders the space they are sorely missing to consider how their intentions either aligned or didn’t align with the impact of their actions. It creates a spaciousness allowing leaders to finalize an internal conversation they are having about a situation before shifting to the next.

Being at our best takes courage and commitment to our ongoing learning, which arises from this level of honest contemplation.

Looking back on our behaviors and actions in a non-judgmental way is essential in our ability to level up quickly so we can move forward with more confidence and ease. Looking back informs how our future self will choose to behave and act in future situations.

Furthermore, Executive Reflection provides us a window into our biases, thoughts, cares, and concerns that otherwise slip into our backgrounds. These discoveries are liberating and necessary in our evolution and transformation as leaders responsible for leading teams and organizations.

As I tell my clients:

Executive Reflection is the quiet magic extraordinary leaders purposefully do daily.

I describe Executive Reflection this way in my debut book, Discover The Matrix, Integrity: The True Mark of Leadership:

Executive Reflection is a meta-process of reflecting on our experiences. It requires us to ask ourselves challenging questions, be willing to learn, and continuously look for ways to improve. Executive Reflection requires a pause as we peer into our internal kaleidoscope. This “space between” involves thinking about an action, a reaction, a belief, a hypothesis, or knowledge, considering it from various angles, and then assessing its effectiveness in moving us forward.

Harvard Business Review’s Ascend article, Don’t Underestimate the Power of Self-Reflection by James R. Baily and Scheherazade Rehman states, “Research shows the habit of reflection can separate extraordinary professionals from mediocre ones.” Their article reinforces my experience in working with executives committed to this practice. They, too, find that the most valuable learning occurs when their reflection arises from surprise, frustration, and failure. Baily and Scheherazade go on to highlight that “[Executive] Reflection is executive functioning.”

To further highlight this point, the influential Austrian-American author, mentor, and management consultant Peter Drucker, instructed leaders for many generations to “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” At the heart of Peter’s theory lies the idea that to succeed as leaders and organizations, we must put the development and well-being of our people ahead of the bottom line, starting with ourselves.

Executives have a responsibility to raise their level of executive functioning continuously. I believe continuous improvement comes from mastering the skill of Executive Reflection and being committed to daily practice. Here are some simple yet effective ways to begin.

  • Journal daily.

Reflect on one thing that surprised or frustrated you. Keeping a record helps you see patterns in who you are being and how your beliefs, biases, and values contribute to the experience and situation.

  • Engage an executive coach as your reflective partner.

Set 15-20 minutes weekly to explore what you notice as possible patterns, what you notice about your relationship to self and/or others, or share a particular experience you may want to better make sense of.

  • Identify your values and beliefs.

Reflecting on what you care about most helps you clarify your leadership philosophy, approach, and style. This, in turn, positively impacts the way you communicate with others. To start, think about a time you felt good at work; pay attention to the values and beliefs you honored. Consider a time when your values were challenged and reflect on how you reacted or responded.

Being an extraordinary leader is a choice. A choice to practice the planned purposeful pause daily so you can lead your teams and organization to peak performance.

Follow me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, and visit my website for more info!


Angela Cusack, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

As a business advisor, executive coach, speaker, and author of Discover the Matrix, Integrity: The Mark of True Leadership, Angela has dedicated her life to helping others discover their true selves. Yet the discovery is only the beginning. The real work begins when Angela dares her clients to step into the “space between,” where they learn the power of experiencing experiences as they occur. This approach, combined with her 25 years of corporate experience plus running her own successful business Igniting Success®, has CEOs and executive teams from across the globe refer to Angela as their “Organization’s Secret Weapon.”



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