Reflective Practice: a vital leadership habit for 2023 and beyond

Ben Gibbs is a professional coach, organisational consultant and leadership development facilitator. 

Reflective practice – the ability to ‘stand back’ and take an honest view of one’s own experiences – is a well-established tool for leaders looking to improve. But how does it link to wellbeing, professional impact, and support the drive for systemic improvement for trust leaders? In the following article Ben Gibbs takes a look at how reflective practice can support both personal and organisational success, and why it should be considered a vital component of effective trust leadership.

January is a strange place. As I write at the beginning  of a new year, I am in a reflective mood. I have a sense of the recent festivities still lingering within me, and indeed more tangible evidence of happy family time in the pine needles still stuck to my socks. And yet I also have a sense of dislocation; a sort of looming emptiness as I think ahead to the work I have to do this year. Can I manage it? Am I enough?

I know that I am not alone in this. January is like all the years’ Mondays rolled into one. It’s overwhelm time. It’s also the time of year when workplace wellbeing reports are published, either adding to our woes or putting our own feelings into perspective, depending on one’s constitution.

This year’s Teacher Wellbeing Index (TWIX22)[1], for example, painted a pretty grim picture of workplace wellbeing in UK schools, with senior leaders returning particularly troubling results. 87% reported experiencing poor mental health due to their work. 37% attributed this to burnout. 84% said their stress had led to irritability and mood swings. One commentator – a former head who runs a free helpline for heads – told The Guardian that heads are “losing it … they often cry in voicemails. They are like sponges mopping up everyone else’s problems, and they just need to talk.”[2]

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