Thinking about our thinking is the process of observing, reflecting and questioning how and why we think the way we do. It’s an integral part of the personal change we go through in our transformation to servant leadership. To change our mindset, we have to think about our thinking. Understanding our thinking and why we react in certain ways helps us become a much more empathetic leader, as well as a better follower. When we can recognize negative behaviors and thoughts, we can turn them around, which will result in an improvement in our performance and in our ability to serve and influence other people.
Thinking about our thinking can also change the way we do our work and the way we lead. For example, if someone comes to us with an urgent request for our help and we’re already up to our eyeballs with work, we could take the victim stance and probably think of a very negative response that includes “woe is me.” But when we stop to think about what we’re thinking, we can say, “Maybe I should think about this a different way. How can I add value in this situation?” That’s the difference between useful and non-useful thoughts. Useful thoughts take us out of the role of being the victim and help us go forward in a positive way. It’s a matter of slowing down, thinking about the thoughts we’re having and reframing the non-useful thoughts into useful thoughts. You might even take into account your feelings, since thoughts lead to feelings.
Probably the most important action a servant leader can take is to allow some alone time to reflect. For most of us, our schedules are busy and we have to force ourselves to make this time. If we have a long commute home, that’s an excellent time to reflect and think about the events of our day and about how we thought during each of them. It’s important to make time for this behavior on a regular basis.
Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. — Henry Ford
Obviously, thinking is automatic and we can’t stop it; but we can observe it, and the more we practice observing and changing our thinking, the easier it gets. Observing our thinking gives us an opportunity to take note of our ego, which is probably the first thing we come up against—and need to change—when we’re making that mind shift to serving people first. In essence, we observe and question our way of thinking until we can get it to line up with our servant leadership values and eventually it will be reflected in our behaviors.
As a leader, we have to be a positive role model for the people we serve. If we can’t adjust our thinking to useful thoughts, how will we ever project a positive image to those we influence who look to us for direction? Our negative thoughts can have an effect on how we represent our organization, and we can even become disconnected from our company’s values. It’s difficult to represent those values well if we’re not thinking about the way we think.
Our thinking may even limit our ability to trust others, especially if we’re forming judgmental opinions that are not based on facts. When mistrust is present, it’s difficult to have a good working relationship; our work, and the work of everyone around us, suffers.
Here are some questions that can help us self-correct as we’re thinking about our thinking in any situation:
- What is going on inside of me at this moment?
- Am I feeling self-serving emotions?
- Is my ego getting in the way?
- Am I willing to listen to honest feedback from someone I trust?
- Am I willing to consider my responsibility in any situation?
- Do I really believe what I believe?
Today is your starting point for thinking about your thinking. Find your quiet place and spend some time thinking about who you are and where you’re going. You’ll be glad you did.