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  • David Tong

Those who can, ‘do’, those who can’t… ‘reflect’

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Is this true?

In a recent episode of the excellent Netflix series ‘The Crown’, Prince Philip is seen to be inspired and invigorated by the first moon landing in 1969 and when subsequently asked to address a group of vicars on a retreat at Windsor Castle he advises them to stop their navel gazing and become ‘men of action’, like the Apollo astronauts.


Taking the initiative to drive events is a core element of leadership. Being energetic is an attractive quality and it is important to take risks and test yourself by the actions you take. But without reflection there are dangers; a reliance on instinct, emotion and simply following your gut can lead to erratic actions and decisions that miss the mark.


In ‘The Crown’ Prince Philip recognises the limitations of his advice to the vicars. After a face-to-face meeting with the astronauts he comes to appreciate that as well as being men of action they operated with great restraint, able to control impulses, weigh options and make good decisions under extreme pressure.


One of the benefits of taking time out for reflection is that it helps us make better decisions by learning the right lessons from our actions and mistakes. It can also be a moment when we rehearse our responses to different scenarios, so we are better prepared when we need to take action. In other words, in our quest to be better leaders, let’s try to use our head to educate, not eliminate, our gut instincts.


If we manage people, then reflection also helps us to get under the surface of what others say and do. If we take a moment to ‘walk in their shoes’ we may better understand their motivations which will help us frame differently the options for our own actions.


A great read on the topic of becoming a complete leader is: Head, Heart and Guts: How the World's Best Companies Develop Complete Leaders by David Dotlich, Peter Cairo, and Stephen Rhinesmith.

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