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Reflective Human Action

Reflective Human Action
On-Line Curriculum

Week 7 - RHA–An Uncommon Journey to Leadership

Topics: Self-knowledge
Objective: Explore one's inner self

This week's assignment:

  1. Read the E-Lecture, then Chapter 4.
  2. Participate in the discussion.
  3. Complete 2 Reflective Activities, posting your observations in your journal.


Terry (1993) classifies the diverse viewpoints about leadership into six schools. He believes that each approach offers some important aspects of leadership that need to be blended into a comprehensive theory. This school describes the approaches that attribute traits and acquired skills to leaders. It proposes that leadership theory can be developed by examining the qualities of leaders and the elements of situations. This school leads to the argument of whether leaders are born or made and to the concept of "natural leader." It leads also to the notion that persons who have certain qualities are destined to leadership and those without are relegated to followership.

These ideas are described by Terry (1993) as exclusive personal theory. An inclusive approach to personal leadership is reflected in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that describes the dimensions of a person's personality and recognizes everyone's capacity to lead. This school, based on innate qualities, lacks appreciation for transcendence of human limitations and for the full complexity of action. However, it does help individuals understand their innate qualities and take advantage of their strengths. Knowing oneself and others are essential skills for recognizing and appreciating differing qualities, improving outcomes, valuing differences as strengths, nurturing ideas and people, supplying needed abilities, and understanding the social reality (history, reality, and possibilities of the social setting).

See for example: Bennis, W., & Goldsmith, J. (1994) Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Astin, H. A., & Leland, C. (1991).Women of influence, women of vision: A cross generational study of leaders and social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Helgesen, S. (1990). The female advantage: Women's ways of leadership. New York: Doubleday.

The overarching goal this week is to explore one's inner self and answer the questions "Who am I " and "What traits do I have or have I acquired that support leadership?" Through knowing ourselves and others we will be able to address the obligations of leadership that accompany action. From the personal leadership perspective these responsibilities are to recognize, appreciate, and value differences as strengths, to improve outcomes, to nurture ideas and people, and to supply needed abilities.

All of us have many lives: our deep inner life where we connect with our spirit; our public life where we engage with other people at work, in our communities, at social, or at church events; and our private life where we are away from the public with our families or alone. According to Covey, Merrill, & Merrill (1994), our most significant life is our deep inner life. In this life, we connect with "our unique human endowments of self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination" (p. 109). Without these endowments, we cannot generate a personal or professional vision that will lead to "quality-of-life events."

We use knowledge of self or self-awareness to explore our needs and capacities and integrate them with our actions. In order to know self, we look at the reasons why we behave as we do. We examine our roots and evaluate how these impact our knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.

Knowing self helps us tap into our deep conscience. Through conscience we realize our unique contribution. We use conscience to align our values and strategies with principles.

Once we are in contact with our own uniqueness, we can use creative imagination to envision and give meaningful expression to our vision and our values. Our creative imagination is likened to a blueprint. It is the mental picture of the construction before the first board is nailed in place. Through creative imagination we "see ourselves living our vision based on our values" (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994, p. 107).

Knowledge of self, recognition of our uniqueness, and living our vision lead us toward a new paradigm of leadership. This paradigm comes from accessing and creating an open connection with the deep energy that comes from a well-defined, thoroughly integrated sense of purpose and meaning in life. This paradigm "grows out of connecting with our unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes in fulfilling it" (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994, p. 107).

Bennis, W. (1989). On becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Covey, S. R., Merrill, A. R., & Merrill, R. R. (1994). First things first. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. A. (1993). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Louw, L-L. (1995). Ubuntu: Applying African philosophy to diversity training. In L. B. Griggs & L-L Louw, (Eds.). Valuing diversity: New tools for a new reality. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Is it possible to have social consciousness without authenticity, ethical sensibility and spirituality? Is it possible to do works of social justice without authenticity, ethical sensibility and spirituality?

Activity: (Complete Activities 1 and 2)

Activity 1:

  1. Review your top five values from Week 4.
  2. Reflecting on the world outside yourself, i.e. issues of social justice and global concern, list those social and public policy issues that you REALLY care about.
  3. Choose one of those issues and answer the following questions about it.
    1. Why do you care so deeply about this issue?
    2. Reflect on what leadership role you have taken to date to address the issue.
    3. Reflect on how you might share information with another person, develop a relationship and embrace a vision about the issue.
  4. Post your observations in your journal.

Activity 2:


The phrase "know yourself" is a common message for all leaders. If individuals are to establish and enhance their credibility as leaders they must know who they are and who they want to be. Self-knowledge is an essential part of defining a leader's integrity (Kouzes & Posner, 1993). According to Bennis (1989, p. 51), "to become a leader, then you must become yourself, become the maker of your own life." Knowing oneself is one of the most difficult tasks any individual faces. ". . . until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word" (Bennis, 1989, p. 40). Furthermore, Louw (1995) quotes an African proverb--A person is a person through other people--to assert that you don't know yourself without knowing yourself in relation to other people. In this activity, you will explore deep feelings and knowledge about yourself.

Activity Instructions:

  1. Find a quiet place and time where you can be away from phones, friends, family, coworkers, etc.
  2. Complete the Inner Strengths Assessment Worksheet and honestly get in touch with what matters most to you.
  3. Form no judgments. Gather information and the gifts you have in this human form.

Inner Strengths Assessment Worksheet
(Modified from First Things First, by S. R. Covey, A. R. Merrill, & R. R. Merrill. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994).



1. What are my greatest strengths and talents that would be of value to other people?

2. What strengths and talents have others who know me well noticed about me?

3. How are the abilities and talents I identified different from and alike those identified by other people? Why might they be different?

4. What qualities of character do I admire most in the one person who has made the greatest positive impact on my life?

5. Why was that person able to make such a significant impact?

6. What have been the happiest moments of my life?

7. Why were these moments happy?
8. What are the three or four most important things to me?
9. When I review my personal life, what activities do I consider of greatest worth?
10. What are my personal needs and capacities?
11. What quality-of-life results do I desire in the personal area that are different from what I now have?
12. What do I have to do to create those results?

13. What are my physical needs and capacities?

14. What quality-of-life results do I desire in the physical area that are different from what I now have?

15. What do I have to do create those results?

16. What are my social needs and capacities?

17. What quality-of-life results in the social area do I desire that are different from what I now have?

18. What do I have to do to create those results?

19. What are my spiritual needs and desires?

20. What quality-of-life results in the spiritual area do I desire that are different from what I now have?

21. What do I have to do to create those results?

22. What are the most important roles in my life? _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________, _________________.

23. What are the most important goals I want to fulfill in each of these roles?

24. What progress am I making toward fulfillment of these goals?

25. What results am I currently getting in my life that I don't like?

26. What results am I currently getting in my life that I don't like?

27. What paradigms would produce better results?

28. If I had the personal, physical, social, and spiritual capacity to do anything I wanted to do with my life, what would it be?

29. What are the important principles upon which this choice is based?

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