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News@Ivey · Ivan Langrish

Connecting reflection with leader character

May 28, 2020

Cheryl Pounder

“People go through experiences. An experience is either a good one or a bad one, but for us to truly learn about them, we need to take time to reflect,” said Gerard Seijts, Executive Director of Ivey’s Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership.

Framed around the current reality of working within a global pandemic, reflection emerged as a central theme of the interactive webinar Organizational well-being: the power of leader character during times of crisis. Featuring Seijts, Jeannine Pereira, HBA '95, EY Canada’s Director of Talent Development, and Canadian Olympian Cheryl Pounder, the session delved into managing your fears and how developing character is an essential component of good leadership.

Extensive research has shown character is a personal resource that needs to be developed and nurtured, benefiting not only the individual, but also the workplace.

“Some people believe leadership character is innate, it’s something that existed and you have those characteristics, or you don’t,” said Pereira. "But what the research has provided is that you can define these, it’s a behaviour and you can practise it. It’s so important that we not only value leadership capability, but the strength of a leader’s character.”

At this time of uncertainty, acknowledging that we don’t have full control and managing fear is an important aspect for both employer and employee alike.  

Pounder, a world-class athlete and two-time Olympic gold medallist has seen incredible success, but has faced the stagnating fear of failure. While being cut from the national team at a young age was a crippling experience, she now realizes it takes courage to face and reflect on fears which may stand in your way.

“Asking for help is essential to growth and learning each and every day. We need to grow every day so we can be our best self, not just for ourselves, but for others around us,” said Pounder.

Also, Seijts suggests, if you start thinking about how leaders develop over time, they are shaped by crucible experiences.

“We are shaped by all kinds of events around us, minor ones and big ones in particular, but the learning truly is in the reflection and out of that reflection should come a set of goals and behaviourial goals that you can deliver on,” he said.