The reflective practice of supervision for leaders is designed to be collaborative, a conversation where one professional is fully present to the other. In this ‘crucible’, leaders are supported by an external unbiased practitioner in all aspects of their work.
Critical elements in adult learning theory emphasise respect for the learner and the collaborative nature of the conversation. Both are essential in the reflective practice of supervision for leaders. We walk with leaders and enhance their leadership skills, emotional and social intelligence and critical leadership behaviours.
Trained leadership supervisors know how important it is to create a safe and trusting working alliance. Heart-to-heart conversation and mindfulness are critical elements in supervision for leaders.
Above anything else, Leadership Supervision is a developmental practice. It is a generative conversation of challenge, support, insight and deep understanding. A supervisor may be working with a leader for over eight months to a year. It is a great responsibility to ensure that not only does the leader develop in confidence and competence, but that they are fully resourced in several ways: increasing self-awareness, viewing things from new perspectives, handling critical conversations in their work, becoming more skilful at ‘managing up’ and so on.
The supervisor’s personal development is essential for supporting leadership reflection and growth. The critical relational work requires that leadership supervisors are self-aware, flexible, confident – capable of standing in the heat of the workplace! When supporting and challenging leaders, we need to be open and robust! This kind of leadership reflection provides a conversation where leaders can learn about themselves and others in a safe and trusted environment.
Psychology, energy work, and neuroscience contribute to supervisory insight and support in this context. A leader who has supervision with an adequately qualified supervisor skilled in developing the leader’s reflective powers and emotional intelligence will quickly become much more aware personally and interpersonally – this capacity makes the difference between good and great leaders. It also supports the leader to remain authentic and maintain a high standard in their work.
Ideally, leadership supervisors create a safe and mindful space for leaders and nurture a genuine quality of present-moment attention. This becomes a path to co-create a deep thinking space for the leader to reflect and grow. Research proves that mindfulness boosts creativity, happiness, and well-being. It can also increase levels of attention and empathy for both supervisors and leaders seeking to reach their full potential.
Leadership supervisors are trained to sense and tap into another person’s energy field. At the same time, being acutely aware of our patterns of thought and energy flow and developing a greater depth of awareness. This thoughtful space created in professional reflective supervision allows us to put aside assumptions and intrusions to focus entirely on the leader and their requirements. In this space, the leader can safely explore deeper hidden, often unhelpful patterns and gain powerful insights. New knowledge emerges, and leaders gain confidence and increased self-awareness. This kind of leadership supervision relationship underpins the Full Spectrum Model of supervision.
Leaders as supervisors
As a leader, you may also be supervising many different people around the globe in various situations. If, as leaders, you are aware of how you form your worldview. Also, how you operate your filters, you can more readily accept the differences of those you lead with this insight. On occasion, leaders need to put aside (not abandon!) their view of the world. We understand that leaders naturally get on well with those who share their attitudes and values through research. Your own beliefs and strong views as a leader may slip through in an unguarded moment and prevent you from hearing the needs of your direct reports.
Your meetings and 1-2-1 sessions will not achieve the desired outcome without this understanding and self-awareness. Both temperament and attitudes can be different but not necessarily right or wrong.
Using reflective practice
As a leader, you may also find your teams have the skills to do the job, but the motivation may be absent. They may be keen to step up but lack the confidence in themselves to be effective. It is crucial to build on your staff’s strengths and accept that there will be times when limiting beliefs and learned behaviours can and should be challenged. However, be mindful that this may not always be appropriate. Listening to your internal supervisor, developed in your leadership reflective practice, will give you a greater degree of awareness. This knowledge will enable you to use non-judgemental reflection. Also, use insightful questioning to foster a collaborative and supportive relationship with your teams.
Characteristics for effective supervision
- Recognise, express and cope with feelings and emotions of self and others
- Deal effectively with the demands and pressures of the supervisor’s/leader’s role
- React proactively by building relationships and leading by example
- Pose incisive questions and challenges when deemed necessary
- Allow self and others time and space for reflective practice
- Support others to set and achieve goals that benefit both the team and the individual
- Motivate self and encourage others to more outstanding achievement
- Maintain a positive mindset in times of change and in challenging situations
- To be comfortable in a place of not knowing and promote emergent knowledge
- About the Author
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Experienced Professional ICF Executive Coach & CSA Dip Supervisor
Specialising in Cross-Cultural Understanding, Advanced Communication and Working with International teams
‘Coaching Skills for Leaders’ and ‘Coaching Supervision at its BEST’ Both ILM validated
Full Spectrum Supervision – Edna Murdoch & Jackie Arnold 2013
AWARDS: Executive Coaching
ECI & Exelerate