Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker
Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker
William D. Parker: Principal, Author, Speaker and Blogger
PMP263: Cycles of Self-Reflection in Leadership
19 minutes Posted Sep 22, 2021 at 4:00 am.
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This past month, we sent our third daughter to college. More than a year ago, she began to explore the possibility of studying abroad. As a result of months of apply to schools, virtual meet-ups, and 5,000 miles of travel, she is now a student at Aberystwyth University in Wales.

Sending off another Parker child has been an emotional roller coaster. But the experience also brought back some memories of the first time we sent a child to college. As I was walking down memory lane this week, I came across a post I had shared in 2017 about the cycles of self-reflection and applying those lessons both in parenting and in personal growth.

This week, I’ve decided to re-share that content here in an encore episode. Listening back also made me realize I originally shared this post in the spring of my last year as a high school principal. At the time, I had no idea I would be offered an opportunity to move into full-time work serving principals in my own state as well as across the globe with my books and trainings. 

Listening back has been bitter-sweet, but it has also been a great reminder that growth is a ongoing cycle of learning, reflecting, refining, and action.

I hope you enjoy this repeat podcast episode and can apply it to your own journey: 


March 2017: A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took our oldest daughter, Emily, out to dinner. She turned 18 this year, and we wanted to encourage her in the opportunities and challenges she will be facing as a graduating senior and soon-to-be college student.

Previously, I had been reading Tim Elmore’s Generation iY where he shares about three intelligences that help us in conversations with our students and children as they mature:

Emotional intelligence: We need to help them develop their EQ—self awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Moral intelligence: We need to coach them toward robust character—personal discipline, secure sense of self, strong positive values. (Perhaps we could call this MQ.)

Leadership intelligence: Finally, we need to encourage clear vision, courage, priorities, big-picture perspective, and planning skills (LQ) (Elmore 209).

During dinner, I asked Emily if I could read through the descriptions and if she could reflect on areas she felt were her strengths and where she thought she still needed to grow. As she self-reflected on different areas, I learned some new insights about her. And I think she may have learned some new insights about herself too.

My Own Self-Assessment

Self-reflection isn’t only good for our children as they grow. It’s good for older learners like you and me. I remember about five years ago when I was talking to a buddy who is twenty years younger than I. He was telling me about the goals he and his wife had set and reached. He was excited about being a young father, starting his own business, and pursuing his dreams. I began to reminisce with him about when I was his age—how my wife and I had paid off debts, bought our first house, started a family.

As he listened, he looked at me with a curious expression and asked, “So that was twenty years ago. What are your goals now?” Suddenly, I was stumped. I realized I didn’t have an answer,