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Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership

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5 Keeping a leadership journal

If you have a complex and challenging job, which most leaders do, it can be difficult to make the time to reflect on your own leadership journey. Writing in a journal can help you to clarify and explore your thoughts/questions/concerns in a way that simply can’t happen when they are all circulating in your brain, competing for attention.

A colourful pile of electronic tablets and notebooks.
Figure 6 A leadership journal is an important tool.

Writing a leadership journal is an excellent habit to get into from an early stage in your career, for a range of reasons. You can use it to:

  • capture and explore your ideas or note down questions you’d like to answer
  • look back on specific events and consider how you felt at the time, what you did, what you could have done differently etc.
  • rehearse future conversations that might be difficult
  • facilitate decision making – allowing you to clarify the decision to be made, explore the pros and cons etc.
  • note anything of interest – quotes, goals, feelings, lessons learned etc.
  • note things that have gone well. This is called positive reinforcement and it can boost your confidence when times are difficult.

Over time, you can reflect on what you’ve written and look for patterns or themes that will give you insights into your typical behaviours and responses.

Activity 6 Starting your journal

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes

Decide whether you are going to create an online journal or do things the old-fashioned way! You might decide to treat yourself to a new notebook and pen, or explore some of the numerous journaling apps that are available.

Consider the best time of your day for journaling, for example, is it first thing in the morning, before you go to bed, in the office or at home. You must be able to focus on what you are doing with no distractions.

Set aside 15 minutes at your chosen time to write about things that are currently in your head. In time, you can use your journal to explore wider issues in your life, but for now, try to focus on issues that relate to your leadership interests and the aspirations for this course that you outlined in Activity 5 in Week 1 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

You might ask yourself questions, jot down ideas, revisit events and experiences that you have recently had, or outline your goals for the future. If you need ideas, a starting question might be – what would I do if I had an extra hour every day? Or how would I like to be able to describe myself as a leader?

Write your first entry.

When you’ve done this exercise, reflect on how it could help you to become a better leader.


Did you spend more than 15 minutes on this activity or did you struggle to think of anything to write in the time? Reflection is a skill and it can seem difficult or awkward at first, but it does get easier with practice. The key element is to make the time to do it. If every day seems too much, try setting aside 10–15 minutes each week to start with. If you aim to do this at work, you might need to schedule a slot in your diary. If you need help finding the time, refer to Activity 6 in Week 1 or use the Time Management tool in the Toolkit.

Models such as Gibbs’ (1988) reflective cycle can provide structure to your reflection if required. This model focuses on what you were thinking and feeling, what was good and bad about the experience, and what sense you can make from it, before you consider what could have been done differently and what you might do if it happened again:

Described image
Figure 7 Gibbs’ reflective cycle