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September 20, 2021 32 min

Listen as Tony Nash talks to US Army officer Joshua Bowen about the power of reflection as an essential tool for leadership development.

Josh is the director and founder of 3x5 Leadership, a leadership consultancy platform that provides current and emerging leaders with free resources, such as webinars, newsletters, and articles, to improve their skills and perspective.

One habit he has formed in the military is waking up early. He often wakes up at 4 am to ensure he stays productive for the rest of the day. He also uses this time to write and get creative things done before working out.

He shares about his passion for writing and how it did not come naturally for him. It was a “learned habit” he picked up from others, especially his mentor Joe Byerly, the founder of From The Green Notebook blog.

The Value of Reflection, Mentoring

Josh talks about the importance of reflection in leadership development, saying it is an often-overlooked aspect of in the fast paced military culture. Reflection allows leaders to assess what happened and provides them with various insights on how to frame and address issues. His preferred reflection method is writing, as he says it also allows him to share lessons and add value to other people.

“It’s a primary mechanism for me to reflect and gain clarity on what I’m learning… Now what? How is this impacting my leadership?”

Josh also says there has to be a balance between reflecting on the past and learning new things.

He believes this is where getting mentorship bridges the two together.

He talks about how one of his mentors asked him, “when are you gonna go beyond blog writing?” – a question that first made him uncomfortable but eventually inspired him to do more.

Josh is taking this head on by conquering the impostor syndrome and working on writing professionally to create a bigger impact on leaders and organizations.

“It’s very uncomfortable for me.  I just have this mental block…. That I am not worthy of that, my ideas are shared to that level. It is a huge vulnerability for me to try it. But at the same time also forcing me to think about bigger ideas that could help me proceed.”

“We gotta live on the periphery of our comfort zones…. There’s no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.”

Communicating the Why’s

One thing he has learned in the past 5 years is how to better communicate perspective to his team. Helping people make sense of things around them enables them to expand their knowledge and understanding.

In the military, he says people are trained to follow orders but it is also important to communicate the “Why’s,” so your team can better understand “who we are, what we do, why we do it.”

He continuously listens to how others communicate so he can learn best practices  and what not to do.

Josh also makes sure to communicate his failure to others. He talks about how he would share his failures and mistakes with junior officers and cadets at West Point, where he taught military leadership, to make them see the impact of his mistakes and not commit the same.

“My failures have helped other people learn lessons earlier in their career than it took me to learn them myself.”

Josh also reveals one unique thing about him: he has a “failure resume,” which details his career rejections, including not getting into the US Air Force Academy in 2006, failing to get the role of Superintendent’s aide at West Point.

“At the end of the day it’s not about what job I’m doing, it’s just how well I do it.”

Suggested by his mentor, the “failure resume” has taught him humility, ownership, accountability, and the importance of continuous learning.

“I am being deliberate in my own development so I don’t commit the same mistake twice or fail in the same area twice.”

At the end of the day, he says you do not have to be a victim of your own circumstance.

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