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AEE 350 – Authentic Leadership Reflection

The Agricultural and Human Sciences department would like to introduce a new monthly blog called The Student Narrative. This blog will display assignments from courses offered within the department that are completed by students. In the March blog post, we have an assignment from the AEE 350: Personal Leadership Development in Agriculture and Life Sciences course which was completed by AEE Undergraduate Student Sarah White.

Authentic Leadership Reflection 

AEE Undergraduate Student Sarah White
Sarah White: AEE Undergraduate Student

For my project this semester, I wanted to pick an area where I felt that I needed to improve upon to help build my relationship with family, friends, and colleagues. My results from the authentic leadership questionnaire indicated that I scored the lowest in balanced processing and self-awareness. My blanched processing score was 2.3 and my self-awareness score was 2.5. My moral decision-making score was 4 and my relational transparency a 3.8. I find both of these to be accurate due to my tendency to make impulse decisions and because of my poor realization of how my actions affect others. I often unknowingly make decisions or verbalize words that are hurtful to others. I am oblivious that another person is hurt until they address me and clearly explain to me what I did wrong. I chose to work on my self-awareness throughout this project in an attempt to be more cautious of how I can hurt others through my actions.

I am currently in a relationship with a person who is much more sensitive than myself. I often find myself apologizing for comments that I have made that I don’t realize were hurtful. Because of this, I have become much more self-aware in the past several months and try to think about what my words mean before I speak them. With my low score of 2.5 for self-awareness, I chose to focus on developing more self-awareness throughout this project. 

An article entitled Self-Awareness Part 1: Definition, Measures, Effects, Functions, and Antecedents defines self-awareness by describing the conscious and unconscious. This article describes consciousness as processing incoming information and being able to react to it in a given environment. The article defines self-awareness as “Self‐awareness refers to the capacity of becoming the object of one’s attention” (Duval & Wicklund, 1972). Self-awareness requires the leader to want to be conscientious of their own decisions by reflecting on previous experiences. Looking back on one’s life can help leaders better understand themselves and why they make the decisions that they do. As leaders, we are reluctant to make the same decisions as others because we all have different experiences and values that shaped us into the leaders we are. Taking time to reflect and analyze those experiences and values will provide more transparency within the decision-making processes. 

As leaders, we often process the incoming information but do not take into account our values, morals, and how our decision-making will affect others. This conscious self-awareness is directly related to authentic leadership where leaders are taking self-reflection into account to be as transparent as possible to their subordinates. When a leader understands why they make the decisions they do, it will be easier for followers to align that leader’s core values with their decision making processes. Transparency within leaders can help followers gain trust within their leaders and build morale for the organization. 

The tool that I used to help me be more self-aware was daily journaling. I chose to write down the positive and negative moments throughout my day. I started each day with the negative events so that I could end the day with positive moments to help combat the negative. I wrote down my events at the end of the night before I was going to bed when I knew that I would not have any other distractions and that the environment would be quiet. I knew that I would not have much motivation to incorporate this into my daily routine, so I grouped it with me writing down my prayers each night. This way I was able to remember to do it because it was added to the routine I already had. 

Throughout my research, I found a journal that gave me great hope about this technique helping me to develop more self-awareness. The journal is entitled, Journaling: The space for me. This article focuses on philosopher’s viewers of nurses, and how they find journaling to be essential for nurses to be the most emotionally stable caregivers possible. The article states, “The rhythmic movement of the handwriting across the page can create time for meditation and space to focus our attention on our own needs and understand our own emotions. When journaling, we may discover new insights about ourselves and our experiences and be able to connect these insights with previously learned knowledge”, (Jennell, p. 183). This quote helps to describe how the movement of the handwriting across the page helps to connect with my brain about understanding exactly what it is I am writing about. In school I often write down key terms or notes for tests because it helps me remember them better if I write them down; the same approach applies to this experiment.

I have found through this experiment that writing down negative moments throughout my day when I made others feel hurt or uncomfortable created a deeper conviction of how I treat others. Being able to take time at the end of the day to realize that others might be journaling about their negative moments at the end of the day and that I could have contributed to making someone else’s day worse caused me to think more about my decisions. The reflection that I made focused on the actions that caused me to make less impulsive decisions and to think of who my choices make an effect before deciding what to do.

Another benefit of this experiment was I felt the need to reach out to the important people in my life that I care most about. Seeing the negative moments of my day displayed on the page made me want to be a better friend to others and help them get through their negative moments in the day. I started to text my friend’s short encouraging messages throughout the day to hopefully let them know I was thinking of them. Part of this also resides with me trying to make up for the moments when my words and decision were hurtful to others. The book Leadership: Theory and Practice states, “Through the process of developing one’s self-awareness automatically will your awareness of others be greater. Eventually, a leader will learn how their actions affect the actions of their followers and can gain true control over their operations and organizations (Northouse, 2013).” This quote supports my evidence that developing a greater sense of self-awareness puts more focus on one’s actions and how they affect others in that environment. 

After taking the ALQ for the second time my self-awareness score went up to 3.5 and my balanced processing score went up to 3.33. My moral decision-making was a 4 and my relational transparency was a 3.2. The evidence I have of this change is my new hesitation to speak or make decisions. With my greater level of self-awareness, I have done more critical thinking often before interacting with others. Instead of responding to others immediately, I have started to hesitate first to think, “Is what I am about to say hurtful?”. I have found that asking this question has allowed me to record fewer negative events at the end of the day in terms of dealing with my relationship with close family and friends.

In an article entitled Counseling Students’ Perceptions of Journaling as a Tool for Developing Reflective Thinking, four Midwestern university students participated in journaling to develop a deeper level of self-awareness. All four participants indicated that by journaling throughout this time of the experiment they increased self-awareness and had a greater understanding of their future careers. The article states, Through reflection, individuals learn from experience (Kolb, 1984), become more self-aware (Moon, 2006), and get better at improvising in professional scenarios (Binder, 1999). This statement is a strong source due to its citations from important researchers that have a focus on leadership and development.

One of the participants in the study stated, “Through reflecting over the last two and a half years, I’ve been able to learn how to reflect and do it effectively. And do it to a point where it’s not as challenging as it used to be and it’s more meaningful.” This statement strongly correlates with my growth of self-awareness through this class. Journaling my thoughts each day seemed more like a chore in the beginning until I was able to find joy in decompressing the events that made up my day to better understand myself and my actions.

As a leader going forward, I hope to carry this into future situations. to ensure that all members feel comfortable and trust me to lead in a given organization. Gaining a great sense of self-awareness has allowed me to better align my values with my actions, and I hope that it evident for others to see in my future leadership positions. I hope that in the future my self self-awareness will create a transparent and safe environment for others in future working conditions.


Morin, A. (2011), Self‐Awareness Part 1: Definition, Measures, Effects, Functions, and Antecedents. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5: 807-823. 

Charles, Jennell P,PhD., R.N. (2010). Journaling: Creating space for “I”. Creative Nursing, 16(4), 180-4. 12725 

Northouse, P.G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pg. 19-42. 

Woodbridge, L., & O’Beirne, B. R. O. (2017). Counseling students’ perceptions of journaling as a tool for developing reflective thinking. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 9(2)

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