Help Leaders Grow with Journaling | Plus 5 Journaling Activities by Lynda Monk CPCC

Journaling for leaders with coach, pen and paper on desk and team in background

This article is about two things that I am passionate about: journaling and leadership.

In my many years working with leaders and managers, I've found that the best leaders share specific qualities and characteristics:

  • They strive to know, grow and care for themselves while encouraging others to do the same.
  • They also truly commit to leading by example.
  • And self-aware and reflective leaders tend to be more compassionate, kind, wise and thoughtful in their words and actions.

I believe journaling helps leaders deepen their emotional intelligence and expands their capacity to engage in dynamic and effective leadership styles.

Let's start with thinking about leaders and leadership.

What and Who is a Leader?

I've done training in the areas of leadership development, change management, organizational health, burnout prevention, care for caregivers and writing for wellness. I've also offered individual coaching to many mid- and senior-level leaders, especially in the education, healthcare and social services sectors.

Through this work, I have learned that leadership is fundamentally about two key things—people and potential.

The definition of a true leader is someone who helps others do and be their best. Leaders are also role models, sources of inspiration and sometimes mentors.

This is central to our role as coaches. I believe all coaches are leaders or could be leaders. So as you read the rest of this article, I invite you to think broadly and wholeheartedly about who you are as a leader and as a coach.

Consider that we're all leaders to someone

There's always someone who might be watching how we live and work as a source of inspiration for themselves.

Perhaps you are already a leader or manager in your organization and workplace and have many people who report to you within your team or group. Perhaps you are a leader within your coaching business, your family or some other role in your life.

4 Reasons Why Leaders Should Journal

Here are some of the reasons I believe journaling is a valuable practice for leaders and those who want to become leaders.

1. Journaling cultivates self-awareness and growth

You can use journaling for learning, gaining clarity, skill building, self-reflection and making conscious choices in life and work.

Great leaders are growth oriented—and journaling is a growth practice.

2. Journaling lights the fire within

My lifelong journaling practice has always helped me keep connected to—and oriented around—my life purposes and passions.

You can journal about your hopes, dreams, desires and passions. You can generate great energy by writing about these things. And sometimes you'll discover them on the page.

Great leaders have a fire within, fueled by a sense of purpose and passion.

3. Journaling helps you gain mastery and become an expert

The pursuit of excellence is lifelong. It takes time to learn, practice and gain mastery in anything we pursue, including being coaches and leaders.

One of the ways we learn is through regular reflective practice. For example, at the end of the day, you can take a few minutes to journal about one thing or a few things you learned that day. You may have gained knowledge, a relationship insight, a new skill and more.

Great leaders strive to be the best they can be.

4. You can slow down and engage in self-care through journaling

Journal writing provides a purposeful and reflective pause in our full lives. You can sit, breathe, relax and take time to write down your thoughts and feelings.

This is known as expressive writing, and it is at the heart of what can make journaling a healing, replenishing and transformational wellness practice for leaders.

Great leaders practice stress management and self-care.

Leader at desk with pen and journal

5 Journaling Activities for Leaders

So now that you have some ideas as to why to journal as a leader, here are 5 journaling activities to help you go to the page and write.

Journaling activity 1: Who are the best leaders?

Think back on your own life and work. Ask yourself:

  • Who are some of the best leaders or coaches you have ever had or worked with?
  • What qualities and characteristics did these leaders have?

Set a timer for 15 minutes and write about the qualities of great leaders from your own experiences.

Journaling activity 2: What does being a leader mean to YOU?

Use the following questions as journaling prompts and see where they take you:

  • What does it mean to you to be a leader?
  • What does leadership mean to you?
  • As a coach, do you believe you're a leader? Why or why not?
  • How would you like to grow as a leader?

Journaling activity 3: Look back at yourself as an early leader

Think back to your early years. Ask yourself:

  • In what ways were you a leader when you were young?
  • What stories, experiences or memories come to mind?
  • What is your early experience as a leader? (Don't overthink it—just think back and write down whatever comes.)

For example, this is from the pages of my journal…

I think I learned early in my life that I was a natural born leader. I didn't call myself a leader or think of myself as a leader per se, but I just was a leader. In elementary school, I was always the kid on the school grounds helping others and organizing activities. In high school, I was President of the Girl's Athletic Association and part of our Students' Council. I became a Shift Manager at McDonald's restaurant at the age of 17 and I was a Crew Trainer for new hires before that when I was only 16 years old. I was chosen to attend a Red Cross Leadership program with other young people from across the province where I grew up. That was fun. I don't remember much about leadership from that camp, but I do remember trying to wear contact lenses for the first time (that was a disaster!).

Journaling activity 4: Journal each day for a week with Bob Cancalosi's Four Loop Learning journaling method

It can be hugely valuable to take a few minutes each day and simply write down what you notice, what you feel, things that resonate with you, things you are grateful for.

And last year, I had the pleasure of meeting an incredible leader, Bob Cancalosi, the author of Four Loop Learning Reflection Points, which is a journaling method especially for leaders.

In his book, he offers insights on why to journal and the benefits of journaling from his years of journaling as a leader. And one of the things Bob suggests is recording the most relevant learnings in your life every day in your journal. These can be personal or professional, but they should be about the things that most resonate with you.

He also speaks about how to look back on our journaling and categorize it into what he identifies as the Three H's:

  • Head—how you think
  • Heart—how you feel
  • Hand—what you do

So, challenge yourself to journal each day for a week.

  • Give yourself 20 minutes of journaling time per day. (You can journal in the morning, at night or on a lunch break, whenever you want.)
  • After the week is up, re-read what you wrote and look for learnings in Bob Cancalosi's Three H areas—Head, Heart and Hand.

Journaling activity 5: Journaling and leadership growth

Pause and reflect in the pages of your journal using the following inquiries:

  • How do you think journaling can help with leadership growth and development for coaches and others?
  • How might you use journaling to be the best you can be as a leader and a coach?

Final musings: The call to come home to the self and lead from within

We are living in times that require courageous leadership.

As coaches, we are needed as leaders now more than ever. We must make a deep commitment to our own growth, learning and life purposes. And the more strongly rooted we are in our own leadership, well-being, voice, purpose, passion, optimism, hope and vision for a bright future, the better we will be at leading us there.

We need many tools in our toolkits to nourish ourselves as leaders and coaches.

Journal writing, in particular, is a tool for deepening self-awareness and perfect for a leader's growth and development toolkit.

Our greatest capacity to be catalysts for change starts with the power within ourselves. And journaling helps unleash that power—word by word, page by page, inner truth by inner truth.

May journaling be a positive tool for your own growth, leadership and change. Here's to making YOUR mark now and in the future!

If you liked this article on journaling for leaders, you may also like:

References and Resources

  1. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee
  2. Four Loop Learning Reflection Points by Bob Cancalosi
  3. Open Mind Guided Journal for Employees & Leaders Pursuing Their Potential By Toni M. Pristo, PhD. (guided journal available in our journaling store)
Lynda Monk Headshot

Contributing Author:

Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. Lynda regularly writes, speaks, and teaches about the transformational and healing power of writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection (2014), and co-editor of Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing (2021). Lynda is also co-editor of The Great Book of Journaling (2022). You can find her FREE gift for coaches here: Gratitude Journaling for Coaches & Clients Workbook.

Learn more about Lynda & see all their articles here >>

Image of Journaling for leaders with coach, pen and paper on desk and team in background by Ground Picture via Shutterstock

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