My Little Red Book

During a particularly tough season at the start of my working career, a dear spiritual mentor had given me a little red journal.  It was intended to be used in conjunction with the Bible study that she was leading but I had never really been much of a journal-er.  I let go of that notion back in sixth grade when my nosey little sister decided to hone her first grade phonics skills by reading every sacred word in my treasured purple and pink paisley diary.  The flimsy little lock was no match for her Houdini-like skills!  (I promise I’m not still bitter.)

But for some reason in this season of turmoil at work, the little red journal became a trusted friend.  Tucked away in one of the side drawers of my desk, I would subtly sneak it out in a moment of frustration to journal my thoughts, observations and leadership opinions about the circumstances taking place.  I captured how I felt when leaders made decisions I didn’t understand.  I explained what I would do differently if put in their shoes.  I prayed that God would give me wisdom for the moment if I one day found myself in similar circumstances.  That little red book became my confidant and companion through one of the most challenging seasons of my career.  And while most of it reflects the pompous ramblings of a naïve young leader who had no real idea what the leaders I criticized were dealing with, it helped me shift my perspective.  It’s a tool I keep learning from now that I find myself leading at different levels.

What I didn’t know then was how important that insight would be now.

I still continue my little red book learnings to this day.  Numerous journals are filled with the lessons I’ve learned, mistakes I’ve made and observations of other leaders in action.

I truly believe it’s one of the most important things I do for my own leadership development and I would encourage you to do the same.  Whether it’s a fancy journal, Evernote or a simple Word document, create a place where you can:

  • Reflect on your own leadership – what did you do well, what do you wish you had done differently, what would you do again?
  • Observe the leadership of those around you – what did they do well, what frustrated you, what would you do differently in their shoes?
  • Identify leadership moments in the every day, ordinary things – Being an avid runner and tennis player, I have a plethora of sports analogies for leaders

How do you best work out your leadership ideas?

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  • Michael Warden June 22, 2012  

    BAM! Spot on, Jenni. Thanks for sharing what I believe is an essential practice for leaders.


  • Michael Warden June 22, 2012  

    (Oops. Hit “post” too soon. 🙂

    I capture my own leadership process in much the same way. My journals are filled with notes on all my failures and successes as a leader, and my learnings from each. I still have a long way to go, but this practice has been the most essential one I’ve ever taken in bringing greater intentionality to my leadership.

    Whenever I see other leaders leading especially well, I also often note that in my journal, and process through as best I can exactly what they did and what I can apply from it in my own leadership.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • dedraherod June 22, 2012  

    I am in love with this encouragement today Jenni, especially as I enter an ENTIRE new season in my leadership.  Thanks so much for this.  

    • Jenni Catron June 22, 2012  

      Thank you Dedra! It’s been too long since I’ve seen you, btw!

  • Margaret June 22, 2012  

    My friend had the same thing happen to her! Her little sister took her hot pink flimsy locked journal to her first grade friends and practiced their phonics. Luckily, she didn’t find out until after the discipline of journaling had been deeply instilled….

  • Kevin M. Stone June 25, 2012  


    Great advice! I think I’m going to start a little red book!

    Thanks for the great post!

    • Jenni Catron June 25, 2012  

      Kevin, I bet great ideas will brew in your book!