Why Self-Reflection Is Key in Great Leadership
To be more effective, you must be more reflective. The best leaders make time for self-reflection. Find out what self-reflection is, why it’s important, and how to use self-reflection to be a great leader.
What Is Self-Reflection?
Self-reflection means taking some time to think about your thoughts, behavior, motivation, and actions. While the concept is simple, it can be surprisingly difficult to do. In our fast-paced world, we often move on to the next activity, meeting, crisis, or event without pausing to reflect on what happened earlier that day or that week.
Why Is Self-Reflection Important?
Everyone can benefit from self-reflection. The practice gives you the opportunity to consider your reactions to people and circumstances. By taking time to reflect after a meeting, you might realize that you didn’t give someone an opportunity to speak. After realizing that, perhaps you will decide to sit down with that individual for a few minutes to hear their thoughts.
We can all also benefit from reflecting on bigger topics, such as our career, our relationships, and our life overall. Taking that time to think about these subjects can help you figure out if you’re happy or if you should make changes. Self-reflection can give you the opportunity to feel gratitude if your life is headed in a direction that makes you feel great. Or, if self-reflection reveals that you need to make changes, you could be inspired to ask for a promotion, spend more time with your loved ones, plan a vacation, or learn a new skill.
Why Is Self-Reflection a Key Practice for Great Leaders?
Busy leaders also need to make time for self-reflection. Here’s why:
- Awareness: Self-reflection enables leaders to become aware of their individual strengths and weaknesses. That awareness helps them understand how they lead and enables them to capitalize on strengths and work to improve on weaknesses.
- Adaptability: The practice of self-reflection allows leaders to gain insights that empower them to adapt to new situations and information.
- Action: In self-reflection, leaders set their own egos aside and look at situations from a neutral perspective. This allows them to see the big picture and take effective action.
In addition to those benefits, a 2022 study found that leaders who reflected on good leadership qualities made more progress toward their goals on the days they took time for reflection.1
How Can I Start a Practice of Self-Reflection?
If you want to start a positive habit of self-reflection, here are five steps:
Make time. You have to set aside time for self-reflection. If daily self-reflection sounds daunting, schedule just 20 minutes once weekly for reflection.
Create a process. Experiment with different approaches to self-reflection to see what works best for you. Maybe taking a walk is conducive to self-reflection. Perhaps you prefer to reflect at the start of a week rather than the end of a week. Maybe a shorter daily practice is more effective for you than a longer weekly practice. Perhaps jotting down your thoughts on paper is helpful for you. Try different tactics and learn what is effective for you.
Ask questions. During the time you set aside, ask these self-reflection questions:
- What went well (today, this week, at that meeting)?
- What did I learn?
- What would I want to improve?
Acknowledge your insights. Self-reflection is an opportunity for understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, so notice what you did well and where you need to improve. But don’t agonize over mistakes. Take a moment to acknowledge your insights, but remember: this is self-reflection, not self-judgment.
Determine action. Consider how to address your insights. Do you want to gain new skills or take on a new project? Should you mentor someone or become a mentee yourself? Where do you want to see your organization change or grow? With the increased awareness you gain from self-reflection, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions, take action, and lead.
Additional Ways to Improve Your Leadership Skills
Self-reflection is a great way to be become a better leader. You can also take on a volunteer leadership position on a committee or for a group, whether it’s a sports league, an industry group, or a work committee. For more formal training, you can take a course or earn a degree in leadership. Earning a degree in leadership can prepare you to motivate and manage others. Some accredited universities offer a master’s in leadership.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Leadership online degree program. In this master’s degree program, you’ll take courses including Managing People and Promoting Collaboration; Managing, Mediating, and Resolving Conflict; and Initiating and Managing Change. The curriculum also includes the Finding Your Inner Leader course, which emphasizes the importance of self-reflection as a tool for strengthening leadership traits. The courses also encourages students to examine their own experiences, values, and capabilities in the context of their leadership goals. Students will learn how to create a plan to improve their leadership skills and explore the factors that impact their ability to inspire others.
If you want to become an effective leader, develop a practice of regular self-reflection. Volunteer for a leadership position. And consider enrolling in a leadership degree program to build your skills and become an effective leader who inspires people and organizations to new levels of success.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Leadership and other management degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.
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