When the coronavirus broke out, reorienting and getting used to the new normal became the number one challenge facing the world. We found ourselves suddenly living our lives at home—working remotely, working out, taking classes—all while battling a global health crisis and trying to remain motivated. Although we tried, we discovered that there are not enough motivational tips in the world that could have fully prepared us for this brave new world.
Amid this noisy rush for adaptation, productivity has been the focus of many YouTube videos, blog articles and social media posts, as if the more productive you are, the better you will be, and the more prepared you will be when the world returns to “normal.” And what helps with productivity? Self-reflection. According to a Harvard Business study, simple self-reflection exercises can boost your productivity by 20 percent. So let’s dive into what self-reflection is and how it can help you to improve your leadership skills.
What is self-reflection?
Self-reflection, is a practice that involves thinking and reflecting on our own behavior and feelings and the reasons behind them, according to the Cambridge Oxford Dictionary. Practically, it’s what we need in order to understand ourselves, interpret the world in relation to ourselves and help the people around us.
But how is it related to leadership? As a good leader, you have to be conscious about yourself and your surroundings. In other words, you need to
- Understand yourself, your weaknesses and strengths, and your passions and desires (you can do this through a three by three assessment).
- Know what makes you feel inspired and what discourages you.
- Identify your goals and the challenges ahead.
- Be familiar with those you lead and their skills, abilities, and motivations, and you can help them to reach their goals through your own self-knowledge.
Remember, as a good leader you need to first understand yourself and what you need in order to lead.
What are the benefits of self-reflection for leadership?
Research by Christopher Branson (2007) suggests the core benefits of self-reflection for leadership. It states that “authentic leaders are said to act in accordance with their personal values and convictions thereby building essential credibility, respect and trust. This suggests that the development of authentic leadership is contingent upon the leader having explicit knowledge of their values so that they can readily act in accordance with these values.”
With this in mind, “truly authentic leadership might only be possible for those leaders who have the commitment and courage to come to know and understand the full extent of the influential power of their whole inner Self.”
This understanding of the self and one’s values comes with a variety of other benefits. These include:
When you practice self-reflection, you are able to distance yourself from the matter, analyze your thoughts as well as feelings, and keep emotions away from logic. This is how thinking carefully in isolation on a regular basis contributes to an increased level of knowledge about the self. It helps you to identify goals better, clears your head, removes unnecessary thoughts, and helps improve thinking. This way you can focus better on the matter at hand.
Having a clear definition of yourself and your aspirations can also boost your confidence. This is a crucial trait for any leader, since no one can trust a leader who doesn’t trust herself. Besides, leaders always make decisions and take risks. Naturally, good results can’t be expected from decisions made in fear or doubt. Three subsequent effects of increased confidence are reduced anxiety, better decision-making abilities, and independence.
Self-reflection also includes considering your treatment of others. Once you analyze your relationships, you can understand where the problems lie and how they can be fixed. This can put you in a good position because so much in leading is about the quality of the bond you establish with others.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand one’s emotions as well as those of others, labelling them with proper terms, using this data to think properly and adapting to the environment. This not only adds another dimension to your sense of self but also helps control the specific impact your emotions have on others.
Why do we need self-reflection now more than ever?
The year 2020 was loaded with fear, loss, stress and sickness, and it limited our freedom of movement. Even though more than a year has passed since lockdown measures began in most places, we’re still coping with the stress of living in a pandemic.
A plethora of online tutorials and courses on literally every subject the human brain can think of appeared in order to keep us occupied and encourage us with a sense of achievement. Still, most of us feel like we are running in place all the time without going anywhere. We still live our lives from home, which has literally destroyed work-life and school-life balance.
So, with the situation out there pretty much the same and our efforts still as mundane as ever, perhaps it’s time for us to change how we think. Only this time, instead of looking for hope and anchorage out there, we need to slow down and look inside to find the light within.
How can leaders practice self-reflection?
Self-reflection works the best when you are fully aware of the process. Some people prefer to do it on their own, while others need the guidance of a friend or therapist. Here are some tips on how to practice introspection on your own.
Find a silent corner and some free time
Self-reflection and distraction cannot exist in the same room together. A peaceful environment is really all you need, and it can be anywhere you can take some time off with your own thoughts.
Ask essential questions
Sometimes you need to ask fundamental questions to make things feel more tangible to yourself. Perhaps first you need to sort out your feelings at the moment you start thinking. Here are some core questions that may help guide you during reflection:
- Who am I?
- How am I feeling? What’s causing it?
- What are my interests?
- Who are my friends?
- What are my goals?
- What is my job? Do I like it?
- What’s my relationship like with my family, friends, and coworkers?
Self-reflection has always been helpful, even in the pre–COVID-19 era. As aspiring leaders, it’s even more important to know ourselves in order to help others as we continue to navigate during this pandemic. You should know that you are not alone in the struggle to establish yourself and that your journey matters. So please share your experience with self-reflection and leadership in the comments and help us bond better through our stories.
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