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Want to be a Better Leader? Practice Self-Reflection and Gratitude

Despite their association with personal development, practicing self-reflection and gratitude transforms leaders. These simple tactics that strengthen the impact of leaders also contribute to deeper understanding and appreciation within organizations.

Practice Daily Self-Reflection

Nancy J. Adler, the S. Bronfman Chair in Management at McGill University, believes outstanding leaders excel because of their foresight, deep understanding, and action-oriented choices. To develop these tendencies over time, Adler recommends executives turn to journaling.

Writing by hand taps into unfiltered ideas, allowing your mind to process daily occurrences with awareness of a larger focus or goal. As Adler summarizes in Harvard Business Review,“Gaining access to your own insight isn’t difficult; you simply need to commit to reflecting on a daily basis.”

Adler created a journal for leaders that hones in on important questions: “How am I feeling about my leadership?” and “What is the most outrageous (or fun or novel) idea I’ve heard in the last 24 hours?” Candidly responding to these kinds of questions transforms successful leaders into significant leaders by turning their greatest ideas into opportunities for action.

Express Gratitude Every Day

Studies link expressions of gratitude to better health, increased happiness, and stronger decision-making capabilities. Building on this research, Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry and medicine, argues in Wall Street Journal’s Experts Blog that the power of gratitude can make a big difference at work. Expressing thanks every day, both in a journal and within the context of interpersonal relationships at works, boosts wellbeing and morale in organizations.

One cited study found, for example, that individuals who made a gratitude list on weekly basis were more optimistic and goal directed. Practicing gratitude fosters a culture of appreciation in workplaces, which are often devoid of positive praise. To build on trending research, incorporate gratitude into your self-reflection process, and say “thank you” to co-workers with a simple email or handwritten note.