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Using Self-Reflection to Re-Energize Leaders

Being a leader can be rough. Like their employees, leaders only have a finite amount of energy each day. They also experience burnout and at times, they are unengaged. When leaders lack energy, they tend to perform worse and have a higher likelihood of engaging in work violations. They also tend to be less supportive towards their employees. Knowing this, it is in an organization’s best interest to re-energize leaders. 

How can an organization re-energize leaders? Recent research in the Journal of Applied Psychology examined an intervention aimed at re-energizing leaders. This intervention entailed self-reflection. Every morning for two weeks, leaders engaged in self-reflection and wrote about three of their personal strengths that they hold as leaders. Such a simple talk led to a reduction in the depletion of energy they experienced during the day. It also increased their engagement. 

The researchers explained why this type of intervention worked. Engaging in self-reflective writing is related to freeing up inner resources. It also increases understanding of personal needs, priorities, and emotions. This activity likely allowed the leaders to put their energy towards work activities that are in line with their personal goals. The leaders believed they had a more positive outlook and powerful influence on their employees on the days they engaged in written self-reflection. Overall, this type of activity can have a trickle-down effect in organizations. An engaged leader is likely to lead to more engaged employees, which can result in a more productive work environment.

Lanaj, K., Foulk, T. & Erez, A. (2019). Energizing leaders via self-reflection: A within-person field experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(1), 1-18.