A moment of reflection each morning can make you a better leader — even if you’re not the boss yet

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Turning to self-improvement books and online workshops to get those “leadership skills” for work? A new study finds the only person you really need to have a conversation with is yourself. Researchers from the University of Florida say a quick morning reflection can boost performance at work, even if you’re still waiting for that big promotion.

“It’s as simple as taking a few moments in the morning while you’re drinking your coffee to reflect on who you want to be as a leader,” says doctoral student Remy Jennings in a university release.

Jennings and UF management professor Klodiana Lanaj studied participants taking this step to see how it affected workplace performance. Results show employees taking time for morning reflection were more likely to help co-workers and provide strategic vision. The workers also reported feeling more like a leader, believing they had more power and influence in their office. However, on days they skipped morning reflection, their performance slipped.

Researchers note this isn’t just helpful for bosses, but for anyone aspiring to make a bigger impact at work.

“Leadership is really challenging, so a lot of people are hesitant to tackle leadership roles or assignments,” Lanaj says. “Reflecting a few minutes in the morning really makes a difference.”

You’re the boss of your own reflection

Study authors say the biggest upside of morning reflection is you’re the boss. Unlike leading a project at work or managing an office, which can come with its own rules, you completely control what you want to think about during your reflection.

“They’re not dependent on their organization to provide formal opportunities. They don’t have to wait until they have that title that says they’re a leader to take on leadership in their work,” Jennings explains.

The Florida team recommends asking yourself a few helpful questions to get the process going:

  • What are your proudest leadership moments?
  • Which of your qualities make you a good leader, now or in the future?
  • How do you want to impact your employees? Do you want to motivate them? Inspire them? Help them develop their talents?
  • Think about the type of leader you aspire to be, what does that person look like?

“This is a tool to be more effective at work,” Lanaj concludes. “Just a few minutes can entirely change your focus for the rest of your day.”

The study appears in the journal Personnel Psychology.