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Self Leadership - What is it?

Leadership Achieved Within Oneself

Self Leadership - What is it?

Leadership Achieved Within Oneself

Most definitions of leadership have an assumption that leadership has to involve at least two people in the process of mutual influence. In other words, for leadership to occur, both a leader and at least one follower are required. However, self-leadership, a newly raised concept in recent years, challenges this fundamental assumption.

What is Self-leadership?

Defined broadly as “the process of influencing oneself”, self-leadership captures “a comprehensive self-influence perspective that concerns leading oneself toward the performance of naturally motivating tasks as well as managing oneself to do work that must be done but is not naturally motivating”.

Consequently, the concept of self-leadership suggests that a single individual can act as both the leader and the follower. Put simply, self-leadership is the ability to lead yourself to achieve your personal and professional goals and objectives, while also helping the company or organization you work for to be successful.

Self-leadership is important because it is necessary to help individuals accomplish their professional goals and become good leaders to others. Good leaders must have the ability to lead by example. In business, self-leadership benefits the organization as a whole, in addition to the individual. Self-leadership allows a leader to influence others to take action to meet organizational goals.

In addition to helping you to achieve personal goals for your life and career, the benefits of self-leadership include the following:

1. Make you more efficient and productive: Strong self-leadership skills allow you to manage your time effectively and stay organized in your work, which often results in the company benefiting from increased productivity and higher quality work.

2. Higher job satisfaction: After finding intrinsic motivation through self-leadership, it is more likely for you to find your job or career goals more appealing, which will enable you to be more pleased and satisfied at work.

3. Build stronger relationships with colleagues: With strong self-leadership skills, co-workers will be more likely to view you as someone they can count on, while supervisors and managers will appreciate your ability to be productive without having to be micromanaged.

4. Inspire others to follow your lead: Great leadership begins with self-leadership skills, which enables you to lead the team by your own example. Showing self-leadership skills has a positive influence on encouraging people around to be more proactive and productive.

Internal and External Forces of Self-leadership

Internal forces are antecedents that originate from oneself. Following are some examples of internal forces of self-leadership.

  • Intrinsic rewards: Individuals who choose jobs with natural rewards or embed their jobs with naturally motivating tasks are more likely to be self-leading. 
  • Personal traits: Individuals with higher conscientiousness are more likely to exercise self-leadership.
  • Self-talk: A cognitive strategy for leading oneself through self-verbalizations.

External forces capture contextual factors that influence the exercising of self-leadership. Following are some examples of external forces of self-leadership.

  • Individual reward systems: Effective facilitator of self-management. Rewards are given to individuals based on peer evaluations of team members’ contributions to the group.
  • Self-leadership training: Training to help people to practice self-leadership strategies, particularly helpful for individuals who are lower on conscientiousness
  • National culture: Impacts the meaning of self-leadership for individuals growing up within the culture. Differences in generalized self-leadership strategies are found among different cultures.
  • Organizational culture and structure: An organizational culture that encourages high involvement and a less centralized and formalized company structure is more effective at encouraging the self-leadership of employees.

8 Skills to Help Achieve Self-leadership

1. Self-awareness

Understanding who you are, what your goals are, what your strengths and weaknesses are, areas where you can improve, your moods, emotions and motivations and how they impact you.

2. Growth Mindset

Believe that you can develop and change things, especially yourself. While you cannot control all of your experiences, you can control how you choose to react to them.

3. Motivation

Have an intrinsic passion that provides energy for you to push beyond personal limits and drives you to overcome any limitations you may face.

4. Planning

Identify what you want to do and make a plan for success. It can be achieved by breaking bigger dreams into manageable milestones and then optimizing each milestone into a goal.

5. Dedication

Commitment to a specific task or purpose. It helps you stay motivated to complete tasks and stay the course to overcome challenges when they arise.

6. Self-regulation

The ability to regulate your own emotions, thoughts and behaviours, without external interference, in a way that is socially acceptable. It helps to ensure you respond to challenges positively and effectively after carefully thought out.

7. Accountability

Taking responsibility for your thoughts, decisions, emotions and actions and taking the action needed to correct the issue, but not blaming someone else when something goes wrong.

8. Embracing Failure

Accept and adjust one’s expectations about encountering some form of failure along the goal path. After a failure, treat yourself with the same care, love, and respect you would give to a struggling close friend.


With the advancement of technology, it can be predicted that many jobs will be lost and dozens of new jobs will be created. Research on future jobs found that self-leadership was related to 25% of the required skills. Therefore, although self-leadership is a complex skill and requires lots of practice, it is still worth investing in developing such a skill set and increasing your career bargaining power in the future.



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