According to Charles Manz, one of the fathers of the self-leadership theory, self-leadership is 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”. 

Self-leaders do the work they love and love the work they do. 

Self-leadership is a key component of personal development and growth, and is increasingly recognized as an important skill for success in both personal and professional settings. It is also closely related to other psychological constructs such as self-efficacy, self-esteem, and self-control, all of which are important for achieving one's goals and leading a fulfilling life.

Self-leadership is based on the idea that individuals can take a proactive, self-directed approach to shape their own lives and achieve their goals.

If you have strong self-leadership skills, you can take a leadership role in your life and create your destiny by adopting self-directed, proactive behavior.

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What is Self-Leadership?

Self-leadership, according to psychology, is the ability to influence your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to achieve their desired outcomes. 

Self-leadership involves having a deep understanding of yourself, including your strengths.  Leading yourself successfully is based on developing self-regulation strategies, such as positive self-talk, mental imagery, and self-reward, to manage your mindset in order to stay motivated and focused on achieving desired outcomes.

Self-Leadership Theory

Self-leadership theory was first proposed by Manz and Neck in 1987 and has since been developed and refined by a number of researchers. The theory is based on three key principles:

  1. Self-Observation: Individuals observe and become aware of their own thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
  2. Self-Regulation: Individuals use this self-awareness to regulate their own thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to achieve their goals.
  3. Self-Goal Setting: Individuals set specific, challenging goals for themselves and use self-regulation strategies to achieve these goals.

Self-leadership involves using various strategies and techniques to influence one’s own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to achieve desired outcomes. 

Self-Leadership Strategies

Self-leadership theory proposes that individuals can use a variety of self-leadership strategies to regulate their own behavior, including:

  • Self-talk: Using positive self-talk to encourage oneself and stay motivated.
  • Mental imagery: Visualizing success to enhance motivation and performance.
  • Self-reward: Giving oneself a reward after achieving a goal or completing a task.
  • Self-punishment: Imposing a negative consequence on oneself for not achieving a goal or completing a task.
  • Environmental structuring: Modifying one’s environment to make it more conducive to achieving goals.

Self-leadership theory has been applied in various contexts, including organizational behavior and has been found to be effective in enhancing motivation, performance, and well-being.

Meaning and Leading Oneself

Research has shown that individuals who have a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life are more likely to exhibit self-leadership behaviors, such as setting and pursuing goals, taking responsibility for their own actions, and persisting in the face of challenges and setbacks. Additionally, individuals who engage in self-leadership behaviors are more likely to experience a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, as they are actively working towards goals that are aligned with their values and beliefs.

What is Self-Leadership: The 7 Pillars (Infographic)

Why is Self-leadership Important?

Self-leadership is important for all team members because it empowers individuals to take ownership of their work and become more effective contributors to the team. Here are some reasons why self-leadership is crucial across the team:

  • Team members who practice self-leadership are more productive because they are proactive and take initiative. They are able to manage their time effectively, prioritize their tasks, and work towards achieving their goals.
  • Self-leadership promotes effective communication, accountability, and a shared sense of responsibility among team members. When all team members practice self-leadership, they are more likely to collaborate effectively and achieve better results.
  • Self-leadership encourages team members to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. When all team members practice self-leadership, they are more likely to make informed decisions that benefit the team as a whole.
  • Self-leadership encourages team members to be creative and come up with new ideas. When all team members practice self-leadership, they are more likely to contribute to the team’s innovation and growth.
  • When team members practice self-leadership, they have a greater sense of control over their work and are more likely to feel fulfilled and satisfied in their roles.

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Examples of Self-Leadership Behavior

Let’s say a person with good self-leadership skills is one who is actively developing a confident sense of who they are, taking ownership of what they do, and being intentional about where they are going.

What are some of the behaviors and actions they will present and take at the workplace to demonstrate self-leadership? 

  1. Set clear, achievable goals for themselves and take ownership of their work. This will help them to stay focused and motivated, and ensure that they are making progress toward their objectives.
  2. Take the initiative to suggest new ideas and approaches to problems, rather than waiting to be told what to do. This shows that they are proactive and willing to take on new challenges.
  3. Prioritize their tasks and manage their time effectively to ensure that they are able to meet their deadlines and deliver high-quality work.
  4. Accept responsibility for their actions and decisions, and be accountable for their mistakes. This demonstrates that they are reliable and trustworthy.
  5. Communicate effectively and clearly with their colleagues and managers, and actively seek feedback to improve their performance.
  6. Continuously learn and develop new skills, and take responsibility for their own professional development.
  7. Adapt to change and able to adjust their approach to meet new challenges.
  8. Self-motivated by finding ways to make their work experiences more engaging and interesting, such as setting personal challenges or seeking out opportunities to apply what they have learned.
  9. Seek feedback from team members on their performance, and use this feedback to make improvements.
  10. Self-reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses, and identify areas for growth and development.

By demonstrating these behaviors and actions, a person with good self-leadership skills will be able to show their colleagues and managers that they are confident, reliable, and committed to their work.

  Now that you’ve learned what is self-leadership, it is time to put your new knowledge to practice.
If you want to expand your self-leadership style, there is a self-managing business roadmap you can find in the free video training below:

self managing business roadmap


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