“Self-leadership is having a developed sense of the person you are, what you are able to do, where you will go coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions, and behavior on the way to getting there.” (Bryant, Kazan 2012).

More recently, the concept of positive self-leadership is defined by Marieta Du Plessis:

“Positive self-leadership is when the capacity to identify and apply one’s signature strengths to initiate, maintain, or sustain self-influencing behaviors.”

Theories of self-leadership

Self-leadership was based on self-control, self-determination, and social-cognitive theory.


Previously, the terms self-leadership and self-management were used correspondingly. Self-management is crucial but not entirely a component of self-leadership. For this situation, the decision of the task and the choices are externally regulated and controlled. However, self-leadership is comprised of internally regulated decisions and value alignment.

Theory of Self-determination

According to a study, self-determination represents the interchange between human motivation and purposeful life. “It is a highlight of the role of internally regulated and intrinsic motivation as a driver behind self-leadership behaviors .”(Deci & Ryan, 1985)

Moreover, self-leadership has its roots in self-awareness and self-management. It plays its role in forming pillars of emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman, 2005).

Social-cognitive theory

In 1986, Bandura highlighted that: “Social-cognitive theory acknowledges the triadic interaction between our thoughts, behavior, and socio-political environment.”

Models of Self-leadership

 There is a model known as the positive self-leadership capability model. This model incorporates the insights of organizational leadership literature with organizational and positive psychology. It is built upon a strengths-based capability framework. According to Du Plessis (in 2019), the model proposes various competencies with core capabilities. These include interests and aspirations, character strengths, environmental strengths, abilities, and talents.

  • Interests and aspirations include: authentic engagement, purposeful vision
  • Character strength comprised of strength-based decision making and strength-based recovery
  • Environmental muscles contain: high-quality connections
  • Abilities and talents involve: Mindfulness, psychology capital, and job crafting

Development and Expansion of Self-leadership

The idea of self-dependency emerged in 1983 in the practitioner-oriented book by Manz. He introduced his theory of self-leadership. It is said by the Manz that ‘all human beings are self-leaders; however, not all self-leaders are effective at self-loading. That is not good news. Fortunately, the self-leaders can turn out to be better at leading themselves. Two things are in need to develop in self-leadership. One is the development of the inner game, which shows the mindset, and the other is an outer game that signifies action. Intention, self-adequacy, self-mindfulness, and self-certainty are essential ingredients of the inner game (air). These things are necessary to attain personal mastery. Meanwhile, influence and impact enhance the outer game (action).

There are five qualities of self-leadership:

  • The self-leaders are mostly keen learners. They have enthusiasm for learning.
  • They set specific goals for life and business.
  • Self-leaders successfully establish the habit of willingness to let go. They know precisely where to invest their energy and time. They are willing to let go of the inefficient and ineffective tasks.
  • Self-leaders design a plan, create schedules, and remain stick to it.
  • Self-leaders focus on one thing at a time. It is essential to do a specific task at one time. The functions which involve critical thinking needs more focus. Hence, self-leaders train their minds to focus on one thing at a time to create better results.

When someone has a great self-leadership, they deliver positive energy and build up internal resources. It acts as a tool against boredom, fatigue, and over-specialization. To develop self-leadership, one needs to think big. Mostly, it is our minds that set various barriers. These restricted views hinder our growth, change, and development. Another problem is the implementation of our plans. We tend to make our ‘to-do list,’ but procrastination becomes the biggest hindrance.

Self-leadership is composed of some tangible things such as spiritual, mental, physical, and social conditions. All these conditions work together to form total wellness. Following are some principles that help us become self-leaders, and it also aids in finding our vision.


Find the meaning in life. Everyone needs to find their contribution in life. We should look for our contribution in life. For that, we need to know ourselves and then characterize the purpose of life. Make a plan of life and a vision of life, then we need to figure out Who we are? What am I doing? Where am I residing?

Focus on Right Thing

To accomplish the things in your life, you have to focus. You have to be action-oriented and grounded in your purpose. It is a fact that if you want to get everything, then you will get Nothing! So, it is essential to prioritize things first.

Live in Truth

 It is crucial not to involve in any act of ‘role-playing. All leaders share their authenticity. Being genuine helps in living the truth. Authentic power comes from consistency with reality.


You have to renew yourself continuously. Renewal, change, and learning is the keywords today. Change is essential; it is a challenge. We have to see change as a natural state of life. We must always be ready for a life-transforming change.

Trust Yourself

We should have trust in ourselves. High self-confidence is essential. Our spirituality is associated with our faith. We can only take significant risks in our life when we have strong faith; only then can we deviate from our comfort zone and try something new.

In the book ‘Self-Therapy,’ Jay Earley says that “the goal of self-leadership is to navigate through our various parts, stay relaxed, accept yourself for who you are and be open to accepting others for exactly who they are. He says that self is like the sun—it just shines!”


All good things happen to those who develop patience. It is said that ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Infinite patience produces immediate rewards.

Do Not Give Up

Perseverance is the key to success. Even the circumstances are complex; we must allow ourselves to pursue things. It is said that the ‘longest journey begins with a single step .’Hence, if someone is good at something, they should develop patience. Because practice is mandatory, ‘practice makes a man perfect. This is also essential for true self-leadership.

Read Weak Signals

Tommy Haberman said, “To become soft and remain hard, that is challenge enough for one life .”We have to establish sensitivity to become a good leader. It is a paradox of life to be complex as well as sensitive. Hence, if you are soft, then you have to be stronger. More sensitivity refers to more consciousness about everything. Read signals from surrounding and anticipate things accordingly. This will help us to be competent in life.


Humbleness is being modest or unpretentious. It is the feeling which helps you to be in service. People who are successful and humble have found their greatness in life.

Attributes of Self-led Person

There are five attributes of a self-led person:

  • They are self-aware
  • They successfully maintain their relationships
  • They are Self-disciplined
  • They have high emotional intelligence
  • They take responsibility for their actions

Self-leadership and its Outcomes

Individual Self-leadership and Outcomes

Significant research shows positive impacts of self-leadership. The research was conducted on 308 companies over 22 years. It is analyzed that employee productivity is enhanced because of individual self-control. It is studied that the self-leadership training had caused positive impacts on employees’ behavior. Greater internal control, less stress, and reduced anxiety eventually result in tremendous career success.

Team Leadership and Outcomes

Another research has been carried out in which self-managing teams compared with traditional teams. The results were not well defined. The self-leading teams were improved team-level productivity compared to traditionally managed teams. Additionally, research has helped build a connection between self-leadership and improved work quality.

How to strengthen self-leadership?

Self-awareness is critical. It is a foundation of self-leadership. The first thing which we need to do is slow down! We are in an era where we are wired for technology. We used to stare at the screens (mobile phones and laptops, etc.) for more than 12 hours per day. We have so much adrenaline and dopamine in our veins that our autonomic nervous system is not balanced.


You have to lead yourself first to become a great leader. David Taylor-Klaus said, “First be a leader of yourself. Only then can you grow to lead others”. Being a self-leader does not mean serving as a high-rank officer or something, but it means helping others. Create more followers! Create more leaders!

 “How we lead ourselves in life impacts how we lead those around us.” — Michael Hyatt

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