Self-leadership is the practice of understanding who you are,
identifying your desired experiences and intentionally guiding yourself towards them.
Entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, famously said, “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” The concept of self-leadership is certainly not new, with the term having been coined by Charles C. Manz in the 1980s.
Somewhat synonymous with self-mastery, it evolved from the field of professional development and organisational behaviour in the leadership literature. It emerged based on the insight that self-leadership is a prerequisite of team leadership. While that is certainly true and important for any working professional, self-leadership is a skill that can be applied by anyone and to life more broadly.
Anyone with the ambition to live their life intentionally and pursue their dreams can acquire the skills of self-leadership.
Psychological research has been providing insights into the elements of self-leadership for many more decades. But what are those elements? I’m sure you can instantly name a few. Willpower, determination, motivation and resilience are often the first buzzwords that come to mind when thinking of striving for success.
Put simply, self-leadership is the combination of self-knowledge, self-goalsetting and self-regulation.
Self-leadership starts with an understanding of yourself: your values, interests, needs, passions, life experience, strengths and weaknesses. Self-leadership encompasses the ability to pro-actively self-determine and optimise goals: ensuring they're value-congruent, non-competing with other goals and needs, SMART, carefully planned, and in line with behaviour change science. But self-leadership also entails the ability to put your plan into action: through self-monitoring, emotional regulation, constructive thinking, and cultivating resilience and grit.
Mastering self-leadership is important for the same reason that we have goals in the first place.
Because we want to have a say in what our life is about – at least roughly. Sure, we can’t control every detail in life, but that’s not the point. It’s about taking our life in a direction we feel drawn towards. It’s about pursuing our ambitions and expressing our potential as best as we can.
It’s about living our the best possible version. Because as humans, we like to believe that we can exercise free will. That we can reach our goals and make our dreams come true. That we can be happy. Understanding and practising self-leadership gives you the choice to live your life with intention and purpose as much as you can. That is what self-leadership is about.