The Ultimate Guide to Self-Leadership

Self-leadership aligns your actions with your values so you can find the career progression and fulfillment you’re looking for.

The ability to lead yourself both in work and in your personal life is a rare but valuable trait to have. The most successful employees in today’s workplaces are those who are able to perform in ambiguous situations, sustain strong relationships with others, navigate times of change, and effectively find their way through matrixed structures. 

Engaging in self-leadership helps you address all of these scenarios because you need to develop the ability to be mindful, empathetic, self-aware, and inclusive, as well as harness strong emotional and social intelligence. Self-leadership is demonstrated through the expression of these skills, abilities, and values. The goal with self-leadership is that it brings alignment to your values through your daily actions; these actions then bring you closer and closer to your highest purpose. This article will explain what self-leadership is, why it’s an important practice to engage in, and how to take the steps to become a better self-leader. 

What is self-leadership? 

Self-leadership is the act of influencing your thoughts and your actions to align with your goals and objectives to ultimately lead yourself towards achieving your personal and professional aspirations. Self-leadership is a form of self-mastery and perseverance to strive for in complex, uncertain, and often ambiguous environments if you’re aiming to create both individual and organizational success. The focus in developing genuine self-leadership is to work on your mindset—meaning your intentions, self-awareness, confidence, and self-efficacy—to attain personal mastery, creating both an influence and an impact on your environment.

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Why you should practice self-leadership

1Increases efficiency 

First, engaging in self-leadership can often increase your efficiency and impact at work. Often those who have strong self-leadership skills are motivated to work more efficiently and productively, which means that they help the organization achieve its goals more effectively. Because self-leading employees manage their time more effectively and are very organized, they’re able to produce high-quality work and be consistent in accomplishing their tasks. Higher productivity and good quality work mean that the company benefits from increased efficiency. 

2Encourages accountability

Self-leadership encourages accountability because it requires individuals to be highly self-motivated. Having a good sense of self-motivation means that you’ll be more able to work through any kinds of challenges or issues that arise, leading to achieving even more than you may have believed possible. This level of motivation helps foster accountability because self-leaders are individuals who commit themselves to working at a particular standard that they set for themselves in order to achieve their goals and, in turn, help realize the organizational goals. Taking accountability helps individuals learn, grow, and evolve in their position by enabling them to acquire new skills and experiences. 

3Increases chances of getting a leadership position 

If you’re looking to move into a leadership position, self-leadership is often a prerequisite. Because self-leadership skills bring individuals to be quite dedicated to their positions with the company and encourage strong relationships with coworkers and leadership or management, others will recognize and appreciate your efforts and work ethic. As someone who demonstrates self-leadership skills, you’ll be much more likely to be viewed as someone who is reliable, productive, and responsible, and these are all traits that make a great leader!

6 ways to be a better self-leader 

1Work on boosting your confidence

Importantly, you need to work on your self-confidence if you want to become a better self-leader. As individuals become more proactive, become more self-motivated, and work to further develop skills and abilities, confidence increases. Ignoring very normal feelings of self-doubt and judgment is essential to becoming a more confident person, and this confidence will enable you to live up to your full potential. Developing self-leadership skills means being confident and proud of your strengths and constantly striving to improve areas that are more challenging for you—whether this be a skill or your own belief in yourself. Being grounded in yourself and realistic in your aims is key for boosting your sense of confidence. 

2Become self-aware

Self-awareness is essential to becoming a self-leader. To develop your self-leadership, you need to be aware of the ways you think, feel, and take action. These reactions are related to your personality, values, and intentions. To become an effective leader, you need to constantly ask yourself questions about the way you think and behave. Thinking about the “why” behind particular decisions, actions, or behaviors enables important insights that will help you work towards self-mastery. In episode 95 of our Supermanagers podcast, Heidi Hauver, Vice President of People Experience at ShinyDocs, explains:

“Self-awareness is a superpower. And so once I sort of honed my own self-awareness, you know, what am I strong in and what are the things that I’m not strong in, then going in trying to build out a team that was going to meet the needs of the organization that I was serving, I’m recognizing that, you know, I have gaps, and I should be filling in those gaps as opposed to just bringing more people that have the same experience and education that is missing.”

Listen to the full episode here:

3Ask for feedback 

Asking for feedback is essential for developing self-leadership. In a recent article by Forbes, contributor Tony Gambill explains why asking for feedback can be used to work on aligning your everyday responsibilities with your higher purpose: 

“Receiving honest feedback helps you address blind spots and evolve thinking and behaviors in pursuit of achieving the desired goal. To receive honest feedback, you must create a safe environment by actively giving permission and expressing openness and desire to receive feedback. Be specific about feedback you desire; Ask for feedback frequently; Avoid defensive responses.”

With Fellow’s Feedback feature, your team can easily give and request feedback about a person, meeting, or project. There are three main types of feedback in Fellow: One-off feedback, where you ask for or give feedback about a person or thing (for example, a project); Meeting feedback, where you get a quick pulse check on how a meeting is going and what still could be improved; and 360 feedback, where you gather feedback about your direct report from the direct report themselves, their direct reports, their manager, and their peers.

4Ask thoughtful questions

If you want to build your self-leadership skills, asking thoughtful questions is key. One extremely effective way to develop emotional intelligence and empathy, which are essential skills for self-leaders, is by asking thoughtful questions; doing so demonstrates your empathic abilities and helps build healthy relationships at work. Asking quality questions creates relationships that are founded on both trust and respect. Through your questions, be sure to focus on understanding, rather than judging. Use open-ended questions to allow more detailed responses and to gain a better understanding of the situation. You should also ask follow-up questions to promote deeper thinking and engage in active listening

5Set goals and track their progress 

Setting goals and tracking their progress will ensure that you’re aligned with everyday actions that will help you realize your most important aspirations. One effective way of staying on top of your team’s goals is by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your objectives and key results (OKRs) in Fellow’s Objectives tool. The best part of the tool is that you can quickly review your objectives during your team meetings so you’re always up to date with the most recent progress being made. 

6Practice regular reflection

Another way of enhancing your self-leadership is by practicing regular reflection, which is hugely related to being self-aware. In the same insightful article by Forbes, Gambill shares: 

“Research shows that a regular practice of reflection increases a person’s capacity to demonstrate emotional intelligence, social skills, and learning agility.”

This regular reflection also leads to being aware of your own emotions. People who reflect often tend to have good self-awareness and emotional awareness, which leads them to recover from difficult situations with more ease. This is due to their ability to identify their feelings, articulate them, and create a way forward. Regular reflection is without a doubt a success factor for self-leadership.

Parting advice 

Working to enhance your self-leadership skills will generate stronger decision-making abilities and render you more productive and more efficient—whether you’re in a management position or working towards a leadership position in the future. Look for opportunities to mentor and to be mentored so the whole team is working towards achieving self-mastery. Feeling supported will encourage career development, boost personal autonomy, and generate stronger working relationships. It’s important for employees at all levels of any organization to work on their self-leadership abilities so they feel more aligned, better prepared to handle challenges, and ready to take on any great opportunities that will propel them in their careers. 

If this article was insightful for you, be sure to pass it along to a friend or a colleague. It’s always a pleasure to see you on the Fellow Blog—until next time!


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About the author

Kate Dagher

Kate Dagher (Postgraduate H.Dip Psychology and BA in Business Management) has a management and corporate consulting background, having worked in the public sector, sales, and corporate finance. Kate is fascinated about how our physical environments influence our thoughts, behaviours, actions and wellbeing. She is a certified yoga teacher, a passionate writer, and traveller.

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