What is Self-Leadership and why is it important?

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What are you like at leading yourself? Does it come naturally, or do you prefer to be led? It’s not a right or wrong answer, it’s a preference. You might be thinking that you’d like to take your own leadership into your hands and remove the reliance on others in favour of leading yourself more effectively.

Self-leadership can be learned. Are you excellent at leading yourself, or do you prefer to have someone else take the lead?

There is no right or wrong answer to that question. It’s just a moment to think about how you respond to self-leadership moments and get honest about your personal preferences. If you know that you lean too much on outside influences and would like to learn effective self-leadership strategies, we have some tips to help.

If you weren’t born with natural self-leadership skills, you can learn those skills now. This blog is going to give you valuable insight into doing just that.


What is Self-Leadership?

Self-leadership is the ability to influence and direct your own thoughts and actions to successfully reach goals and build a satisfying life. You may consult with others for outside perspectives and opinions, but ultimately, you make your own decisions, motivate yourself to act, and reward yourself for success.

Think of everything that you might expect a great CEO or business manager to do. They organize and motivate teams and individuals in pursuit of a shared goal. Self-leadership requires you to do the same for yourself. You set your mind to goals or objectives that are advantageous and then influence your thinking to stimulate the right actions for success.

The journey toward every ambitious goal is riddled with obstacles and setbacks. When those struggles present themselves, great leaders step forward to support, encourage, and direct others. They strategize, sacrifice, and find ways to overcome even as others get overwhelmed, frustrated, and quit.

When you step into the role of leader of yourself, you can’t buckle under the weight of stress. You’re responsible for meeting challenges head-on and finding ways around obstacles. That doesn’t mean you know it all and make every decision 100% on your own. It may mean seeking out knowledge, educating yourself, and finding trustworthy mentors as you guide yourself through some of the most difficult times of your life.

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The 8 C’s of Self-Leadership

One way to understand the full self-leadership definition is to consider the 8 c’s of self-leadership. These are 8 qualities that great self-leaders have. The stronger you are in these areas, the more success you’re likely to have when guiding, motivating, and disciplining yourself to reach big goals.

Let’s take a quick look at these eight characteristics. Try to rate yourself from 1-10 in each area based on past performance as a self-leader. In what areas could you improve?


Do you trust yourself to make decisions, follow through with plans, and lead even in challenging times? We put confidence at the top of the list because self-leadership requires an incredible amount of self-confidence. You must trust that you have your own best interests at heart and are willing to do what it takes to succeed. If you don’t trust your own judgement or ability to lead, you will struggle to guide yourself toward success.


Can you remain calm, clear-headed, and focused even during difficult circumstances? Great leaders aren’t fast to react even when something touches an emotional trigger. They have the mental strength to fully assess the situation and determine the most logical and advantageous response. They stay calm while others fall apart due to stress, uncertainty, disappointment, anxiety, and overwhelm.


Can you acknowledge and then look beyond your own biases and preconceptions to reach a clear, accurate view of a situation? Every person has their own beliefs and biases. Smart leaders work hard to recognize theirs as well as those of others on their team. They strive to see the big picture and fine details clearly so that their decisions aren’t based on emotion.


Do you pay attention to the world around you and explore new ideas and concepts? Leaders maintain an open mind and are eager to learn new things. When they come across something that conflicts with their own beliefs or is simply new, they take the time to learn more about it. They realize that there’s always something valuable to learn.


Are you aware of your own humanity and compassionate to your own struggles and limitations? Great leaders acknowledge the struggles their team members are facing and take steps to help them grow and overcome. Self-leadership requires you to push and motivate yourself while having a healthy degree of understanding and compassion toward your struggles, limitations, and weaknesses.


When the next step toward a goal requires some risk, can you hold your head high and take the first step in the right direction? The right direction isn’t always the easiest, cheapest, or most acceptable to your peers or loved ones. Leading yourself requires you to bravely move in the right direction for your goals regardless of the risk.


Do you come up with fresh ideas and new options when you approach a problem? Self-leaders think beyond the usual and expected actions to find solutions that are unique or that accelerate results. Creativity is often what allows you to step away from the crowd and stand out in business, dating, and many other worlds. Not everyone is comfortable moving away from the crowd and doing things that are considered novel or strange, but self-leadership is easier if you have some creativity flowing and are courageous enough to follow those ideas.


Do you feel you are a part of larger unit? Self-leadership requires a lot of independent thought and action, but that doesn’t negate the importance of brainstorming and acting as a team. Strong self-leaders see their place within larger groups and work hard to pull their weight and help in the accomplishment of collective goals.

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Why is Self-Leadership Important?

The ability to lead and guide yourself is important because your internal thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions are your biggest influence in all areas of life. Your mind is running wild with nonstop commentary and feedback on whatever is happening in your daily life. This self-talk runs in the background of your life.

While you’re not always consciously aware of it, what you’re saying to yourself has an impact on how you think. How you think then influences your attitudes, and those attitudes determine your actions. Self-leadership requires you to acknowledge, understand, and change that self-talk to create healthy, productive actions consistently.

Research has shown that changing negative self-talk to positive affirmations can reduce depression and distress levels while improving your ability to handle stress. It can improve your cardiovascular health, enhance your mental and physical well-being, and even extend your life span.

The more you master self-leadership, the more you will understand what your subconscious mind is thinking. More importantly, the more power you will have to change the negative self-talk to positive self-talk.

That mental shift is powerful. It delivers greater self-confidence, compassion, and courage. Changing how you think about yourself and what you say to yourself can push you to the next level of goal achievement in all areas of life. Mastering self-leadership allows you to make that shift while directing yourself toward a more fulfilling life.

Leading from Within is More Powerful

Imagine going home right now, packing all your belongings, and moving cross-country to start a new life. First, imagine taking that bold action because someone else told you to do so. You probably have a lot of hesitation and questions because you don’t know for sure that moving cross-country is best for you right now. You do it anyway because someone you trust told you to do so.

Now, imagine taking the same bold action because you have determined that it’s the best opportunity for your life right now. You probably have less anxiety and more peace of mind making the move this way, right?

That’s the power of self-leadership versus following the lead of someone else. Self-leadership is important because it provides more motivation and passion for actions that you choose to take. When you’re acting because you want to rather than someone told you to, you’re more likely to always act consistently and to the best of your ability.

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How to Develop Self-Leadership

You’re already influencing your own actions and life results more than you realize. Those internal thoughts are a constant influence on how you think about yourself, how much confidence you feel, and what actions you take. The problem is that you’re likely subconsciously leading yourself away from some of your biggest goals because you don’t feel capable or ready to achieve them just yet.

If you don’t feel you’re worthy of earning more money, you aren’t likely to apply for a higher-paying job or ask your boss for a much-deserved raise. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of feeling unworthy, that negative self-talk will direct your actions and lead you toward a less successful future.

Developing self-leadership requires you to become more aware of the thoughts in your mind and then turn them into positive, productive beliefs. That requires a lot of introspection and a much deeper understanding of yourself.

Write down your daily routine and most recognizable habits. Why do you do those things? Why are they important to you? What do you gain from taking those actions? Are your habits leading you toward the life you want or just toward the limited life you believe you deserve? What do you really believe you deserve, and why?

Get honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Try to understand the ways in which you hold yourself back and why you do so. Practice self-compassion to love yourself as you are while pushing yourself to make positive changes.

The more you understand yourself and the goals you want to achieve, the better you will get at leading yourself to success. If you want to lead others to success don’t forget to check out our Leadership Training.

5 Self-Leadership Skills

Understanding yourself, or self-awareness, is a process that you can tackle over time through journaling, therapy, and simply paying closer attention to the thoughts crossing your mind. There are also some clear self-leadership skills that will help you set goals, hold yourself accountable, and successfully push yourself to new levels of goal achievement.

  1. Decision Making – If you’re bad at decision making, you’re likely to lead yourself in the wrong direction, slowing your progress toward goals. Learning the principles of solid decision making will strengthen your self-leadership skills.
  2. Accountability – Self-leadership requires you to hold yourself accountable. That means admitting mistakes, acknowledging shortcomings, and taking full responsibility for your life. If you believe your own lie and let yourself off the hook easily, you can’t lead yourself toward success.
  3. Self-Regulation – The more you can control your emotions and reactions to external events, the better your self-leadership. Strong leaders act on knowledge, wisdom, and goal orientation rather than pure emotion. If you can’t control yourself, it’s difficult to lead yourself effectively.
  4. Energy Generation – What most people think of as motivation is simply an abundance of energy pushing in a given direction. Self-leadership requires you to generate that energy and then keep it flowing. Starting from a dead stop requires a big push, but you will remain motivated and energized if you keep that motion going once you push off.
  5. Clear Communication – Self-leadership requires you to communicate with yourself and others clearly. Learning to speak to yourself with just as much respect and love as you speak to others will take you a long way toward self-mastery and success.

Self-Leadership Quotes

At this point, you have some clear ideas of what self-leadership is and the skills you need to develop to master it. Let’s end with some quotes that give deeper insight into the topic of self-leadership.

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”
Lao Tzu

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

“You can’t lead people if you can’t lead yourself.”
Israelmore Ayivor

“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

“Everything you attract into your life is a reflection of the story you believe and keep telling yourself.”
Farshad Asl

“Rule your mind or it will rule you.”

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.”
Max Lucado

“Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.”
Lewis Grizzard

I hope you took a lot out of this blog. Please contact us to discuss our Management Training and Leadership Assessments. Each will help you in your quest to master your self-leadership skills.

Thanks again


Sean McPheat
Managing Director
MTD Training 

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Updated on: 18 October, 2022

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