About Self Leadership

Whether it’s a high degree of self-awareness or a strong dose of courage to chase their audacious goals, if we observe the world’s most successful people, they seem to have the ability to “take leadership into their own hands”.

But how do they do it? These successful people are practising what we call “self-influencing thoughts and behaviours” or otherwise known as self-leadership.

The why and the how of self-leadership

Forbes has noted that self-leadership is “the most important form of leadership”. And it is easy to understand why when companies that encourage their employees to practise self-leadership are 22% more profitable.

If self-leadership helps businesses grow, imagine the positive impact that practising self-leadership can have on our professional life.

But how does one practise self-leadership?

Self-leadership is about taking responsibility for our own growth and development. It literally means “leadership starts from within” and involves leading ourselves by learning the skills needed to influence our own thinking and behaviors to achieve our goals.

Originating in the 1980s, the early study of self-leadership focused on applying a set of strategies to help employees perform better at work. At the time, it was called self-management.

Manz and Sims (1980) argued that not only everyone, to a certain extent, had the ability to self manage, but leaders were also expected to be aware of their self-management ability before being able to lead others. Professor Charles C. Manz eventually coined the term “self-leadership” in his 1983 research paper, “How to improve performance through self-leadership”.

In 2019, Professor Marieta Du Plessis expanded upon the definition of self-leadership, recognising that self-leadership skills can influence all aspects of life, not just business.

Today, self-leadership is recognised to be an important skill set to all professionals, regardless of the job title or industry. Experienced leaders are expected to “lead yourself before leading others”. Aspiring leaders are advised to master self-leadership skills in order to advance and build a successful career.

A very brief history of self-leadership

Self-leadership skills for the future

A report by McKinsey (2021) looked at the skills citizens will need in the future of work by surveying more than 18,000 people. One of the four overarching future of work skill categories identified is self-leadership.

Delving in further, McKinsey (2021) identified 15 foundational skills across 3 sub-groups that fall under the self-leadership category.

These 15 foundational self-leadership skills include understanding ourselves better, sharpening our entrepreneurial acumen and developing our ability to stay focused to achieve goals.

It is not hard to see why when mastered, self-leadership can help to build a successful career and fulfilling life.

Read on to discover the 15 foundational skills that McKinsey (2021) has identified that fall under the self-leadership category.