Is Self-Leadership Rocket Science?

How To Learn Self-leadership Without Losing Your Mind

90% of effective leadership is your ability to lead yourself, and therefore of upmost importance – not only in your professional, but also in your personal life. Your ability to see yourself as you are, will significantly influence your ability to lead others. How can you guide somebody else on how to accomplish something, if you yourself have trouble to see finish things? How can you expect your team to work calmly during busy times, when you yourself get stressed easily? How can you give feedback to somebody on professionalism if you yourself fail to behave professionally under pressure?

Your journey to become a successful and fulfilled leader takes you through 4 stages: lead yourself, manage yourself, manage others and eventually lead others. In this blog post, we take a closer look at the first stage, successfully leading yourself.

Self-leadership is the first stage (or level) of leadership, and represented by qualities like knowing your WHY, being self-aware, and being an independent decision maker. People who have no strong sense of self-leadership tend to feel they are not in control of themselves, often lack focus and get overwhelmed easily. However, if you can lead yourself well, you make great decisions on your own and are able to influence yourself to work effectively.

Self-leadership traits include:

Knowing your WHY

Your purpose or vision is the foundation on which you build your self-leadership, and provides you with the inspiration and motivation to keep going even when things are getting tough. Following your WHY is like following a map to successfully reach a destination. Without knowing the purpose for your life, you are at risk of following other people’s plans or ideas for your life – and you end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. [For more information about the importance of your WHY, read this blog post.]

Being self-aware

Self-awareness is about knowing your values, beliefs and behaviours, and the impact you have on others. People with great self-awareness have a grounded, clean and accurate perception of themselves. Being self-aware also includes knowing what can push your buttons and derail you. If you are self-aware, you have the ability to control impulse, regulate your mood and then move on. Until you take a break to analyse yourself (your life, and comparing your past, present and future goals), you may never identify certain shortcomings. Reflecting also means that you stop and see things from a perspective other than just your own, and allow someone else to make an objective assessment of you and provide you with feedback.

Demonstrating self-confidence

Self-confidence is the knowledge that whatever comes your way, you can handle it. Self-confidence in leadership comes from knowing your strengths and abilities, and taking steps to proactively promote personal and professional development. As you take action and develop your skills, your confidence increases to enable you to take feedback, accept, adjust and advance. With self-confidence, you can free yourself to be more creative and innovative.


Being resilient

Resilience is the capacity to cope with stress and adversity, and getting through tough times with relative ease. People with resilience have a greater sense of control over their lives, and not only survive change, but also learn, grow and thrive in it. If you want to persist against frustration and master your emotions before they manage you, you must draw from the knowledge that you have overcome setbacks before, and focus on what you can learn from the experience. You must face your fears and adapt an attitude of possibilities rather than hopelessness.

Making sound decisions

To make good (and admittedly sometimes tough) decisions, you need to first establish what particular outcome you want to achieve. Awareness around your vision and goals is crucial, which you have already established earlier. When you align your vision, goals and values, your values become your needs, and your needs your motivation. When you consider your values as the base of your decision-making, you can be sure to keep your sense of integrity and what you know is right, while building your authenticity and reputation.

Welcoming team work

One of the greatest responsibilities we have is to support ourselves and others in living at our highest and best. With everything we say and do, we are influencing (whether it be positively or negatively) the people around us. Self-leadership includes supporting and championing the goals of others, as well as your own. You must welcome collaboration and ideas from others, believe in them and encourage them, challenge them and be a role model. Stick to your commitments and be a reliable, professional team player.

Taking 100% personal responsibility

When you take 100% responsibility for your actions and inactions, and hold yourself accountable for things that happen (or not) in your professional and personal life, you have more choices and possibilities available to you. It is about acknowledging that the buck stops with you, so that you do not give away your power to somebody or something else.  It is about stepping up and taking responsibility regardless of who else is ultimately responsible, which is true self-leadership.


Successful self-leadership is not something that you display occasionally, according to your current mood, busyness and confidence. Self-leadership is something that you do consistently, without exception, and is non-negotiable if you want to be a great leader.

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Martin Probst

AUTHOR | Martin Probst - CEO (Chief Education Officer)


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