Self leadership: the source of all leadership


“Self leadership is the ability of someone to guide themselves to positive places that they have never been before. It enables a person to fulfil their potential while building a strong foundation from which to make daily decisions – both professionally and personally.”

Self leadership is greatly underestimated.

Usually, when leadership is discussed, it’s about the great feats achieved by specific individuals in leading large numbers of people through a specific challenge. The focus tends to be on changing others and transforming circumstances.

So, where does the inspiration for these great achievements come from?

  • From where does the confidence to take the first step emerge?
  • What characteristics does this leader have that encourages others to trust and follow?
  • Where does the person leading gain the energy to keep going?
  • What emboldened this person to think it was possible to change and shape the future?

All the answers to these questions can be found if we take a closer look into the field of self leadership.

It’s an often overlooked fact that all change begins inside people. It begins in a moment of self awareness that there is something you’re dissatisfied with or that something could be better. When this happens, you create a new vision of what the world could be like with some change.

However, change is not controllable. It is a force of life that emerges, sometimes gradually but always in ways that are unpredictable. It challenges patience and perseverance within people. It asks the question, how serious are you? Are you willing to stay the course? Do you have the energy? Do you care enough? It insists that we step back from time to time and ask what personal resources we can offer to resolve the issues we care most about.

Through all this, we need to have the confidence that we are on the ‘right’ path even though we know that there is no one definitive path. We have to be confident but not arrogant while in the midst of ambiguity.

What is required is self leadership to fuel the exercise of leadership of others.

If the development of your self leadership is overlooked, then you will feel lost, confused, and disoriented as you lack the internal guidance system to orient yourself by. You will also likely lack the self awareness to understand how others are seeing you and how you need to be seen to be influential in the way you desire. You may try to emulate other hero leaders and be just like them, trying out behaviour that worked for them but may sit uncomfortably with who you are.

The source of leadership is understanding yourself. It is deepening your level of self awareness of what is most important to you (values); the resources you can offer (your natural strengths); and clarity of your intentions (purpose).

Knowing yourself at this level means you can engage in work that is energising and meaningful to you.

Awareness of these elements orientates you and feeds your confidence to say what needs to be said. To stand for what is true for you from your perspective and know that it is as important and valid as anyone else’s. The art of ‘truth telling’ is sometimes dangerous because it sets you against the status quo.

As you engage more with these authentic elements of who you are, you will notice that you’ve also liberated your innate creativity. You will solve problems in ways that others cannot because you have a different set of strengths and capacities. The learning and personal growth implicated in this process are highly rewarding as you develop mastery in what you do.

By following yourself, you will go to places you‘ve not been before – both within yourself and in the world at large.

If you’re interested in developing your self leadership, you may be interested in our online course Ignite: Bringing your whole self to work. In this 12 week course, you will discover your strengths, define what is most important to you and connect these to your life’s work. You can click through to download the Ignite information booklet here.