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  • Writer's pictureDr Maike Neuhaus

3 alternative terms for self-leadership that you may be more familiar with

Know where this essential skill overlaps with other positive psychology terms, and how it is uniquely its own.

In the media, online, and in general conversation, specific terms or concepts and their meaning can often become blurred, misused or misrepresented. This is common when sharing information – anyone who has played Whispers as a child knows how distorted one simple sentence can become by the many messengers who pass it on and interpret it in their own way!

Sometimes, this is helpful. A phrase or term may catch your attention or interest and you investigate further and build your knowledge base. Other times, it can be confusing and distracting from the true meaning of the overarching concept or theory.

Self-leadership is a fairly new term in the realm of positive psychology, and not commonly spoken about in its own right – yet! Just look at ‘mindfulness’ and how common that concept has become.

There are reams of research, evidence and evolving constructs in this area that make it unique, however, you may be more familiar with other positive psychology terms, like the ones below. It could be easy to mix them all together and say they can be ‘interchanged’ with self-leadership – however, this is not the case!

What are they then? Let's take a look.

1. Self-motivation or self-influence

This is part of self-leadership, but relying on motivation entirely is not setting ourselves up for success. Motivation can wax and wane, and there are many different types of motivation that influence our choices (more on this later!).

Self-leadership incorporates awareness of our values, use of goalsetting and loads of different self-regulation skills as key to building, sustaining and not depending on motivation. Knowing that motivation will only get you so far is key to strong self-leadership.

2. Self-empowerment or self-mastery

Feeling empowered and like you have a sense of mastery over your life are wonderful side-effects of self-leadership. These terms do not incorporate the many skills involved in self-leadership, however. While self-empowerment and self-mastery are outcomes, self-leadership is a process.

Building momentum and positive change is part of the process to feeling empowered and masterful. But sustaining it with grit, determination and perseverance by how you coach yourself through hard times is what shifts us from empowerment to self-leadership.

3. Self-improvement or self-development

You may find your life improves because you are specifically working towards your goals and desires, and you may also feel your self-development expand.

However, it is important to acknowledge that we are not working towards improving ourselves as an end goal – we are really working to become a more authentic version of ourselves, and representing this in the choices we make in our lives.

Self-improvement in a way implies that there is something ‘wrong’ or lacking within us that we should change. We are not ‘broken’ and needing to be ‘fixed’ - self-leadership instead empowers us to live in line with our values – leading to a full and happy life.

Self-leadership encompasses all of the above terms in some way – however, is greater than the sum of these parts too. You can read more about the core aspects of self-leadership here.

The thing that really sets self-leadership apart is that it is an action, not an outcome – you are proactively taking systematic, tangible steps towards your desired experiences, and building your individual skills and self-awareness to be able to adapt and respond to the ever-changing challenges that life brings your way.

This means that you can apply these actions time and time again to lead yourself in the direction you choose, rather than feeling like there is a set destination you need to, or ‘should’ get to.

If you are interested in exploring more concepts on your self-leadership journey and want a cheer squad along the way (who doesn’t!?), join our beautiful community on our socials – we’d love to have you.

Maike x


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