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What is self-leadership?

Entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, famously said, “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” The concept of self-leadership is certainly not new. You could say it’s the practice of identifying and accomplishing meaningful goals. Once you know what you need in order to flourish, self-leadership is what will get you there. So, what skills do great self-leaders embody and how can you cultivate them?

Entrepreneur learning self-leadership and being successful through an online course

"If you sit and wait to feel like you are the most confident person in the room, you are probably going to be left by yourself."

- Jacinda Ardern -

Simply speaking, self-leadership is the practice of identifying and accomplishing meaningful goals.  Arguably, everyone is born a self-leader, yet some people lead themselves more efficiently than others. The concept of self-leadership first emerged from the professional development literature in the 1980’s based on the notion that self-insight, self-goal setting and self-regulation could fundamentally increase productivity and job satisfaction.

Charles Manz, who coined the term self-leadership, defined it as “a self-influence process and set of strategies that address what is to be done (e.g., standards and objectives) and why (e.g., strategic analysis) as well as how it is to be done . . . [it] incorporates intrinsic motivation and has an increased focus on cognitive processes.”

(Charles Manz, 1991)

Self-leadership has three fundamental elements

Efficient self-leaders master these key qualities: self-knowledge, self-goalsetting and self-regulation. All of these are fundamentally rooted in psychology and behaviour change science.

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1. Having solid self-knowledge means understanding what we are good at and what is important to us in life, and it enables us to set goals that are meaningful. Self-knowledge topics include values, interests and passions, strengths and weaknesses, personality, beliefs, potential, and self-awareness.

2. Self-goalsetting means taking the time to articulate goals in a thorough way will maximise our chance of achieving them. Self-goalsetting topics include self-determination, intrinsic motivation, values-congruents, competing needs, SMART goals, contingency planning, and harnessing socio-ecoonomic resources.

3. Self-regulation describes the ability to influence our own feelings, thoughts and actions. Through self-regulation practices, we can implement our goals and ambitions in the best possible way. Self-regulation includes emotional regulation, constructive mindsets, cognitive bias, habits, self-monitoring, mindfulness, confidence, resilience and grit, and high performance. I wrote a couple of articles about self-leadership on, which you can read here and here.


Self-leaders thrive in life

Research shows that stronger self-leaders are not only more productive, but also better team-players, have fewer days of absence, and higher levels of job satisfaction. Self-leadership offers a framework combining all the elements crucial for behaviour change and goal attainment. In the past, the term was often used synonymously with self-regulation or self-management. However, while self-leadership includes self-regulatory processes, it also includes the independent determination of meaningful goals.


And, as you might know by now, the secret to identifying meaningful goals (those that will actually feel fulfilling once accomplished) lies in the science of human flourishing. In other words, if flourishing helps you identify WHAT you need in order to live a truly happy life, self-leadership is HOW you get there. And that is why the combination of the two is so powerful. 

So, if this excites you as much as me, you can learn how to master the practice of self-leadership as well as undertsand how to flourish through the ebooks and workbooks in the RESOURCES section. The ebooks are divided into the 3 elements of self-leadership: the first one is all about understand yourself; the second one teaches you the art of self-goalsetting in combination with the essentials you need to know about flourishing; and, the third one is about self-regulation. Each ebook has a corresponding workbook with exercises for each and every single topic covered - so you can put it all into practice.


Another great and comprehensive resource to learn both self-leadership and the basics of flourishing is the FRESH START Program. And, you're always welcome to book a free call to see if coaching could be a great option for you.

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