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What is self-leadership? 7 ways to awaken your inner leader

Self-Leadership is a key element for your personal success by Sofia Kakkava Coaching
Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

First things first: Leadership begins with self-leadership!

If you think about it, we all lead ourselves to some extent, depending on how smartly, how strategically and how disciplined we are, we live a purposeful life with intentionality.

What is self-leadership?

Self-Leadership is the conscious influence you have on your thoughts, feelings and actions for achieving your goals. Self-leadership is your ability to use your own personal strengths and to recognize your own behaviors.

Practicing self-leadership does not mean that you have a leadership position nor does it concern only your professional life. It is - and it should - practiced by everyone in all circumstances!

"Self-leadership is the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions towards your objective(s)." - Bryant & Kazan, 2012 in the book Self Leadership - How to Become a More Effective, and Efficient Leader from the Inside Out

Charles Manz was the first to use the term 'Self-leadership' in 1983 and defined it as; “a comprehensive self-influence perspective that concerns leading oneself". He mentioned that self-leadership determines what we do, why we do it, and how. It involves self-knowledge, goal setting, and self-management processes. While Brian Tracy, believes that self-leadership is setting a goal and taking full responsibility for that goal.

As you may have already understood, self-leadership is the answer to all modern society issues, plus it is a key element to live a fulfilling life! It is a critical factor to your personal success. Developing self-leadership skills is important to being an effective leader for yourself and the society.

Self-leadership’s early definition was based on three central theories: self-control, social-cognitive theory, and self-determination.

1 - Self-Control

Self-control, or in other words self-management, is the process of determining a desired end state, comparing that to the current state, and then taking action towards covering this gap. Self-control is the process to regulate yourself in order to succeed in any of your objectives while being disciplined.

2. Social-Cognitive Theory

Social-cognitive theory started as the Social Learning Theory. It acknowledges the triadic interaction between your thoughts, your behavior, and your socio-political environment. Social-Cognitive theory puts emphasis on social influence and on external and internal social reinforcement.

3. Self-Determination Theory

Self-determination theory is about the relationship between human motivation and a purposeful life. It underlines the importance of the role of internally regulated and intrinsic motivation, which consist the main driver behind self-leadership behaviors.

Self-leadership includes the internally regulated choice, the value alignment, and the execution of the task. Self-leadership is rooted in self-awareness and in self-management; those two consist part of what is emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman.

Keep moving and growing you self-leadership skills is important for your success by Sofia Kakkava Coaching.
Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash.

7 ways to develop self-leadership

1 - Self Awareness

If you want to lead yourself, you need to know who you are. Self-leadership requires self-awareness—the ability to discern how your own emotions or personal biases may affect your decision-making. By knowing who you are you need to dig deeper on yourself, to identify your values, your skills, your strengths. By improving your self-awareness you will be enabled to achieve your goals by leveraging your strengths. Having clarity on your values will lead you to make better decisions and be bold on how you want to live your life. Take time to reflect on significant recent life events and identify the key drivers behind your decisions in those situations. Why did you act the way you did?

2 - Identify your autopilot actions

Your unconscious can rule the actions you take. Depending on your past experiences, past stimulus and personality traits you react to your daily life mostly based on your unconscious. This is called your autopilot. For certain situations your autopilot might have been programmed correctly, as It protects you from overstimulation and being overwhelmed. However, for other situations it can become your main obstacle, because you may react from your unconscious while your current mindset believes or wants a different reaction.

3 - Build your habits

If you are a reader of my blog, you will have already understood the importance of habits in your life. By identifying your autopilot you will be able to recognize those habits and limiting beliefs that don’t serve the person you are today. The first step is to unlearn those old habits and start building new ones that serve you. Work on habits that will help you achieve your desired goals. Remember, to build new habits needs your mental effort, and to be persistent. They are not one-night work! Thus, you should keep practicing them, until they become part of you!

4 - Challenge your limiting beliefs

There is a previous blog post about limiting beliefs where you can find extensive information of what they are and how to treat them. In order to develop your self-leadership you need to understand which are the beliefs you may carry from your past that are not relevant anymore. After recognizing them, start replacing them with new ones that will lead you to the desired leader you want to become for your own life.

5 - Create a plan

As Brian Tracy has stated Action without planning is the cause of all failure. Action with planning is the cause of all success.. In order to conquer your goals, you need to act smart. You need to build a plan with clear actions and timeframe in order to become the best version of yourself! The S.M.A.R.T. framework can be a perfect guide for you to kick start your planning process.

6 - Strengthen your self-efficacy

Leadership self-efficacy (LSE) refers to your own assessment of your own leadership competence, for example, a specific ability. To strengthen your self-efficacy you can begin with recognizing which are your personal leadership successes. What are you really good at? In which part of your life are you performing really well? By making these questions you will identify your key successes, then start celebrating them. Don’t expect from yourself to be a big or loud success, in the process of developing your self-leadership it is important to see all your successes as equally important to your personal development. By developing your self-efficacy you will become stronger and bolder in your actions and your motivation will increase.

7 - Be disciplined and focused

You know my belief about success, discipline and focus can skyrocket your success. By being disciplined in your plan and having clear goals you will be able to increase your accountability to yourself. Your discipline comes from your strongest will to achieve. In my previous blog posts, you can find details about the importance of discipline and focus and how to build them.

Achieving your goals is a key result of self-leadership by Sofia Kakkava.
Photo by Alysha Rosly in Unsplash.

The journey of developing your self-leadership can be challenging but it can be really rewarding! Self-leadership is about observing and managing oneself, in the process you will see that it requires qualities like self-awareness, self-honesty, self-knowledge, and self-discipline to be built in order to be in your optimal state. Our culture doesn’t encourage self-leadership, wealth and materiality are more encouraged than your personal development and your well-being. But, this is not a story of one or the other. In order to achieve wealth in any way you may want, you need to develop yourself, you need to become the admired leader for yourself.

Self-leadership is not for the CEOs, or the executives, it is for everyone, for the digital nomads, for the stay-at-home new mom, for the small business owner, for the entrepreneur, for the students. Self-leadership is the first step before we can talk about leadership. You must lead yourself to achieve, you must lead yourself to live a purposeful life, you must lead yourself to develop yourself, you must lead yourself to achieve freedom!

If you would like to learn more about self-leadership and how to unlock your potential, you can join my community, where you can interact with like-minded people. If you want more information you can email us on

"Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power." - Lao Tzu


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