I once heard that Khalil Gibran defined leadership as the ability for one to self-direct in order to lead others.

This dynamic continuum of progressive development requires the individual to be aware of personal truths that advance or impede leader ability.

Sounds reasonably simplistic, right? After all, many leaders attribute success to an ability to demonstrate teamwork, create a vision, and offer a platform where employee motivation thrives.


Self-leadership is a valuable concept that requires an interest in internal governance.

In taking steps to focus on this form of personal development, leaders must allow themselves permission to grow. This process is also inclusive of steps that leaders may incorporate to perform at a higher level. A consideration of moving in the direction of self-leadership involves the infamous “professional reality check”.

The truth of the matter is that leaders who speak honestly and candidly about employees may experience more of a challenge looking inward. A common reason for this gap may include a committed focus on developing others that leaders overlook professional development activities.

Leaders rarely invest time in self-evaluation of how to solve personal problems, assess the effectiveness of interactions, or appraise core leadership skills that will add greater meaning to the leading others.

Here are three steps to self-leadership:

1. Create a Platform for Self-Discovery

  • Consider a journal to enter notes and record findings. In this phase of personal assessment, evaluate personal characteristics that contribute to success and self-limiting behaviors. Write a list of eight qualities describes leadership attributes. For each word, write a brief example of how you currently demonstrate this action. This may be a successful or self-limiting action.
  • Next, reflect on feedback provided by team members or others familiar with your leadership. Incorporate this information with the summary of demonstrated actions aligned to a specific quality. Rank each in order of importance to form a Leadership Quality Statement list.

2. Live Action…Plan!

  • For each Leadership Quality Statement, identify actions that must be taken to further develop the quality. For example, if teamwork is listed and feedback from team members indicates that the leader effectively demonstrates this quality by involving people in the organization to achieve goals, an action may include placing greater focus on recognizing employees for goal achievement.
  • It is always a good idea to be very specific while action planning. Include detailed actions; include dates and ways to measure progress. In doing so, the leader may exhibit increased support and value within the organization.

3. Leaders Need Leaders

  • Find a leader mentor! In previous articles, this topic was a key factor in leaders helping employees. Self-leadership includes a networking factor so that leaders may experience similar benefits. Social networks and volunteer organizations are great places to meet leaders from a variety of backgrounds.
  • Develop connections with leaders who can offer advise through the lens of advanced experiences. These experiences can prove helpful in identifying improved self-direction steps that are required for professional development. Leader mentors like to hear about personal experiences that may influence professional interactions. While each has a different style, find a mentor who likes to listen.
  • Ideally, the purpose of discussions with the leader mentor involves self-navigation to a myriad of potential options for improvement. I remember the number of times that professional challenges have been shared with my mentor. He rarely offers immediate advice. Rather, he offers a story filled with insight or expanded learning that parallels my experience. From each story, I have been able to draw conclusions regarding how to navigate difficult territory. This type of interaction is especially appealing as the awareness is developed by paying close attention to the parable.

Encourage yourself to perform at a higher level! Allow self-leadership techniques to help build professional skill and watch your team soar to new heights.

Reference: Blanchard, K. (2010). Leading at a higher level. Blanchard on leadership and creating high performing organizations.


How Do You Work Towards Self Leadership?

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Florida Starks
Dr. Florida E. Starks is an Area Training Manager at Verizon. With more than 22 years in corporate higher education, her primary objective is managing new hire training, continuing education initiatives, employee on boarding, and enterprise change strategy.