We regularly come across words like ‘self-leadership’, leader’, ‘leadership development’, and ‘leadership skills’ in our daily lives, especially in our professional lives. We all know that leadership is an important skill for success wherever we go and in whatever we do.

But what does Leadership and Self-Leadership exactly mean? What does it take to become a good leader. How do I come to know if I am a good leader or not? We will try to respond to some of these questions we may get in our mind below:

Well, to begin with, though the common myth is that leadership means leading others or a team or a big group of followers, in reality, it actually starts with leading and working on yourself.

So, what should you work within yourself which can be termed as self – leadership? Let’s try to understand this with an example.


Story of Jatin and Lalit

Jatin and Lalit are best friends and they have been working in the same company for the last 5 years. Jatin is very hardworking, follows work schedules and processes well, does his work diligently, has good relations with his immediate colleagues, usually avoids conflicts and does what he is supposed to.

Lalit functions a bit differently, he connects with his colleagues across departments and offices, points out and works towards correcting process and systemic flaws, calls out unwanted behaviours, is proactive in accepting his mistakes, visualises and plans his actions, does not shy away from sharing his opinions even if they differ from that of the group, keeps learning new processes, and deals with conflict in a balanced way.

What do you think is the difference between these 2 individuals? If you observe, Jatin though being very hardworking comes across to be only doing his job while Lalit takes or displays something extra which makes him do all the above activities, few of which may not be under his job description.

Leadership requires a person to first focus on Self. Its only when one keeps working on self that he/she eventually starts influencing people and situations around. Good leaders accept responsibility for their actions and decisions, are proactive, self-driven, self-starters, and emotionally balanced.


Practicing Self-Leadership

This type of leadership requires a high level of self-awareness, self-discipline and self-management capabilities.

Lets look at how we can build each of these within us?


Self Awareness


Self Awareness


There are many ways to build self-awareness.

  • One way to develop self-awareness is through regular reflection and introspection. To be able to reflect and introspect requires us to take out time to think and dwell deep into our behaviours.
  • Maintaining a journal by penning down our behaviours, emotions and daily experiences can tell us a lot about who we are. When we read through the pages we can make a lot of meaning of ourselves.
  • Listing down our strengths and weaknesses also gives us a good perspective about ourselves. It can help us choose career, choose our area of study, find suitable jobs, undertake related training and enhance the strengths and overcome weaknesses. It also helps us to stay away from areas we don’t do very well and thus not struggle.
  • Asking for feedback from at-least 4 to 5 significant others around us gives us a good feedback about ourselves. The only caveat is that we should be able to take the feedback non judgementally without getting biased about the person.

Being comfortable with your flaws and limitations and accepting oneself fully is a sign of a good leader and also an essential component of self-leadership.



Self-discipline in simple words is about being able to do what you want yourself to be able to do.

One of the biggest challenges a human being faces is – procrastination. Yes, our old friend. It works at the physical, psychological and emotional level and is so well ingrained in our being that we practically operate like a blind person from our old patterns. We are unable to act as per our plan and keep pushing it behind. It also tends to act as a barrier on the path of self-leadership.

The only way to overcome this is to be start acting and applying no matter how small the action may be. The reason being that even a small action helps break our old conditioning and helps create new neural pathways which help us overcome procrastination.

Bruce Lee has mentioned that to be successful one has to become like water which can take shape of any container it flows into.

To be self-disciplined we have to practice the new habits for atleast 30 to 45 days daily without any break.

If need be we can take help from those nearest to us as another humans support really goes a long way. However we may have to give them the permission to help you in your journey of positive change.

Sharing your progress in a group, tracking and evaluating your progress also helps build self-discipline and is also one of the key steps in self-leadership.


Self Management


Self Management


One of the other important hurdles to self-leadership is our tendency to blame others for any problems that occur in our lives. To be self disciplined is to take ownership and accountability for our actions and inactions. Everytime something goes wrong can we ask a question, what could I have done to avoid this situation from occurring instead of blaming the other person. As you start doing this exercise you realise you start becoming proactive, become foresighted and build accountability within you.

The new CEO

E.g. A CEO joined a paint company in Brazil. To get himself introduced he undertook a factory visit. All looked well in the factory and the staff received him well. The same night there was a fire in the factory and the stores unit was burnt out completely. The next day the CEO called for a meeting of the factory staff and managers and asked them who is responsible for this fire. No one raised their hand. The CEO then with a confident voice said that he is taking full responsibility of this fire.

The staff was shocked and in disbelief. One of them asked him how he was responsible since he joined recently. The CEPO replied that from the minute he joined the company and since he visited the factory the previous day, it was his overall responsibility to ensure health and safety standards. While he visited he should have observed if any standards were not met and taken corrective actions to prevent the fire. And hence he is responsible for this fire. From then on the factory staff took strong measures to ensure no such event ever takes place in the factory. And, it was awarded the most safe paints factory in the country the subsequent year.

Other Components of Self-Leadership

 Another very common obstacle to self-leadership is the ‘fear of failure’. Now, it is absolutely natural to feel apprehensive about taking risks or trying new things. However, this fear can hold us back from reaching our full potential. The best way to overcome this fear of failure is to do the act which makes you fearful. One way I do it is to be with people who do the act without fear.

For example, traveling with a person in a flight who feels happy and excited during an air journey.

One of the biggest self-management areas for a good leader is managing their thoughts, emotions and ego. The thoughts and emotions impact every small action or inaction in our lives. We have all experienced how the thought of being the most elite race in the world led to the world war 2. We also know how lack of control over his ego led to the fall of Ravana in Ramayan and Duryodhan in Mahabharata.


Self-Leadership Conclusion 

In order to manage thoughts, one has to be conscious of their thinking and learn to think positively in situations. And to regulate emotions, we know many practices from meditation to emotional freedom technique to taking a pause during conflicts. To manage ego, one has to keep in mind the impermanence and ever changing nature of ones situation, body,  success and mother nature.

It is important to remember that self-leadership is not a one-time event. In fact, it is an ongoing process, more like a lifelong journey of change. The progress is a zig zag one over a straight vertical line as we see in the growth charts of companies. By leading from within, we can become the best version of ourselves and make the most positive impact on those around us.

"Self-Leadership: Taking Leadership a Step Ahead" - By The Yellow Spot - - No Comments