The subject of self-leadership is as old as humankind itself. Understanding the self is the beginning of understanding the other. The saying, which goes “I am because we are,” holds true the aspect of a leader in the self and how it relates to the other.
Oftentimes in my leadership coaching programmes, I have remarked to my clients that there is no way you can be a successful leader before you can lead yourself. Leadership starts from the inside then to the outside. I will explain myself later but let us first get some grounding on what self-leadership is about (Manz, 1986; Manz & Neck, 2004; Neck & Houghton, 2006).
Self-leadership according to (Manz, 1986, Manz & Neck, Hughton (2006) is defined as a process by which individuals control their own behaviour, influencing and leading themselves by using specific sets of behavioural and cognitive strategies.
Put simply it is an act of self-management. I find the definition quite profound and comprehensive given that it captures the issue of human actions (behaviour) as regulated by the mind or mental processes (cognitive).
Although a lot is said and written about self leadership, it has not been without its own controversies and misconceptions. Be that as it may, self-leadership is about improving one’s motivation as well as influencing one’s self-direction both of which are important aspects of personal effectiveness. The social cognition is about one’s self-awareness as it relates to the broader social spectrum-social awareness.
Self-leadership strategies include behavioral and mental techniques, which are designed to influence personal effectiveness positively (Neck & Houghton, 2006) and are grouped into behaviour-focussed strategies, natural reward strategies, and cognitive thought pattern strategies. In the same vein behaviour-focused strategies are intended to increase an individual’s self-awareness and are aimed at fostering behavioural management, particularly when it comes to necessary but unpleasant tasks.
Natural reward strategies focus on the inherently enjoyable aspects of a given task or activity. These self-regulated and self-motivated actions create feelings of competence, self-control, and purpose by enhancing intrinsic motivation. Finally, constructive thought pattern strategies facilitate the generation of habitual ways of thinking that positively influence performance (Neck & Manz, 1992).
According to Manz and Neck (2004), these strategies enable individuals to identify dysfunctional beliefs and create new thought patterns or change existing thoughts into more positive ones (Prussia et al., 1998). It is the deliberate and conscious control of one’s thought process and behaviour that is the source of one’s personal effectiveness and power.
Self-leadership and performance
According to research, there is a positive relationship between self-leadership and performance and individuals’ performance in teams. Furthermore, self-efficacy has been found to mediate the relationship between self-leadership, performance (Konradt et al., 2009; Prussia et al., 1998), and the perceived impact of personal effort (Konradt et al., 2009). In addition, it has been suggested that commitment is another outcome variable for effective leadership.
Self-leadership, team motivation
Self-leadership is often regarded as an aspect of transformational leadership.In this case transformational leadership is described as a process of inspiring subordinates to share and pursue the leader’s vision (Bass, 1985) and of motivating others to move beyond their own self-interests and work for the aims of the team (Bass, 1999). Therefore, as a multidimensional construct, transformational leadership is defined by four dimensions: idealised influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualised considerations.
By playing the part of a role model and encouraging subordinates to create new, constructive thought patterns, as well as to develop new ideas and think independently (Bass & Avolio, 1990), a transformational leader may positively influence individuals’ self-leadership. To understand the impact of leadership on outcomes, it is important to focus on the intricate relationship between self-leadership by followers, transformational leadership by supervisors, and outcomes.
Since the concept of self-leadership is about self-regulation and self-control, it therefore follows that leadership in an organisation with these qualities can influence people in an organisation to be motivated to initiate and accomplish organisational goals.
This means if an individual decides to engage in a certain action (i.e, motivation), self-leadership in terms of self-regulation and self-control is subsequently required to successfully achieve the intended goals without so much supervision. Moreover, empirical findings show that self-leadership has a positive impact on the motivational variable of self-efficacy and that the relation between self-leadership and performance is premised on motivational aspects.
As Leadership Institute of Research and Development we often use a model which focusses of the three pillars of development which are leading the self, the organisation and leading in context and it includes assigning participants to designing Individual developments plans or carrying out Learning Application Behaviour Sessions (LABS).
Self-leadership (Manz, 1986; Manz & Neck, 2004; Neck & Houghton, 2006) is defined as a process by which individu-als control their own behaviour, influencing and leading themselves by using specific sets of behavioural and cognitive strategies.
Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Institute of Leadership, Research and Development (LiRD). — firstname.lastname@example.org/www.lird.co.zw.