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Self-leadership at work: A complete guide


What is self-leadership and why is it so important in a work context? Let's dive deeper into this important concept, and explore how to build a culture of accountability, motivation and high performance.

Understanding what self-leadership at work means is crucial for anyone looking to thrive in today's fast-paced and ever-changing world.

In this guide, we will explore the theoretical foundations of self-leadership, examine different models and frameworks for self-leadership, and provide practical examples of how self-leadership can be applied in the workplace.

What is self-leadership?

Before delving into the theories and models of self-leadership, it is important to have a clear understanding of what self-leadership actually means. At its core, self-leadership is about taking responsibility and ownership of one's own actions, thoughts, and emotions. It involves setting goals, making decisions, and taking initiative, all with the aim of achieving personal and professional success.

Self-leadership is not about being a lone wolf or disregarding the importance of teamwork. Instead, it is about empowering oneself to be the best version of oneself, while also collaborating and supporting others in achieving their goals.

The theoretical foundations of self-leadership

To truly understand self-leadership, it is essential to explore the theoretical foundations that underpin this concept. Several psychological theories provide insights into self-leadership, including self-efficacy theory, social cognitive theory, and the theory of planned behaviour.

Self-efficacy theory, developed by renowned psychologist Albert Bandura, emphasizes the belief in one's own ability to succeed in specific tasks or situations. This belief in oneself is a key component of self-leadership, as it influences motivation, resilience, and goal attainment.

Social cognitive theory, also developed by Bandura, focuses on the reciprocal interactions between individuals, their behaviour, and their environment. This theory highlights the importance of self-observation, self-evaluation, and self-reflection in the process of self-leadership.

The theory of planned behaviour, proposed by Icek Ajzen, suggests that human behaviour is determined by the intention to perform the behaviour, which in turn is influenced by attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behaviour control. Understanding these factors can help individuals better navigate the complexities of self-leadership.

Models and frameworks for self-leadership

To effectively practice self-leadership, it is helpful to have models and frameworks that provide a structured approach. One such model is the Personal Mastery Model, which consists of three interrelated components:

  • self-awareness

  • self-management

  • and self-growth

The Personal Mastery Model emphasises the importance of self-awareness, as it serves as a foundation for self-leadership. By understanding one's strengths, weaknesses, values, and aspirations, individuals can make informed decisions and take intentional actions.

Another popular framework for self-leadership is the Self-Determination Theory, proposed by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. This theory suggests that individuals are motivated by three innate psychological needs:

  • autonomy

  • competence

  • relatedness

By satisfying these needs, individuals are more likely to engage in self-leadership behaviours and achieve meaningful outcomes.

Self-leadership in the workplace

The application of self-leadership in the workplace is crucial for personal and organisational success. By taking ownership of one's own development, individuals can enhance their performance, increase job satisfaction, and contribute to a positive work environment. Let's explore some key aspects of self-leadership in the workplace:

Enhancing self-awareness and self-knowledge

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of self-leadership, as it enables individuals to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. By engaging in activities such as self-reflection, journaling, and seeking feedback, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their impact on others.

Self-knowledge, on the other hand, refers to understanding one's values, passions, and aspirations. By aligning one's actions with their core values and focusing on work that is meaningful and fulfilling, individuals can experience greater satisfaction and motivation in the workplace.

Setting and achieving desired experiences

In order to achieve personal and professional growth, individuals must set goals and take intentional actions. By setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals, individuals can clarify their aspirations and measure their progress. Regularly reviewing and adjusting goals helps individuals stay focused and motivated on their self-leadership journey.

Achieving desired experiences also involves taking risks and stepping outside of one's comfort zone. Embracing challenges and learning from failures are essential components of self-leadership in the workplace.

Cultivating constructive thought and decision-making

Self-leadership requires individuals to cultivate constructive thoughts and beliefs. By practising positive self-talk, reframing negative situations, and focusing on solutions rather than problems, individuals can enhance their resilience and overall well-being.

Effective decision-making is another key aspect of self-leadership. By gathering relevant information, weighing different options, and considering the potential consequences, individuals can make informed decisions that align with their goals and values.

Effective planning and goal-setting

Planning is a critical component of self-leadership, as it helps individuals prioritize tasks, allocate resources, and stay organised. By developing action plans and breaking down complex projects into manageable tasks, individuals can effectively manage their time and energy.

Goal setting, as mentioned earlier, plays a vital role in self-leadership. By setting clear and challenging goals, individuals can maintain focus, track progress, and celebrate achievements along the way.

Self-Leadership catalyses business growth and profitability

For a business to thrive and be financially prosperous, cultivating a culture of self-leadership is paramount. Here's how harnessing the power of self-leadership can bring about transformative benefits:

  1. Boosted productivity: Individuals who practice self-leadership excel in time and task management, which invariably amplifies their output.

  2. Enhanced innovation: Self-leading individuals are not just problem-solvers but also pioneers. They're open to experimentation, willing to take calculated risks, and continuously bring fresh perspectives.

  3. Increased employee engagement: When employees steer their own professional journey, they are more dedicated and deeply connected to their roles. Self-leadership instils a sense of personal responsibility and passion in one's job.

  4. Robust leadership development: Organisations that champion self-leadership lay a solid foundation for the next generation of leaders, equipping them to propel growth and navigate transformation.

  5. Superior team dynamics: Self-led individuals grasp the essence of cooperative work. They are adept at joining forces, and they excel in forging positive professional bonds.

How to build a culture of self-leadership

  1. Prioritise learning and development. Make sure you provide sufficient training and support for all employees to have the skills and confidence required to perform their tasks independently. Train your managers in a coaching approach to problem-solving.

  2. Use regular surveys to build a feedback loop. Send out regular employee surveys to all employees and take action on the results. Having the opportunity to impact the employee experience and work environment helps keep people engaged and interested in contributing.

  3. Implement 360° surveys. 360° feedback is a great way to provide employees with comprehensive feedback from peers, supervisors and direct reports. This is an efficient way to increase self-awareness, providing individuals with insights into potential areas of improvement.

  4. Avoid micro-managing. To build a culture of self-leadership, it’s important to avoid micro-managing. Autonomy is a very important driver of employee engagement, and when autonomy is insufficient, health, creativity and motivation quickly decrease.

  5. Encourage new ideas and innovation. Innovation requires employees to take risks and try new things. Encouraging employees to be creative and think outside the box is an important part of a self-leading culture. Not only celebrating successes but also embracing failures as learning opportunities will create a courageous team and pave the way for innovative thinking.

  6. Set clear and measurable goals. It doesn’t matter how self-leading your employees are, if they don’t know what direction they should leading themselves in. Setting and communicating SMARt goals is essential to enure everyone is working towards the same objectives.

  7. Create a culture of collaboration. Self-leadership is by no means the same as working alone. Collaboration, teamwork and open communication among employees is fundamental to success. By providing opportunities for cross-functional projects you can encourage employees to share ideas and expertise, and avoid silos.

Key takeaways on self-leadership

Understanding self-leadership is crucial for personal and professional success. By taking control of one's own development, individuals can enhance their performance, increase job satisfaction, and contribute to a positive work environment. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Self-leadership is about taking responsibility and ownership of one's actions, thoughts, and emotions.

  2. Self-awareness and self-knowledge are fundamental to self-leadership.

  3. Setting clear goals, cultivating constructive thoughts, and making effective decisions are important aspects of self-leadership.

  4. Motivation plays a crucial role in self-leadership, as it drives engagement and performance.

  5. Embracing failure, building resilience, and seeking continuous improvement are essential for self-leadership.

  6. Organisations can empower their teams through self-leadership training and development opportunities.


Build a culture of self-leadership in your organisation

Creating a culture of self-leadership in your organization requires a collective effort. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Lead by example and demonstrate self-leadership behaviours.

  • Provide training and development opportunities that focus on self-leadership skills.

  • Encourage open communication and collaboration among team members.

  • Recognise and reward individuals who demonstrate self-leadership.

  • Foster a supportive environment that values personal growth and well-being.

  • Regularly evaluate and adjust organisational practices to promote self-leadership.

How Eletive can help

  • Invite employees to take ownership: Eletive gives your employees access to their own individual dashboards, to encourage active employeeship, accountability, and self-leadership.

  • Include and empower your employees: Eletive provides managers and employees with the tools they need to create a great workplace – together

  • Inspire with guidance and advice: In the Eletive platform, managers and employees are supported with in-app advice and suggested actions based on OBM (Organisational Behaviour Management)

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