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Start with yourself, to aim high

Photo by Jesse Orrico on Unsplash

Photo by Jesse Orrico on Unsplash

Why develop self-leadership?

It is increasingly understood that authentic leadership starts with leading ‘self’. Neck & Houghton (2006) define self-leadership as the ability to influence oneself to perform effectively. In broad terms, I equate this to self-leaders combining introspection with being good role models for the development of people. Therefore, my clients often benefit from individual coaching first, and there is a subsequent positive impact on their workforce or organisation, often with consulting, training, or mentoring along the way.

The good news for us humans is, if you are open to developing self-leadership, our brains can make new connections to grow this ability with practice over time. Self-leadership is about the intentional practice to influence one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours towards goals in a valued direction. Researchers and practitioners have found it improves both one’s individual self-worth and the organisation’s success, especially when developed by individuals across the workforce.

So, for self-leadership, you need to be able to clarify the current situation, the desired situation, and what you need to do to get there. Also, you need to look at and free yourself from the obstacles and limitations you place on yourself. That all sounds simple or even obvious, right? Not so easy in practice, or alone, and a good reason to partner with a coach to challenge and empower you in the process!

What abilities are essential for self-leadership?

Bryant & Kazan (2012) state that self-leaders have the following 3 abilities that influence their intentions towards goal attainment:

1. Self –awareness: The awareness of your own abilities, strengths, limitations, and values. Daniel Goleman identified that Emotional Intelligence consists of the following 4 pillars, covering 12 core competencies: self-awareness (the building block), self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Do you have a rational awareness of your capacity to handle each situation effectively?

2. Self-efficacy: The belief in your own ability to accomplish a task successfully. Do you have a belief that you can successfully influence your strategies towards goal attainment? Do you know what motivates you?

3. Self-confidence: The belief in your own ability to attain power or mastery over a task, and a result of self-awareness and self-efficacy. Are you confident with your ability to influence your cognitive behavioral strategies towards goal attainment? Also, are you aware of what stress does to you personally, and how to manage different stress levels?

To benefit from coaching, you do not need to answer Yes to all the above questions already. Coaching can empower you to learn or further develop those abilities over time.

What can you do to enhance your self-leadership?

Below, I list 3 strategies to enhance self-leadership, for anyone who wishes to explore these themselves. Of course, this is only one aspect of leadership development, and it can be difficult to prioritise time to meaningfully reflect, self-assess, and coach yourself in different strategies as an existing or emerging leader. Therefore, people often partner with a coach who can help you to enhance self-leadership without you having to be expert in learning theory, coaching, emotional intelligence, or positive psychology, for example.

1. Behaviour Focused Strategies: Focus upon behavioural techniques such as self observation, self goal setting, self feedback and self reward in order to enhance self-leadership of the individual (Neck & Houghton, 2006). Studies of Neck & Manz (2010) however depict that harsh reinforcement strategies such as self-criticism used by the individual upon failing a task can result in guilt and shame, and therefore, should be avoided.

2. Natural Reward Strategies: To make the task more enjoyable to improve goal attainment. This is done by either introducing pleasant features in the task or by shifting the attention towards the positive aspects of the task while neglecting the others (Neck & Houghton, 2006).

3. Constructive Thought Strategies: Those that reconstruct the existing cognitive patterns optimistically to facilitate improved performance by the individual. According to Houghton et al., (2012) these might include reconstructing negative thought processes, identifying dysfunctional beliefs and redirecting current goal attainment strategies.

It takes courage to genuinely know and influence oneself towards valued goals, and to realise that you are more than your momentary thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Many of us expect other people to lead themselves effectively, and so any authentic leader needs to be able to lead by example with highly developed self-leadership. I welcome your thoughts on this too.