Skip main navigation

How to be a self-leader

This article looks at the theoretical foundations of self-leadership.

In the previous step, you reviewed the principles and behavioural aspects of courageous followers. In this step, you are introduced to self-leadership as an important practice both for followers and leaders.

The concept of self-leadership was first used in 1983 by Charles Manz who defined it as:

a comprehensive self-influence perspective that concerns leading oneself”.
Whilst self-leadership is defined by Bryant and Kazan (2012) as:
the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions towards your objective/s.

Self-efficacy vs self-determination

The theoretical foundation of self-leadership is Bandura’s self-efficacy theory and Deci’s self-determination theory. Self-efficacy theory explains how people can influence their own cognition, motivation, and behaviour and continuously interact with their environment while self-determination theory suggests that the extent of self-motivation depends on the degree to which the follower’s behaviour or actions are autonomous or controlled.
Self-leaders constantly develop three main characteristics:
  • Self-awareness: Self-leaders know their intentions and values, as well as what can derail them.
  • Self-confidence: Self-leaders know their strengths and abilities. They increase their level of self-confidence as they take action and develop skills.
  • Self-efficacy: Self-leaders believe in their ability to manage the challenges and constraints they face. They accept feedback, adjust their behaviour and constantly improve.
Self-leadership explains how self-leaders think and how they behave according to cognitive, motivational and behavioural strategies.
  • Cognitive strategies: Self-leaders create positive habitual thought patterns and avoid negative destructive self-talk.
  • Motivational strategies: To increase intrinsic motivation, self-determination, and feelings of competence, self-leaders integrate pleasant and enjoyable features into their activities which makes their roles and tasks naturally rewarding.
  • Behaviour strategies: Self-leaders build self-awareness and manage their personal behaviour through methods such as personal goal setting, self-reward, self-punishment, self-observation and self-indication.

Reflect & Reply

Please reflect upon the key question below and respond using the comments section below.
In what ways do your own self-leadership practices or behaviours play a role in your professional or personal life?


Manz, C. C. (1983). The art of self-leadership: Strategies for personal effectiveness in your life and work. UpperSaddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Bryant, A. Kazan, A. (2012). Self-Leadership. How to become a more successful, efficient and effective leader inside out. New York: McGraw Hill

This article is from the free online

How to Harness Followership for Leadership Success

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now