Do you Have Dominion Within? 5 Keys to Unlock the Power of Self-Leadership


A measure of a great leader is the ability to lead her/himself. If you cannot manage and lead yourself, how well can you do the same for others? So,what is self-leadership? Primarily it pertains to the ability to be keenly aware of yourself, that is, knowing your likes, dislikes, strengths, weakness, and knowing how to maintain balance or temperance. Self- leadership involves the ability to lead oneself through self-motivating processes to complete difficult and often challenging tasks. It’s an ability to stay focused, maintain endurance, and perform well.[1] Self-awareness is the basis for self-leadership and like emotional intelligence, requires self-regulation of emotions and anything that might contribute to poor decision-making.

Why is self-leadership important?

I have a confession. One of my biggest struggles is procrastination. Although I am aware of the triggers associated with why I procrastinate, such as fear of being wrong or fear of failure, I’ve been convicted, I’m letting go of my excuses and I am making major changes now. I heard someone I follow on social media cite one of her followers who said something like this, procrastination is the antithesis of integrity (not a direct quote). I often write about the importance of displaying ethical behavior and operating in integrity. So, naturally, I have to check myself and employ the same principles of self-leadership. As good leaders, it’s imperative to step back frequently and examine ourselves. What is the impetus behind why we behave the way we do and how we make decisions that affect ourselves and the lives of others? If we fail to harness those things that set us off, we can easily derail our reputation and be perceived as lackadaisical and unreliable. We can become prey to our emotions and let our feelings dictate our behavior.

The ability to resist temptation and to exercise self-control and restraint, are critical components of self-leadership. As more demands are made on leaders and expectations of making instant decisions become the norm, leaders must take precautionary steps that position them and empower them to respond with accuracy and excellence. When leaders fail to unplug, fail to self-assess, and refuse to course correct, the deception of being “ok” settle in our minds and we become inflexible, jaded, and blinded by self-righteous behaviors. Leaders can convince themselves that what they know to be wrong is actually right.

The art of self- discipline is a necessity. Over-indulgence usually feeds the ego while those under your care are starving. Ethical leaders often exercise self-leadership[2] which comprises self-reflection, the adaptation of an integrative approach to decision-making, and a concentration on others while improving one’s self.[3] A few intrinsic benefits of self-leadership are:

  1. The ability to enhance decision-making skills and

  2. The development of ethical leadership behavior

I mentioned earlier the importance of integrative decision-making. Although ultimately it is the leader who is responsible for making most key decisions, it’s good to engage other leaders or those who will be impacted by your decisions. Garnering their input shows you value them and that they matter, but it also allows you to see different perspectives that should be taken into consideration before making final decisions. Considering other viewpoints widens your lense and broadens your scope, which helps prevent tunnel vision and a one-dimensional perspective. Ethical leadership and self-leadership are interconnected. Our character is shaped by our values and is displayed by our behavior. If we desire to be successful, outstanding leaders, then we have to relentlessly check our character to ensure we are aligning with our values and presenting behaviors that are duplicable especially in the workplace. Always keep in mind that followers tend to mimic the behavior of their leader either explicitly or implicitly and as leaders, we are accountable for how we behave...period.

So, let’s recap how we can master self-leadership through the application of these 5 principles:

Dominating Self-Leadership:

  1. Self-perception - how do you see yourself? Self-assessment tools help reveal how you see yourself. If you perceive yourself in a positive light, you’re likely to aim for and set high goals for yourself. Having self-efficacy empowers you to do more. Poor perception of yourself triggers the opposite results and when self-perception is low, goals are typically set low[4] and being motivated to do your best is low. Be realistic about how you perceive yourself and make improvements that will help build self-confidence and self-esteem. This will improve your self-perception and enable you to become a better leader.

  2. Self-control- this cannot be expressed enough. From the standpoint of self-leadership, it means identifying and establishing systems for personal development and performance.[5] It’s a concerted effort to stay the course, avoid distractions, and take appropriate, and when necessary, immediate action to achieve the desired outcome. Failure can adversely impact your self-esteem and self-concept. Failure can cause you to lose “self-control” and can provoke you to make decisions that do more harm than good to your psyche, and self-image. Leaders will fail and failure is essential to growth. When one understands the significance of failure as a part of the process, emotions are tempered and you are more open to learning from your failures than to allow them to define you. Self-control is control of the soul; control of our desires, passions, appetite, and again, our emotions.[6]

  3. Mindset- to be an effective leader or better yet, a great leader, you must continuously and cognitively make up in your mind the need to change. To be a successful leader requires iterative strategic steps towards change. How you think about yourself dictates how you behave. Mental models shape our reality and we tend to live up to the expectations we set for ourselves. If we want to improve our self-concept or perception, then we have to change how we think of ourselves. Mental models also influence how we make decisions. Because our experiences are interconnected with how we think, they are too often the foundation for our decision-making and even our own experiences are not always reliable. Leaders must make sound decisions and therefore, find relevant sources needed to make right choices. Mindset matters in every aspect of our leadership and require continuous renewal. Renewing our mind reduces biases for we are more open to receive accurate information that often will challenge our thinking processes and enhance our ability to make informed decisions which leads to great leadership.

  4. Self-talk what we think and what we say go hand-in-hand. What do you continuously say about yourself and to yourself? Does your self-talk lead you towards your desired outcomes or away from them? I mentioned earlier that I deal with procrastination and that this impacts my integrity. I became keenly aware of my self-talk. Although I wouldn’t speak negative about myself, I would say things like “...but you don’t have enough to do…” or “... when will you get…” and I would draw attention to lack in my life instead of abundance. The truth is, we have what we say and if we don’t like what we see, then we need to change what we say. Also, be mindful of who is speaking in your ear about you. Feedback is one thing, whether negative or positive, we can teach ourselves how to mentally prepare for the feedback so that it’s beneficial to our development. But, too often negative degrading words, designed to bring harm will try to attach itself to you and if you’re not careful, you will accept those words as the truth about you and begin to incorporate them as part of your self-talk. This is why we must frequently self-reflect.

  5. Self-reflection is a powerful tool that is underutilized. The fast pace of this highly digitized world can create a state of urgency causing a loss of time. Too often we don’t spend the time needed to breathe step back, think, then decide. Daily we need to reflect. It causes one to examine the outcome of decisions before making them as well as after they are made. Reflection allows us to ask questions such as “Does this decision agree with or go against my personal values, the organization's’ values and/ my followers’ values? It guides our self-assessment. Are we reflecting our authentic self when we do, say, or behave in a particular way?

There is much to be said about the value of self-leadership. In our efforts of doing and becoming the leader who leads well, I charge you, as I charge myself, to daily walk in dominion through mastering our self-leadership.

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Live 4 Change, LLC also know that trainings and workshops are never enough so we also provide consulting services that will help you figure out the steps needed to "transition your organization from where it is now, to where you desire it to be". Our services are customized to fit your specific organizational needs. Live 4 Change, LLC is a global strategic sustainability consultancy. We serve our clients through leadership and organizational development. We also work with you to help create a (CSR) corporate social responsibility strategy that will enhance your sustainability efforts, strengthen your brand, increase your financial performance, and optimize operational efficiency. Check out our website at: www.live4changellc.com and schedule your session. We are here for you.

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Please feel free to contact me @ Dr. E. Michelle Mickens

Thank you for your support!

Blessings to you,

Dr. E. Mickens

[1] Muller, T., & Niessen, C. (2018). Self-leadership and self-control strength in the work context.Journal of Managerial Psychology, 33(1), 74-92. doi:10.1108/JMP-04 2017-0149

[2] Marques, Joan,PhD., EdD. (2017). Toward intuitive self-leadership: Monitoring actions through values and reflection. Organization Development Journal, 35(3), 15-41. Retrieved from http://eres.regent.edu:2048/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.regent.edu/docview/2002996564?accountid=13479

[3] Mickens, E. ,Live 4 Change, LLC, (2015). Ethical Leadership: “It is Our Reasonable Service”.

[4] Ross, S. (2014). A conceptual model for understanding the process of self-leadership development and action-steps to promote personal leadership development. Journal of Management Development, 33(4), 299-323. doi:10.1108/JMD-11-2012-0147

[5] Marques, Joan,PhD., EdD. (2017).

[6] Strong's Greek: 1466. ἐγκράτεια (egkrateia) -- mastery, self-control. (2018). Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/1466.htm

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