An Exploration of Self-Leadership and Tips for Cultivating It

June 23, 2022

by Pam Boney



How can the difference between an outstanding soccer coach and a poor one be articulated?  Is it simply an understanding of the sport or is it, rather, an ability to inspire motivation and dedication among the team (or is it all of the above)?

Most of us can recall someone from our past that motivated us to work towards a goal that was meaningful to us.  But can we remember a time when we motivated ourselves–absent a coach/mentor/manager–towards a goal that was significant to us as individuals?

For those who answered “Yes” to this question, these people are remembering an instance when they embodied self-leadership and/or used self-leadership strategies.  In the business realm, this is one crucial distinction between people who are likely to succeed in the long run and those who have the potential to fizzle out.

In this article, we will discuss self-leadership characteristics and examples along with seven tips that can be employed by anyone who seeks to become increasingly self-led or who aims to help cultivate self-leadership in the teams they lead.  

What Is the Distinction Between Self-leadership and Self Management?

Tilt 365 recently published a blog containing detailed information on the concept of self-management.  As mentioned in that article, there are multiple self-management strategies.  A table that features those strategies (along with some self-leadership strategies) is below.  


As you can see, both lists include “Self-Observation, Self-Goal Setting, and Self-Reward”, but more or less diverge apart from that.  It makes sense that there is at least a little bit of overlap between the two concepts since many people might consider self-management and self-leadership to be equivalent (or at least synonymous).  

One source contrasts the two:  With self-management, a task is assigned and the individual worker decides how to execute.  Likewise, workers enacting self-leadership determine how to execute, but they are the ones who determine the task in the first place (as opposed to the task being assigned to them).

A team member embodying positive self-talk might not manage time and stress effectively, but they would encourage themselves mentally to ameliorate this deficiency.  

Similarly, envisioning success might not have a direct, quantifiable impact on performance, but individuals who are able to picture an outcome are going to tend to have a better roadmap to achieve the result.  

Several of the self-leadership strategies featured in Table 1 will now be explored in depth.  

1.)  Envisioning Success

The comedian Jim Carrey famously utilized the process of envisioning success.  Prior to becoming a mega-star, he made it his goal to be able to one day cash a self-written $10,000,000 check.

Envisioning success can help us identify the goal.  Once we understand the goal, it’s easier to determine what steps we need to take to arrive there.  For someone who wants to be adept at giving presentations in the corporate world, it’s probably clear to them that they need to rehearse presentations on their own and achieve proficiency at making compelling presentations on various software. 

2.)  Introspection after Mistakes

There is great value in being able to identify and then determine what remedies should be used for personal development before someone else has to point them out.  While it may be impossible to self-adjust 100% of the time, it is important to make the effort. 

Employees who rarely need instruction free up their supervisors from having to do so.  A sense of responsibility is therefore crucial as we assess ourselves at work (and in life more generally).

While none of us is correct all the time, we should be cognizant of our thought patterns so that we can determine what led up to a bad decision.  Sometimes it’s the ability to assess the nuances of a given situation that empowers us to avoid making the same mistake twice.

An aspect of faulty logic is we tend to have assumptions (whether consciously, subconsciously, or unconsciously) about the world that impact our behavior.  We may even discount critical information that does not square with our assumptions.  

Over time–with effort and attention–we can identify the assumptions that result in mistakes.

Tip #1 (Analyze the Thinking that Contributed to Mistakes):  When you do not succeed with an assignment, take time to figure out if certain assumptions contributed to the suboptimal outcome.

3.)  Practice

Most in-demand skills are not concepts people can learn overnight.  Instead, it is essential to devote time to practicing new abilities such as presentation skills or drafting technical reports.    

It is beneficial to assess what level of proficiency you have with any given topic and then be able to engage in the degree of practice and repetition that is required to reach the sought-after level of mastery.  Understanding the necessity of continued practice is also key.

Tip #2 (Practice for Complex Topics):  If members of your team are struggling to master a given skill, guide them towards a state where they understand it is their responsibility to repeat the skill process (i.e., practice it) until the technique comes naturally to them.

4.)  Natural Reward Strategies (Ensuring Sustainability)

If our work is not invigorating and fulfilling to us, there is a good chance of burnout in the long run.  Conversely, when there is an alignment between the tasks assigned to us and our personal interests and abilities, a state of thriving is likely.

When alignment doesn’t naturally occur, we can be intentional about isolating aspects of our duties that bring joy to us, making flow a more probable outcome.  

Natural reward strategies differ from self-reward (discussed in the next section) in that a change of focus is achieved as opposed to utilizing an incentive to help us get through an arduous task. 

5.)  Self-Reward

Everyone likes to get gifts from others, but what about gifts from ourselves in conjunction with achieving something momentous?  When we talk about self-reward, it’s the concept of treating ourselves to something special once a milestone has been reached.

The milestone could be in our professional life or in our personal life.  

Tip #3 (Rebuild Motivation):  From time to time, have team members determine what have been their prime motivators and encourage them to leverage them in the future.  If you (or your team) is struggling with motivation to complete tasks, remember the power of self-reward.

6.)  Positive Self Talk

We all enjoy receiving compliments and encouragement from others.  Sometimes they know what compliments and encouragement we need and sometimes they don’t.  The person that knows best what compliments and encouragement are needed is ourself.

Engaging in self-encouragement also has value since others may not know when you need encouragement (or they may abstain from providing the encouragement for different reasons).  

Additionally, being able to encourage ourselves has merit because we are that much less dependent on others’ encouragement.

A new employee who is about to give an important presentation to upper management might attempt to calm their nerves by saying things to themself like “You will do great” or “Just do your absolute best.”

There is also the tendency for us to see the negative.  The social psychologist Roy Baumeister, in an interview with Jill Suttie, explained that there is a stronger mental reaction to negative stimuli as compared to more positive stimuli.  His coauthor, John Tierney, in the same interview with Jill Suttie, explained that, because of negativity bias, it is typical for us to dole out punishments for inaction but for us to also offer little reward to others when they go the extra mile.

Tip #4 (Positive Self Talk):  If a team leader witnesses someone being negative to themself after failing at some task, help them reframe their mindset and encourage more helpful self-talk.

====The final two sections below on Self-Observation and Self-Goal Setting expand on content for those strategies that can be found in our self-management blog (since both are also self-leadership strategies).====

7.)  Self-Observation

Self-observation can be a precursor to self-awareness.

Someone who is self-aware is going to be capable of understanding their own unique proclivities and development opportunities.  This is conducive to teamwork because they will be cognizant of when their behavior heightens team performance and, conversely, when their behavior triggers others or obstructs output.

Another aspect of self-awareness involves the capacity to identify what steps must be taken to address a problem we are facing.  For example, if an individual knows that they are stage fright, a self-aware person will be able to determine what they need to do to diminish their phobia and improve their public speaking presence.

Tip #5 (Engage in Self-Observation):  Someone’s self-awareness can increase via exposure to new people and/or situations (e.g., by working with a coach).  When coaching team members, be sure to inquire about any insights they may have about themselves. 

8.)  Self-Goal Setting

Inner drive is crucial.  Imagine a genius with a perfect resume who does not have the requisite motivation to accomplish goals.  Are they an asset or not?   

It is important to notice when motivation has slipped and to then embody self-motivation to figure out what needs to happen to restore that inner drive.   For some people, this might take the form of setting goals. 

The four True Tilts each have their own unique inner motivations.  For example, people with a Connection True Tilt are motivated by belonging and individuality while people with a Structure True Tilt are motivated by autonomy and significance.  

Tip #6 (Establish Goals):  Periodically allocate time for your team to establish short- and long-term goals–pertaining to work and possibly even to their personal lives–that they are going to be self-motivated to achieve.  

Tip #7 (Periodic Goal Evaluation):  In your personal development journey, take time to assess how well you are progressing toward your established goals.  

How Can Tilt 365 Help with Self-Leadership?

Tilt 365 has a collection of strengths assessments that foster personal understanding and self-awareness.  As we mentioned earlier, amending faulty logic is one of the self-leadership strategies, and it’s worthwhile to utilize self-awareness in that process.

Among other things, Tilt’s Framework features 12 character strengths, each of which has a polarity.  In the self-leadership process, when self-awareness enables us to determine that we have some sort of gap in a given character strength or faulty logic, a good strategy is to focus on cultivating that character strength’s polarity.

For example, if we determine we are Tilting too hard into Inspiration by spending excessive amounts of time generating new ideas or new approaches to a task, we can Tilt Intentionally into Inspiration’s polarity of Focus.  This enables us to put an end to idea generation and focus on execution and achievement.     


One of the many self-leadership quotes is credited to Aristotle who said “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”  In this present article, we explain how self-leadership involves an understanding of who we are and what we need to do to succeed in our endeavors.

In order to be leaders, there must be something in us worth following.  Via self-leadership, we can create just that.  Even if we have been in the corporate world for decades, our future is still a blank slate.  Self-leadership skills are just one domain that can help us craft a worthy future.