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When most people think about leadership, they imagine a person standing at the front of the ship steering the boat—the captain. In the corporate world, we think of the captain as the CEO. The captain plays a vital role in setting the company's strategic vision and in leading the crew.

However, to turn this vision into a reality, the captain needs a crew they can trust to execute it. In this sense, the crew is equally important to organizational success, and that's why all levels of employees must strive to be strong self-leaders.

Why are Self-Leadership Skills Important?

Self-leadership is actively developing a confident sense of who you are, taking ownership of what you do, and being intentional about where you are going. It's a crucial skill that all employees should strive towards, beginning with individual contributors.

Of course, managers, directors, and C-suite level executives should already possess this skill, which should be constantly evaluated and improved. Self-leaders are a critical part of your organization for three reasons:

  • Traditional "leaders" can not be truly successful at managing or leading others until they can effectively manage and lead themselves.
  • An organization's vision is only as impactful as the execution of the vision. Therefore, organizations need capable and motivated individuals to carry out the executive team's vision.
  • Through positive psychology, leaders understand their personal values, strengths, and virtues and can apply them to the group to help the whole organization thrive.

Self-leadership helps improve all of the above because when employees possess these skills, they are more likely to:

  • Achieve their goals and fulfill the responsibilities of their role
  • Productively respond to difficult situations
  • Demonstrate accountability and confidence
  • Work more creatively and productively
  • Be intentionally aware of their emotions (both positive and negative emotions)  and behaviors
  • Communicate effectively and forge stronger relationships

Ultimately, individuals with strong self-leadership skills can make greater contributions, have a more significant impact, and reach higher levels of productivity for your organization.

What is Self-Leadership?

Self-leadership is a concept developed by Charles C. Manz, in which individuals use their internal motivation to direct their behavior and achieve personal and organizational goals.

According to Charles Manz, self-leadership theory is about taking responsibility for oneself and the decisions one makes, as well as being honest about their own strengths and weaknesses.

3 Ways To Increase Self-Leadership Skills

Here are three ways to get the most out of your individual contributors by increasing their self-leadership skills:

1. Pair Technical Skills with People Skills

First, a strong self-leader can make a greater contribution to the organization through self-leadership strategies like pairing strong technical skills with strong people skills.

This means giving employees the tools to increase their emotional intelligence (EQ) and the tangible skills they need to succeed in their role—both of which are fundamental to an individual contributor's success.

One way to increase their technical abilities is to provide on-the-job self-leadership training or assign an industry mentor to your employees. To increase EQ, you can help the employee understand their behaviors or reactions more objectively through honest conversations, workplace assessments, or the opportunity to participate in development programs to drive their awareness into action and create effective leaders.

2. Leverage Competitive Advantages

Second, a strong self-leader knows and acts on their workplace's competitive advantages.

By being aware of their strengths and the areas where they provide the greatest value, they can magnify their impact and address any issues in management. This helps the organization know what they can count on each individual for and where they can make the biggest impact. When individual contributors own their talents and core competencies, they can contribute more intentionally and work toward strengthening these strengths even more.

Help your employees recognize their talents by acknowledging where they bring a different skill set or perspective to your team and the unique value they provide. It will result in advantages in leadership, like improved performance and motivation. Then, it will help them see how they can use these strengths in other situations or projects.

3. Effectively Manage Stress

Third, by better-managing stress in tough situations, self-leaders can be more productive more often.

It makes a big difference if an employee is more productive five days a week than four days a week. If, one day every week, an employee is feeling stressed, frustrated, or full of negative emotions, you are losing 20% of the individual's productivity. Even if you have a highly skilled expert on your team, these talents will go to waste if their inability to manage their emotions or reactions gets in the way of productive communication and collaboration.

Use behavior-focused leadership strategies, and provide feedback based on specific behaviors that result in desired outcomes. This approach to leadership will reduce stress in the workplace, make your team members feel supported, and improve both performance and motivation.

Develop Your Employees' Leadership Skills

No matter how talented your individuals are in their area of expertise, they will struggle to transform knowledge into value across your organization without critical self-leadership skills. Birkman can help individual contributors improve performance and productivity through increased self-awareness and intentional self-management.

Invest in your independent contributors and high-potentials early on in their careers to make a more significant impact. Let's connect.

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