If there’s one thing that HR leaders could teach in 2020 to improve the work environment, it’s self-leadership.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s no leadership without self-leadership. To lead others, you must lead yourself. 

You can’t be a boss, a founder, an entrepreneur, or even a useful adult without taking care of yourself first, prioritizing your wellbeing, and trying to live a life with integrity.

What is self-leadership? Some say there are three components: self-awareness of personal values, self-awareness of intentions and behavior, and self-awareness of your perspective.

Self-leadership, at its core, is self-awareness. 

Self-awareness of personal values

Self-leaders have a set of personal values that guide their interactions in the world. They’ve done the hard work of getting to know themselves, and strive to create a life where mindset informs their words and deeds. 

The way to develop personal values is to become self-aware. Get to know yourself on a deeper level. Interview yourself, journal, talk to a therapist or meet with a counselor who can help you develop a stronger and more vivid sense of self. After all, you can’t lead others — including yourself — if you’re not crystal clear on important facets of your personality like preferences, communication style, values, and expectations.

Self-awareness of intentions and behaviors

Self-leaders say what they mean and mean what they say. They’ve clarified what’s important in life, aligned their actions with their goals and values, and have cleared the emotional and physical calendar of anything that gets in the way.

When something goes wrong, self-leaders don’t blame people or look to others to solve problems. They look to themselves first. There’s inner confidence that comes from having done the hard work of aligning philosophies and actions in the first place. 

Self-awareness of personal perspective

Life can be hard. Work presents us with difficult problems to solve. Everybody has a bad day. Self-leaders are emotionally regulated individuals who don’t panic, ruminate, or fantasize. There is only one direction in life, and that’s forward. When the world falls apart, self-leaders aren’t looking for answers from other people. They’re ready to go with problem-solving techniques because they’ve meditated, journaled, and invested in continuous learning to gain insight into themselves and human behavior. 

Self-awareness is the core of self-leadership

Work looks a lot different in 2020 if we help our workforce solve their problems and free up leaders to focus on strategic and creative endeavors. 

The act of knowing and leading yourself is more art than science, but it starts with a natural curiosity. Try asking yourself: 

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What exhausts me?
  3. What is the most important thing in my life?
  4. Who do I love?
  5.  What stresses me out?
  6. What’s my definition of success?
  7. What type of worker am I?
  8. How do I want others to see me?
  9. What type of person do I want to be?
  10. What things do I value in life?

Does it feel awkward to be self-aware?

Possibly at first.

But self-leadership requires that you be an expert in your thoughts and behaviors before you attempt to help others in this world. 

So, go slow. Self-leaders are endlessly curious, and they’re not afraid of the unknown and undiscovered. And, once you begin the journey of self-awareness, you quickly learn that 99% of your colleagues are light years behind and waiting for someone like you to take the lead and teach them how to become self-aware, themselves.

That’s what total leadership in 2020 is all about.


  1. Hi Laurie,
    I have read your article about the self leadership and very impressed of it.
    I like the idea and hope to practise and sharing it with my collegues.
    Thanks a lot for your good effort and contributions to the leadership life!

  2. Hi Laurie!
    I came to this article by way of Terry Storch. He linked to it in his weekly newsletter. So kudos to him.

    I appreciate the way you break down self-awareness. It truly is the first step in leading oneself well. I have expanded my description of self leadership to include two more components: self-discipline and self-confidence.

    We know that if we are going to make any type of realistic change in our life (recognized through intentional self-awareness), it will require some type of change in what we do daily (habits) and that requires discipline. Of course, change is not a linear process, nor simply an analytical one. It’s steeped in emotion, setbacks, challenges and practice. That’s why self-confidence is so important to build and develop alongside any effort.

    One of the lines I’m taking away from your article is “There is only one direction in life, and that’s forward.” Love that. Leaders are those who help the world navigate toward next!

    Blessings your way and thank you for sharing this with us.

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