Self-Leadership: The beginning of great things

By Kala Philip

Self-leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviours on the way to getting there. It is about your innate ability, potential and learned skill to inspire, empower and motivate people around you and influence them.

Ultimately this ability and potential gets you the recognition and reward that will get you that leadership position or title in any industry or community. Think about people who have inspired you—Mahatma Gandhi, Indra Nooyi, Bob Hawke, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa—they all had some “leadership characteristics” as innate, and as such, these people are seen to be ‘born leaders’, due to their psychological makeup.

How do we develop these self-leadership traits? What are the behaviours associated with them? Do we know our natural abilities, strengths and weaknesses well enough to plan our own growth? How do we then get that position, start our own business or inspire a community through these traits?

In this series, we will look at the “Trait Theory of Leadership” one of the first academic theories of leadership and attempts to answer why some people are good leaders and others are not. In fact the theory can be traced back to the nineteenth century, when a man called Thomas Carlyle used such understanding to identify the talents, skills and characteristics of people who rose to power. Some of the most common leadership traits identified, are: Knowledge of the business; Initiative; Tenacity; Energy; Good cognitive skills and capable of using good judgement and decisions; Flexibility; Creativity; Charisma; Emotional intelligence; Drive and motivation to succeed; Confidence; Honesty and integrity.

In fact, modern thinking suggests that the above traits are little more than characteristics, which although some people can possess them naturally, can be learned, and built into our behaviours and thinking, thus affecting our leadership potential. Leadership is seen as a skill to be mastered and therefore, the above characteristics can all be honed. As a result, it is prudent to first understand these ‘traits’ and then develop your areas of weakness, in order to become a great leader yourself.

In each article we will cover two traits and their definition, what they mean for you and how you can adapt them to grow yourself as an influential leader. So to begin with start knowing yourself and also how you are perceived by your family, friends, team or colleagues.

How to Use the Trait Theory of Leadership:

Step 1: Identify the typical traits of good leadership above, and start identifying where you believe your strengths and weaknesses are.

Step 2: Take the Trait Theory of Leadership Survey yourself (

Step 3: Share this survey with five other people in your team and whom know you as a leader, and get them to complete the assessment on how they perceive you as a leader.

Step 4: Submit all these findings and analyse where the gaps between how you see yourself and how others do too.

Step 5: Discuss the findings with the group and agree where you can improve.

Step 6: Develop a simple action plan of no more than 6 items to help improve your skills.

The writer is Executive Director, BSI Learning Group


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