28 Sep 2023  •  Blog, Practice Management  •  6min read

Mastering Self-Leadership: The First Step to Leading Others Effectively

In this guest blog, CSR and business coach, Mark Topley, urges those in positions of leadership to take a look in the mirror to find the best way to lead their team.

Plato was right – The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself.

You can’t lead a team effectively if you can’t lead yourself first. It’s as simple as that. In this post, we’ll dig into the nitty-gritty of self-leadership, covering key aspects like self-awareness, self-management, and self-development.

Why Self-Leadership Matters

You might be thinking, “I’ve got a team to lead, why should I focus on myself?” Well, the truth is, self-leadership is the foundation of all good leadership. Think about it. If you’re not in control of your own actions, emotions, and decisions, how can you possibly guide others?

Self-leadership is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It’s akin to the airline safety instruction to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. When you’re grounded in self-awareness and self-management, you’re better equipped to navigate the complexities of team dynamics, make sound decisions, and inspire those around you.

Consider the ripple effect of your behaviour and attitude on your team. If you’re constantly stressed, disorganised, or indecisive, it’s likely that your team will mirror those traits. On the other hand, if you demonstrate resilience, emotional intelligence, and clear thinking, you set a positive example for your team to follow. This is especially crucial in times of crisis or change, when your team looks to you for stability and guidance.

Self-leadership also enables you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, so you can delegate tasks more effectively. Knowing what you excel at and where you could use support allows you to distribute work in a way that plays to each team member’s strengths. This not only boosts productivity but also fosters a culture of trust and mutual respect.

So, the next time you’re tempted to bypass self-reflection or personal development because you’re “too busy leading,” remember that the most effective leaders are those who lead themselves first. Your team doesn’t just need a boss; they need a role model. And that starts with you.

The Three Pillars of Self-Leadership


Far from being new-age mumbo jumbo, self-awareness is a critical skill that involves a deep understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, and triggers. It’s the cornerstone of emotional intelligence and effective leadership. But how do you cultivate it?

How to Improve Self-Awareness:

Regular Reflection: Take time each day or week to reflect on your actions, decisions, and emotional responses. Journaling can be a great way to do this.

Seek Feedback: Don’t shy away from constructive criticism. Ask trusted colleagues, mentors, or team members for their honest feedback on your leadership style and behaviour.

Mindfulness Practices: Techniques like meditation or mindfulness can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings in real-time, allowing you to manage your reactions better.

Personality Tests: Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the DISC assessment can provide valuable insights into your behavioural tendencies.

360-Degree Feedback: This involves collecting feedback from people at various levels within the organization, giving you a more rounded view of your leadership capabilities.


Once you’re aware of your tendencies, the next step is self-management. This is where discipline comes into play. It’s about making conscious choices that align with your goals and values, rather than reacting impulsively.

How to Improve Self-Management:

Set Boundaries: Know when to say no and protect your time. This helps you stay focused on your priorities.

Emotional Regulation: Practice techniques like deep breathing or counting to ten when you find yourself getting emotionally charged. This gives you a moment to choose your response rather than reacting impulsively.

Time Management: Use tools like to-do lists, calendars, or time-blocking to organise your day and keep track of tasks.

Accountability: Share your goals and commitments with someone you trust. Regular check-ins can help you stay on track. A coach can be invaluable here.

Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledging your achievements, however small, can boost your motivation and make it easier to maintain discipline.


Last but not least, self-development. Leadership is not a static skill; it’s an evolving journey. This means continually setting goals for your own growth, seeking out new challenges, and never resting on your laurels.

How to Improve Self-Development:

Continuous Learning: Whether it’s reading books, taking courses, or attending workshops, make a commitment to ongoing education in leadership and your clinical practice.

Networking: Build relationships with other leaders and professionals. This not only broadens your perspective but also provides opportunities for mentorship and collaboration.

Goal Setting: Use SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to outline what you want to achieve in your personal and professional development.

Challenge Yourself: Step out of your comfort zone regularly. Whether it’s taking on a new project, learning a new skill, or even changing your routine, new challenges stimulate growth.

Review and Adjust: Periodically review your goals and progress. Celebrate your achievements and adjust your strategies as needed.

By focusing on these three pillars—self-awareness, self-management, and self-development—you’re not just improving yourself but also setting a strong example for your team to follow. Leadership starts from within, and these practical steps can help you become a more effective, reliable, and inspiring leader.

So there you have it. Self-leadership isn’t some optional extra; it’s the bedrock of effective leadership. By mastering self-awareness, self-management, and self-development, you’re setting yourself up to be a leader who not only talks the talk but walks the walk.


About Mark

Mark Topley is committed to fostering work environments that inspire and energise. He is the driving force behind the Great Boss Academy, which focuses on holistic leadership development, creating resilient leaders who can not only withstand tough times but thrive in them.



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