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9 Ways to Empower Yourself and Achieve Your Goals

Strategies for developing and building self-leadership.

Key points

  • Self-leadership means developing the self-direction and self-motivation necessary to empower yourself and achieve personal excellence.
  • Certain self-leadership strategies have been found to facilitate empowerment by enhancing meaningfulness, purpose, competence, and self-efficacy.
  • Self-leadership can be achieved by applying a set of behavioral, reward, and thought pattern strategies, including the 9 below.
Source: selamiozalp/iStock
Source: selamiozalp/iStock

Self-leadership is a process through which individuals influence their own behavior to achieve the self-direction and self-motivation necessary to perform, empower themselves, and achieve personal excellence.

The concept of self-leadership first emerged as an expansion of self-management, which was rooted in clinical self-control theory and Bandura’s (1992) notion of self-efficacy—individuals’ beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events affecting their lives. Self-leadership strategies have been found to facilitate empowerment by enhancing perceptions of meaningfulness, purpose, self-determination, competence, and self-efficacy. Not surprisingly, this research was later applied to organizational effectiveness.

Strategies to Develop and Build Self-Leadership

Developing and building self-leadership entails both behavioral and cognitive strategies that fall into three main categories:

  1. Behavioral-focused strategies correspond to self-management (self-goal setting, self-observation, self-reward, self-punishment, and self-cueing).
  2. Natural reward strategies promote intrinsic motivation.
  3. Cognitive thought pattern strategies involve visualizing successful performance, self-talk, and evaluating beliefs and assumptions.

Each strategy is designed to assist individuals in advancing their individual performance.

The following nine strategies are based on the Abbreviated Self-Leadership Questionnaire developed by researchers Houghton and Neck:

  1. Set specific goals for your own performance (self-goal setting).
  2. Keep track of how well you’re doing at work (self-observation).
  3. Work toward specific goals you have set for yourself (self-goal setting).
  4. Visualize yourself successfully performing a task before you do it (visualizing successful performance).
  5. Picture in your mind a successful performance before you actually do a task (visualizing successful performance).
  6. Reward yourself with something you like/enjoy once you have successfully completed a task (self-reward).
  7. Talk to yourself (out loud or mentally in your head) to work through difficult situations (evaluating beliefs and assumptions).
  8. Mentally evaluate/challenge the accuracy of your beliefs about situations you’re finding challenging or having problems with (evaluating beliefs and assumptions).
  9. Think about your own beliefs and assumptions whenever you encounter a difficult situation (evaluating beliefs and assumptions).

All human beings are self-leaders; however, not all self-leaders are effective at self-leading. ——Charles C. Manz


Houghton, J. D., & Yoho, S. K. (2005). Toward a contingency model of leadership and psychological empowerment: When should self-leadership be encouraged? Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 11(4), 65-83.

Manz, C. C. (2015). Taking the self-leadership high road: Smooth surface or potholes ahead? Academy of Management Perspectives, 29(1), 132-151.

Neck, C. P., & Houghton, J. D. (2006). Two decades of self-leadership theory and research. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(4), 270-295.

Neck, C. P., & Manz, C. C. (2012). Mastering self-leadership: Empowering yourself for personal excellence. Pearson.

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