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  • Writer's pictureBahar Önderol


Updated: Apr 23

"Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. " -Lao Tzu

Every year there is an ever-growing list of traits and skills that a good leader should possess. I think the most important of these skills is self-leadership. Self-leadership is defined as having a sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going, as well as the ability to influence your communication, emotions, and behaviours on the way there. Accordingly, we can say that self-leadership arises from self-awareness. The leader must first reach his ethos, find his dream (vision) and draw it out. The desire to make the effort and to take the trouble on this journey arises by itself. Because the desire to realize the dream appears as an urge. While taking the challenge, striving reveals the potential so the person acquires new skills, or enhances existing ones. When the person's dream comes true, he receives external rewards such as being appreciated by others and maybe promoted, an increase in income, etc., and feels a certain amount of gratification. However, the real reward is the feeling of fulfilment that accompanies the person throughout the process, which comes from realizing their potential.

Of course, the path to realizing the dream is not straight, smooth, or unobstructed. On this path, sometimes external and internal barriers are encountered. To overcome external barriers, a person needs skills such as perseverance, resilience, flexibility, and endurance, while to overcome internal barriers, he also needs self-knowledge and understanding. When I say internal barriers, I mean the internal voices we hear, especially when we try to do something new out of our comfort zone. A voice in our head says, “This is very difficult to do, don't try, you will fail, you will be disappointed, you will become sad”. This voice belongs to the defence power, which is one of the two forces within us that Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized about. Our other inner voice says “you have to do this”. This is the voice of the growth force. The defence force pushes the person to move towards security (our comfort zone), while the growth force directs the person to the integrity and freedom of the self, to the use of potential and opening up to the outside world with confidence. Maslow says that this conflict between the forces of defence and growth is existential and hidden in the deepest nature of man.

In this sense, a person can be compared to a team in which the owners of these inner voices (lower selves) sometimes conflict. It is important for the team to be open with each other, able to talk about their needs and differences and collaborate and even support each other to meet their individual desires. This harmony in the team takes place with good leadership. In order to be able to lead oneself, a person must stop identifying with his lower selves, which have different qualities, different wishes, and expectations, or take a step away from them and become an observer of the process. It may not be easy for a person to do this himself. Therefore, the person can sometimes get support from a coach and sometimes from a therapist.

When a person can lead himself, he becomes a positive role model by living his life consciously and positively influencing those around him. Those who are able to lead themselves are more empathetic and understand what drives others and can therefore be more inspiring leaders. They also become more effective leaders because they encourage others to achieve their own self-leadership.


Toward a Psychology of Being, Abraham Maslow

Coaching for Performance, Sir John Whitmore

Self-Leadership, Andrew Bryant, Ana Lucia Kazan


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