Self Leadership Another Way To Achieve Performance Education Essay

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5/12/16 Education Reference this

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In the quest for employee performance organizations seek novel leadership strategies. Self leadership behavioral-focused, natural-reward and constructive-thought strategies provide a sound solution (Houghton, 2006). Research across diverse settings has shown that the practices of effective self-leadership strategies can lead to many benefits including enhanced motivation, positive self-efficacy perception, and improved employee performance (Bandura, 1991). Rooted in social learning theory & cognitive evaluation theory, self-leadership is more comprehensive theory of self influence than self-control and self-management theories. A conceptual self leadership frame work for employee performance is also suggested in this paper for organizational application.

Keywords: Self-Leadership, Self-leadership Strategies, Self efficacy/Personal mastery, Motivation, Employee performance.


The most influential part in our life that has the ability to support growth than anyone else is our own self. This paper is not about the leadership of others, rather something more fundamental and more powerful i.e. self-leadership. Simply stated leadership is an art of mobilizing others for shared aspirations (Bass, 1995). Leadership is the behavior of an individual when he is directing the activities of a group towards a shared goal (Coons, 1957). Leadership requires using power to influence the thoughts and actions of other people (Zalenik, 1992). Leadership is about articulating visions, embodying values, and creating the environment within which things can be accomplished (Engle, 1986). Leadership is a social process in which one individual influences the behavior of others without the use of threat and violence (Buchannan, 1997). The simplest definition of leadership perhaps is a process of influence between a leader and follower (Hollander, 1978). There are many definitions or descriptions of leadership based on equally vast and differing viewpoints. So in the light of above, Self-Leadership can be described as a process of self influence to navigate own-self for achieving desired outcome (Manz, 1992). In fact, as the opening lines suggest, our greatest latent source of leadership and influence comes not from an external leader, but from within ourselves.

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Self Leadership

Self-leadership theory is based on self-influence, self-management and self control theories that has recently gained significant popularity and inspiring potential for application in modern organizations. Simply stated, self-leadership is a process through which people influence themselves to achieve the self-direction and self-motivation required to behave and perform in desirable ways (Manz & Neck, 1999). Self-leadership is rooted in Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977) and Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986). Social learning theory explains that how people can influence their own cognition, motivation, and behavior (Yun, 2006). On the other side, social cognitive theory explains that there is a continuous interaction between people and their environment (Davidson, 2000) and behavioral outcomes are means of information and motivation (Bandura, 1986).

Therefore, how self-leaders think and behave according to cognitive, motivational, and behavioral strategies (Yun, 2006) is explained by Self-Leadership theory. This is a process of self-influence which is facilitated through the use of both behavioral and cognitive strategies. Self-leadership has three distinctive strategies: behavior-focused strategies, natural reward strategies, and constructive thought pattern strategies (Houghton, 2006).

Behavior-focused strategies comprises on self goal setting, self observation, self-reward, self punishment and self cueing. These strategies are intended to strengthen positive, desirable behaviors (e.g. Job performance, Team Performance). Behavior-focused strategies are particularly useful in managing behavior related for achieving performance including its unpleasant aspects. Natural-reward strategies focus on tasks that are intrinsically motivating. These strategies can also include the focusing of attention on more satisfying or rewarding aspects of a given job or task rather than on the unpleasant or difficult aspects.

Constructive-thought pattern strategies focus on how thinking functional patterns are created and maintained. These strategies include identification and replacement of false self assumptions and irrational beliefs, creating of mental imagery for future successful performance, and positive self talks. Combining all these strategies yields an impressive package of self-influence kit that has a huge potential for organizational application in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

Self-leadership is a more comprehensive theory of self-influence than both self-control and self-management (Manz, 1986). Self-leadership combines the behavioral strategies suggested by self-management and self-control with cognitive strategies based on the concepts of intrinsic motivation and constructive thinking patterns. Self-leadership is more of a broader concept than both the theories of self-control and self-management. Self-management highlight extrinsic rewards (e.g. monetary rewards, praise, recognition, and self-reinforcement based on external stimuli). But self-leadership goes beyond this viewpoint and focuses on natural rewards. Natural rewards imply that performance of the task or activity is a reward in itself (Manz & Neck, 1999). In summary, conceptualization of natural rewards in self-leadership theory is mainly based on the intrinsic motivation literature.

Motivation, according to one definition, is an attribute that moves us to do or not to do something (Garrison, Broussard and Gredler, 2004).Motivation refers to the motives underlying behavior (Guay et al., 2010). Motivation can also be defined as voluntary uses of high-level self-regulated learning strategies, such as paying attention, connection, planning and monitoring (Turner, 1995). However Hornby (2000) states that motivation is an incentive to act or move. Research tells that there are two types of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is the result of externally administered motivators including pay, compensation and benefits, material possessions, monetary gains and positive evaluation by others. Intrinsic motivation is that type of motivation that is activated by personal enjoyment, interest, or pleasure (Deci et al, 1999). Intrinsic motivation is derived from within a person and positively effects behavior and performance (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Performance refers to the effectiveness of individual behaviors that contributes to organizational objectives (McCloy, Campbell & Cudeck, 1994). However Motowidlo (1997) argues that performance is all about behaviors with an evaluative aspect.

Self-leadership theory encompasses both intrinsic motivation literature and cognitive evaluation theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985).Cognitive evaluation theory advocates that intrinsic motivation is driven by the need for competence (i.e. to exercise and extend one’s capabilities) and the need for self-determination (i.e. the need to feel free from pressures such as contingent rewards). Cognitive evaluation theory argued that individuals will try to seek feelings of competence and self-determination by overcoming challenges (deCharms, 1968). Support for the efficacy of intrinsic motivation has been demonstrated in numerous empirical studies (e.g., Deci, Connell, & Ryan, 1989; Harackiewicz, 1979; Zhou, 1998).

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Feelings of competence and self-control (i.e.self-determination) are central part of natural rewards provided by self-leadership theory (Manz & Neck, 1999). Through self leadership strategies, activities and tasks can be chosen, structured, or perceived in ways that lead to increased feelings of competence & self-determination that in turns enhance task performance. Self leadership theory is very much complementary with self-determination theory (Deci, 1972). Although natural reward strategies are generally effective, self-reward strategies utilizing external rewards may also be helpful (in those situations where natural or intrinsic rewards are not needed) to increase (individual or team) performance (Manz & Neck, 1999).

At the heart of social cognitive theory lies the concept of Self-efficacy or personal mastery (Bandura, 1986). Self-efficacy talks about person’s beliefs regarding his/her capabilities to achieve a specific task (Bandura, 1991). As per cognitive evaluation theory need for competence and self-determinations (Deci & Ryan, 1985) leads to more difficult goals selection and increased perceptions of self-efficacy which in turn, leads to higher future performance (Bandura, 1991). Self-leadership theory incorporates all above components of cognitive evaluation theory and social cognitive theory. In short self-leadership strategies mentioned above enhance self-efficacy perceptions, which lead to higher levels of performance (Manz & Neck, 1999). Empirical evidence supports the effectiveness of self-leadership strategies in increasing self-efficacy perceptions and performance. More recently, role of self-efficacy as a mediator of the relationship between self-leadership strategies and performance has also been examined indicating significant relationships (Prussia et al., 1998).

Positive Perception of self Efficacy or Personal Mastery


Based on the literature above it can be summarized here that Self-leadership is a process of self-influence based on self-control, self management and self regulation theories. It is also rooted in motivation theories, Social learning theory and cognitive evaluation theory. Research across diverse settings, from the educational domain to the airline industry, has shown that the practices of effective self-leadership strategies can lead to many benefits including high motivation, self-efficacy, and enhanced employee performance (Bandura, 1991). As mentioned Self leadership strategies include behavioral-focused, natural-reward and constructive-thought pattern strategies. Taken together these core self-leadership strategies and aligning them to motivation, self efficacy and performance following conceptual frame work (figure.1) is suggested aiming at to achieve successful performance in an organization. This suggested conceptual frame work is modified from the basic model of “Self leadership and personal effectiveness” proposed by Manz & Neck (2007).


In the light of the self leadership literature the figure.1 above is suggesting a conceptual framework which implies that applying self-leadership strategies and their components through effective training programs in organization can help in developing self-led employees who can achieve goals like individual, team based or organizational performance through personal mastery. Successful performance leads to positive perception of self efficacy which creates a positive self sufficient upward spiral effect for new successful performance.

As per limitation in this paper identifying individual’s team based self leadership and team member work role performance was not studied which creates room for future research. Effective self-leadership strategies do not stress independent employee behaviors by ignoring teams or organization context. Rather, effective self-leadership strategies encourage a coordinated effort by individuals to seek their own personal identity and mode of contribution as part of a group, teams or organization that produces synergistic performance (Konradt; Andreßen; Ellwart, 2009).

Furthermore, self-leaders are less likely to be resistant to organizational change (Neck, 1996) which is important for any learning organization as it responds and adapt to changing environment. As organizations continue to redesign and adopt structures that need a greater dependence on individual initiative, the popularity of self-leadership concepts is likely to remain strong. Finally, self-leadership behavior shaping strategies provide considerable assurance for taking the quest for employee performance to the next higher level. Indeed, effectively trained self-led employees, both behaviorally and cognitively, may offer the best blueprint for achieving employee and organizational performance in the 21st century.

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