New Research Underscores Benefits of a Self Leadership Culture

A new study conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies with 1,300 people in managerial and non-managerial roles found important correlations between an individual’s identification as a self leader and positive work behaviors.

– People who exhibit the behaviors of a self leader are more likely to expend discretionary effort on behalf of their organizations.

– People who are self leaders are more likely to have positive feelings about their jobs.

– Self leaders are more likely to perform at high levels, endorse their organization to others, remain with their organizations, and act as good organizational citizens.

For organizations looking to create a culture of self leadership in their organizations, Susan Fowler, one of the lead researchers in the study, recommends that everyone, regardless of their position in an organization, learn the skills necessary to become a self leader. Fowler explains that self leadership is a mindset and skillset that can be taught and learned.

The mindset of a self leader includes three attitudes.

Challenge Assumed Constraints. Fowler says that for individual contributors to evolve into self leaders, they need to challenge their assumed constraints every day at work. For example, if you assume that no one will listen to your idea because you tried once and were rejected, then you seriously limit your ability to effect positive change.

Activate Points of Power. Next, Fowler says, is to recognize and leverage the power you have instead of focusing on the power you don’t have. Fowler explains that people often point to a lack of position power (having a position of authority to allocate budget and make personnel decisions) instead of recognizing four other types of power they could leverage.

  • Task power (the ability to influence how a job or task is executed)
  • Personal power (having personal characteristics that provide an edge when pursuing goals)
  • Relationship power (being connected or friendly with people who have power)
  • Knowledge power (experience and expertise)

Be Proactive. The third component of a self-leadership mindset is the ability to be proactive. Self leaders don’t always wait to be told what to do, says Fowler. Instead they hold themselves accountable for getting what they need to succeed. They think for themselves and make suggestions for improving things in the department and in their roles. They conduct proactive conversations at every level of their development to solicit feedback and ask for direction and support.

With a proper mindset in place, Fowler says people can begin to develop a three-part self leadership skillset.

Setting Goals. Self leaders take the lead to make sure their goals are specific, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable. If a goal lacks specificity, they seek clarification. If a goal is not attainable or relevant, they negotiate to make it more fair, within their control, and tied to the company’s metrics. If a goal is not optimally motivating for them, they reframe the goal so it is meaningful by aligning the goal to personal values or a noble purpose.

Diagnosing Development Level. In this second component of a self-leadership skillset, people learn to diagnose their own development level—their current level of competence and commitment for achieving a goal or task. Among the hallmarks of self leadership is learning to diagnose personal competence and commitment and identify what is needed to speed up the process of development and growth.

Matching. The third component of a self-leadership skillset teaches people how to get a leadership style that matches their needs. After diagnosing their competence and commitment on a particular goal, self leaders proactively ask for the direction (guidance and clarification) and support (listening and problem solving) they need to make progress on the goal.

Fowler points out that people equipped with the skills of self-leadership feel more positive about themselves and their jobs. They also have the characteristics of employee work passion: they perform at higher levels, endorse the organization positively, have higher levels of autonomy and competence, and are more likely to remain with the organization.

“When people become empowered self leaders, they’re proactive self-starters who look for ways to make your organization flourish.”

As Fowler and her research colleagues identify, the most crucial element in successful initiatives lies in the proactive behavior of the individual contributors required to carry them out.

“Organizations would be wise to equip their employees with the mindset and skillset to diagnose their situation, accept responsibility, and hold themselves accountable for taking action.”

Interested in learning more? Be sure to download the complete research report here. You can also join Fowler for a free webinar on June 21—Taking a Top-Down, Bottom-Up Approach to Leadership.  The event is free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies. Learn more here.

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