The Zen of Self-Leadership: 7 Core Principles

7 Core Principles of Self-Leadership

Leadership is about you.

Leadership is your ability to lead yourself towards achieving outcomes you set for yourself and others.

Leadership starts and ends with you.

It’s about self–leadership. It’s about leading yourself first.

Without leading yourself first, how can you effectively lead others? If your own life isn’t in order, how can you expect to lead others towards success? It’s like a baker who can’t bake expecting his team to bake and sell really tasty cakes. Probably won’t happen.

Self-leadership is the ability to masterfully lead yourself so you can exquisitely lead others.

Based on my own leadership journey and on my experience coaching leaders, I believe there are 7 simple yet powerful core principles to effective self-leadership.

  1. Know your personal mission, values and vision
  2. Be responsible and accountable for your actions and reactions
  3. Develop self-awareness in all areas of you life
  4. Cultivate EQ Emotional Intelligence
  5. Be financially responsible
  6. Be physically healthy
  7. Create goals, systems and habits to succeed

It’s my team, not me.

I’ve heard countless stories from leaders who do not understand how these 7 simple principles apply to their ability to lead others.

Here is a short list of tales:

  • A leader who states their team doesn’t communicate effectively, even though he has a hard time communicating with his boss.
  • A leader who bemoans the poor relationships with his managers, even though he is half of the relationship.
  • A leader who doesn’t understand why his team cannot complete goals on time, even though he has poor time management.
  • A leader who can’t understand why his projects are always over budget, even though he sets the budget.
  • A leader who doesn’t understand why his team doesn’t have the energy to perform at high levels, when he doesn’t have the energy either.

Do these sound familiar?

Many issues, which leaders and managers say are the team’s problems, are really their problems and if they rectified their behavior, the team’s behavior would have a greater chance of changing as well.

As a leader, you need to develop your self-leadership and model the behaviors and traits you desire from your team. This is not “do as I say, not as do” time.

If you want to lead, you need to walk to the talk and lead yourself first.

7 Core Principles of Self-Leadership

  1. Know your personal mission, values and vision. Knowing why you are here, what guides you and what you want, gives you the foundation for your life and for what type of leader you want to be. Put your mission, values and vision on paper and review them periodically. Keep them in front of you to remind you of who you really are and what you really want.
  2. Be responsible and accountable for your actions and reactions. Take ownership of your decisions, actions and outcomes. You are in a position of power. You are not a victim. Playing the victim role is easy and there is no place for it in self-leadership. You always have a choice in how you react to any situation. Embodying this principle alone will set you apart from the crowd and give you a tremendous advantage in life and leadership.
  3. Develop self-awareness in all areas of your life. Get to know your habits, the good and the bad. Understand your underlying behaviors. Know which ones are strengths and which ones sabotage your mission and vision.
  4. Cultivate Emotional Intelligence (EQ). This ties right in with self-awareness and is crucial to all of your interactions, especially those as a leader. Learn to manage and regulate your emotions to achieve high value relationships and results.
  5. Be financially responsible. Whether we like to admit it or not, money plays a huge role in our lives. If we allow, money can dictate many of our actions or inactions. It can impact our moods, emotions and how we approach achieving our vision and living our mission. Understanding your personal finances and knowing how they interplay with your life is crucial to self-leadership.
  6. Be physically healthy. Diet and physical fitness impact every emotion, thought, action and outcome. What you put in your body directly affects your brain chemistry and energy. Your level of activity also determines moods, energy and the ability to think clearly. By treating your body poorly, you are treating your mind poorly, which negatively impacts your moods, emotions, thinking and results.
  7. Create goals, systems and habits to succeed. Without goals, systems and habits, what are we but rudderless ships afloat in the ocean of life? To be successful, to live your mission and to achieve your vision, you must establish goals, systems and habits which move you forward. You must break bad habits and instill great habits. You must use systems that push you out of your comfort zone. You must do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.

Lead Yourself First

These core principles are a guiding set of behaviors and beliefs to help you lead yourself first and thereby more effectively lead others.

  • If you know your vision, mission and values, you will know how they fit into the organization’s and team’s mission, vision and values.
  • If you’re accountable and responsible, you can hold your team accountable and responsible.
  • If you’re self-aware, you’ll know how your thoughts, emotions and actions impact your team.
  • If you’re emotionally intelligent, you’ll know how to interact with your team at a much deeper level to achieve more desirable outcomes.
  • If you’re financially responsible, you’ll understand how finances and budgets impact your goals and your team’s goals.
  • If you’re physically healthy you’ll do more, feel better and have more of yourself available to serve your team.
  • If you have goals, systems and habits in place to achieve your vision, you can help your team and organization put systems in place to achieve their vision.

Be a leader, a role model and an inspiration for your team.

Be the leader they look up to and embody the 7 core principles of self-leadership.

Lead yourself first.

Listen, if you’re really serious about developing your leadership then I’d be delighted to help you come up with a plan to help you for free.

I’ve included full details for you here.

So go ahead and click here now.


Images Courtesy:  Zach Dischnerfamilymwr


  1. says

    Thanks Derek for the wise and succinct insights. I plan to implement your seven principles as part of my daily spiritual devotion and intellectual orientation exercises.

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