Self-Leadership: How to Become a HERO

Timo Gerhardt, Tuesday 21 June 2022 | Reading time: 7 min.

Anyone intending to be team lead should first learn to lead themselves in the best possible way. Far too often, people are focused on observing the external environment. In both private and professional contexts, people are always analyzing, judging and actively influencing. But many of us miss the opportunity to self-reflect and become aware of our inner processes. In the following article we will show you how to become a better team leader through self-leadership. 


Karim Benzema is a phenomenon. Last May, the soccer star brought the possibly most coveted silverware, the UEFA Champions League trophy, to Madrid for the fifth time. One might think that claiming the European soccer throne with Real Madrid CF has become routine for him. Nevertheless, this year´s victory also marks a novelty for Benzema. For the first time, the Frenchman captained his team to the trophy and, as top scorer, almost single-handedly shot his team to the title. In expert circles, he is seen as the personification of leadership. But that has not always been the case. The player who used to be known for his numerous scandals first had to learn what self-leadership meant before he could lead his team to the title.

What does self-leadership mean?

Self-leadership is considered a prerequisite for leading others. Nevertheless, this idea receives too little attention in practice, often significantly impairing the quality of leadership in daily business. It describes a process of intentional self-influence. The goal is to increase one's own individual effectiveness. The focus is therefore not on the external environment, but on one’s inner processes. Self-leadership can be learned and actively developed, allowing you to use the concept to your advantage.

Become aware of yourself

The goal of Self-leadership, the increase of one's own effectiveness, is based on pushing one's own strengths and on improving personal weaknesses. To do this successfully, one must first become aware of these strengths and weaknesses. For effective self-influence it is essential to get to know inner processes and procedures. The awareness of one's own desires, goals and thoughts is crucial for this. Eventually, these factors are the drivers of our actions, even if only subconsciously.

The first step to successful self-leadership is a holistic evaluation of one's own person. This takes time, just as Karim Benzema needed several years to bolster his strength as a center forward. He sought to further his skills, improve weaknesses and where this was impossible, realized that better abled teammates could take defensive positions where he lacked skills. This clearly set career goal motivated him to practice self-leadership.

Regulate yourself

To optimize one's own abilities and performance, the process of self-regulation is indispensable. This consists of the following 3 phases, which should be repeated for continuous improvement in a dynamic environment:

  • Self-observation
  • Self-assessment
  • Self-reaction

In the self-observation phase, it is firstly a matter of perceiving one's own behavior consciously, but without judgment. For this, the previously described knowledge of inner processes and a high level of self-awareness are very important. Subsequently, this behavior is evaluated during the self-assessment phase. You need a reference value which can be based on one's own demands or on a social reference norm, such as a relevant comparison person. The phase of self-reaction, in turn, has the goal of eliminating differences between one's own behavior and the reference value through concrete measures. For example, if Benzema notices that a personal rival who serves as a reference value has a higher running performance per encounter, he will invest time in running training to eliminate this deficit.

Find your intrinsic motivation

In the self-regulatory system described above, self-reward and self-punishment can serve as extrinsic motivation to eliminate deficits. Benzema could reward himself with a video game night with friends after a successful training day; or he could deny himself that fun night when he does not reach his training goals. However, accomplishing a task only for the sake of gaining an extrinsic reward is not as effective as an intrinsic motivator. If the person shows enthusiasm and interest in the task itself and not just in a potential reward, it is much easier to accomplish. Thus, a professional like Benzema works primarily on his skill to reach the excellence he expects of himself.

Become a HERO

If you want to start leading yourself effectively, keep the HERO acronym in mind. These are the four aspects that will help you achieve your personal goals.

  • Hope
  • Efficiacy
  • Resilience
  • Optimism

The first component describes the urgent hope to always achieve goals. The prerequisite for the achievement of goals should be an unconditional will and persistent ambition. The second aspect of effectiveness refers to confidence that one's own abilities are sufficient to successfully master the challenges ahead. Resilience refers to the stamina needed to overcome even unpleasant, arduous or the most challenging tasks. It makes you keep your focus in the face of previous failures. Lastly remaining, optimism is an ability that combined with hope, efficiacy and resilience has proven to positively impact actual performance.

To master the concept of self-leadership, you should focus on getting to know yourself better. Then it will be easier to regulate yourself, find your intrinsic motivation and if you keep the components of HERO in mind, nothing will stand in your way of effective self-leadership.

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