Purpose – The purpose of this article is to clarify the concept of self applied to leadership, and propose an understanding of how a leader should form conceptions of self, and use these in his or her own development.Design/methodology/approach – Based on self-, personality- and developmental psychology, the article examines a variety of theoretical foundations, and ties these into the context of leadership and self-development.Findings – The article concludes that the self is core, consciousness, and action. The particular characteristics and qualities of the self determine the leader’s comprehension of him or herself as a human entity, and is a leader’s gateway to self-confidence and self-esteem. Leaders therefore need to cultivate an understanding of self by engaging in formative processes which are related to their ability to learn from defining situations, thus raising awareness of points of convergence in a leader’s career.
Research limitations/implications – The article is limited to a conceptual discussion, and further research is needed to verify the proposed hypothesis. Future research should concentrate on empirical work.
Practical implications – The practical outcome is concrete advice that leaders must engage in processes where their own willpower, beliefs, assumptions, values, principles, needs, relational patterns and social strategies are subject to feedback and testing if their aim is to develop themselves. Self-development is not the training of skills, nor solely dependent on cognitive strategies.
Originality/value – Most leaders face pressure to develop themselves. The recommendations herein clarify what is a self concept applicable for leaders, and assist in identifying domains, processes and schemata applicable for leadership self-development.
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