The Benefits of Self-Leadership

By Comms Team | 10/14/2021

Tags: Management | Podcasts
Categories: Research

FAU professors, Ethlyn Williams, Ph.D., and Michael Harari, Ph.D., discuss their recent study of self-leadership, a concept that allows employees to manage themselves without relying on supervisors.

Episode Transcript

Paul Owers (00:12):

Hi, I'm Paul Owers, the media relations director for the Florida Atlantic University College of Business. Today, I'm speaking with associate professors, Michael Harari and Ethlyn Williams, who specialize in leadership and human resources in the Department of Management Programs. Our discussion focuses on their recent study of self-leadership a concept that allows employees to manage themselves without relying on supervisors. For more information about FAU Management Programs, please visit Michael and Ethlyn, thanks for joining us. Ethlyn how exactly does self-leadership differ from traditional methods?

Ethlyn Williams (00:56):

Well, Paul, when we think about leadership, we often think about influencing another person if we're the leader. If you're an employee you're thinking externally about what are the goals that the leader has set for me, what are the expectations I need to meet? And we, for traditional methods of leading, we think about the leader being in charge and directing our work. But if you're self-leading, you're not influencing another person you're influencing yourself. So it's really self-influenced. And so it's all about this internal source of leadership that really we use to achieve self-direction and self-motivation. So if you really think about it, we self-lead in many ways every day, because we make choices. For example, the choice we made to do this interview today, based on the initiative to really just talk about what interests us or, you know, when you make an independent decision to help a client or to improve your skills, or maybe to even improve your workstation so you can be more efficient. So when you're self-leading, you're using different strategies to really be focused and motivated in ways that maybe have you observing your behaviors so that you set goals that really help you to be confident about how you can achieve those goals. And then really thinking about how to really be a big supporter of yourself, right? Talking to yourself, queuing yourself, and then thinking of ways that make you feel like what you're doing is worthwhile

Paul Owers (02:27):

Fantastic. Michael, your research stated that self-leadership is most ideal for extroverts. Where does that leave the office introverts?

self leadershipMichael Harari (02:37):

So as Ethlyn alluded to in her response, there's different ways to self-lead. It's not a one size fits all. Now we can take those different ways that people can self-lead and put them into buckets or categories. People can self-lead by focusing on their behavior, setting their own goals, rewarding themselves. People can self-lead by focusing on their thoughts, like visualizing successful performance in advance of performing a task. And people can self-lead by focusing on the naturally rewarding aspects of their job. When we think about extroversion, there's a tendency to think about being outgoing and talkative, but there's much more to extroversion than that. You know, why are extroverts talkative and outgoing? It's fundamentally because they are enthused. There is a general tendency to view the potential for rewards at the environment. Extroverts are really good at that last type of strategy or bucket of self-leadership behaviors I discussed. Since extroverts tend to be very positive, they have a very easy time queuing into aspects of their job that they find to tend to be very rewarding. So it's not as though introverts can't self lead, it's merely that there are certain routes to self-leadership that are particularly, excuse me, that extroverts are particularly predisposed towards introverts can still self lead in a myriad of other ways.

Paul Owers (04:03):

Ethlyn, how would a supervisor begin integrating self-leadership into his or her workplace?

Ethlyn Williams (04:08):

So as Michael noted, some people may be natural self leaders, but I think it's important to realize that the traditional leader has a role, right, encouraging self-leadership. They do this by delegating to an employee, assigning challenging work, or maybe even giving flexibility in how an employee designs their work. So I like to think less about traditional leadership and really more think about contemporary leaders. So a leader who engages the employee in their work or partners in completing the work or provides a role model for best practices, just doing things in a way that allows the employee to take initiative. In that way, you're encouraging self-leadership. And of course that's good for the supervisor because it frees up their time to focus on tasks that they can delegate. But, you know, realizing that this really relies on the leader having a trust in the employee, that that person will rise to the occasion, will take responsibility, but then organizations can invest in employees as well by providing training.

Ethlyn Williams (05:11):

So we know from our research that self-leadership makes a difference. People feel more confident when they're encouraged to be independent, when they're encouraged to find better ways for themselves to work and get their jobs done. So organizations can provide training on the strategies that Mike mentioned, so that employees learn how to self observe, right? They learn how to improve themselves and how to visualize their work. Because what we found in our research is it really does make a difference in boosting their engagement, their satisfaction, and the outcomes of their work. I can give you an example because Google is talked about a lot as a company that really embraces and benefits from self-leadership, right. Employees have the flexibility to work in locations that they really enjoy. They get perks in the sense that, you know, they can design their work. They really get to have that positive engagement with their work and really feel that the company trusts them and values their skills enough to give them the independence to work when and how, and at the pace that they like.

Paul Owers (06:13):

Yeah, that's fantastic. And you know, when, when you can have that from your boss and to know that they trust you, man, it makes your job a lot easier and more fun to do. Thank you, both. We appreciate your time.

Outro (06:26):

What's Happening at FAU Business is part of the FAU College of Business Podcast Network. Learn more at