The CEO and Executive Leadership Team’s Role in Creating a Culture of Self-leadership

CEOs are typically driven by pleasing the board. The board is usually pleased with positive quarterly results. These results will only be sustainable if the CEO and their Executive Leadership Team (ELT) effectively lead the people within the organization.

Management guru Peter Drucker said it best when he wrote:

  "The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers." 

This truth highlights that leadership results from a shared psychological group membership (culture) rather than intrinsic to one individual. 

This realization triggers the question, “What is the best culture, and how do we create it?”

Imagine a culture where management and employees experience a feeling of autonomy and ownership, thus contributing their best selves toward a shared vision with clear objectives.

The foundation of such a culture is the practice of self-leadership. Building a culture of self-leadership within an organization is not just a trend; it's a strategic approach that has proven to yield significant benefits. 

The Organizational Benefits of Promoting Self-leadership

"Self-leadership is having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions, and behavior on the way to getting there." (Bryant, Kazan 2012)

Self-leadership is about taking ownership of your thoughts, and feelings, and responsibility for your actions, and clarity about your goals and objectives. In contrast, the absence of self-leadership is demonstrated by blaming, complaining, and a victim mindset. 

The results of self-leadership are productivity, creativity, and agility, whereas the absence of self-leadership can result in a toxic work environment and sub-optimal customer experience.

Building a culture of self-leadership within an organization is not just a trend; it's a strategic approach that has proven to yield significant benefits. 

1. Enhances Individual Accountability

A study published in the "Journal of Managerial Psychology" found that self-leadership practices were positively associated with job satisfaction and performance. Employees who practiced self-leadership were more engaged and committed to their work, leading to higher levels of productivity and success.

 2. Promotes Agility and Adaptability

Research conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership found that organizations with strong self-leadership cultures were better able to navigate change and uncertainty. They were more resilient, innovative, and able to respond effectively to market shifts and competitive pressures.

3. Fosters Collaboration and Teamwork

A study published in the "Leadership & Organization Development Journal" found that self-leadership practices were positively correlated with team cohesion and collaboration. Teams with strong self-leadership cultures were more aligned, supportive, and effective in achieving their objectives.

4. Aligns Personal and Organizational Goals

Research conducted by Gallup found that organizations with strong alignment between individual and organizational goals experienced higher levels of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and financial performance. This alignment often fostered through self-leadership practices, created a win-win scenario for both employees and the organization.

5. Attracts and Retains Top Talent

A report by Deloitte revealed that organizations with strong self-leadership cultures were more successful in attracting and retaining top talent. These organizations were seen as employers of choice, offering meaningful opportunities for growth and development.

How Can the CEO and ELT Create a Self-leadership Culture?

Promoting a culture of self-leadership within an organization is a strategic endeavor that requires commitment, alignment, and action from both the CEO and the ELT. 

As a Leadership Coach and Mentor, I have had the opportunity to work with numerous organizations and help them develop a culture of self-leadership. One such organization is the Rogers Group, a Mauritius-based multinational organization. Working with the CEO and the human resources director, we created a self-leadership culture with the executive team and then ran sessions with each division. It was extremely gratifying to watch members of the ELT attend these sessions and begin to coach their people on how to apply the principles.

Working with disruptive Silicon Valley Startups to Complex Multinationals has enabled me to refine the self-leadership culture model and methodology, but here are some activities that the CEO and ELT can engage in immediately. 

  • Vision: The CEO must articulate a clear vision for self-leadership within the organization, defining what it means, why it matters, and how it aligns with the mission and values. The ELT  must communicate this vision across all levels of the organization, ensuring that it is understood, embraced, and integrated into daily practices.
  • Principles: The CEO and ELT must embody self-leadership principles, demonstrating personal accountability, integrity, and continuous growth. 
  • Environment: To create an environment where employees feel empowered to take initiative and make decisions, the CEO and ELT must trust and respect individual capabilities,  providing the tools, guidance, and support required.
  • Autonomy: Employee autonomy will require the ELT to set clear expectations, give feedback, and remove barriers to action.
  • Communication: The CEO and ELT must facilitate open dialogue, encourage cross-functional collaboration, and create platforms for knowledge sharing and idea exchange.
  • Reward: For a self-leadership culture to thrive, the CEO and ELT must actively recognize and reward self-leadership behaviors publicly and privately. This recognition includes acknowledging individual efforts, team successes, and organizational milestones.


Promoting a culture of self-leadership is a shared responsibility that requires alignment, commitment, and action from both the CEO and the ELT. By setting a clear vision, leading by example, investing in development, fostering empowerment, recognizing achievements, encouraging collaboration, and monitoring progress, they can create an environment where self-leadership thrives.

Building a culture of self-leadership is not just about implementing specific practices; it's about creating a mindset and a way of life that empowers individuals to lead themselves and contribute to the collective success of the organization. It's a journey that begins with the leadership at the top and resonates throughout the entire organization, shaping its future and defining its success.

My leadership keynote speech, Driving Accelerated Results through Self-leadership can be used to kick off or support your company’s self-leadership culture journey. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss enhancing or transforming your company culture with self-leadership.





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