Self-Leadership For Effective Leadership

31 March 2021

If you want to be a successful leader, you must make sure that you’re spending at least 40% of your time on self-leadership, pushing yourself to reach the next level. Not only will this raise your own game but it will impact those around you, setting an example for how you want others in your business to conduct themselves.

There are two key aspects to achieving this and once you’re following these principles, you will be able to lead your team and your business with so much more conviction.

This week, I share one study, one story and two top insights, which help to demonstrate this.


At the University of Berkeley, in 1998, there was a social experiment done to understand the impact a leadership position makes on an individual.

Students were brought in and randomly sorted into groups of three.

Within each group, there were two candidates, who were supposed to be completing an assignment in a given time and one person was designated the leader, the person who was overseeing the work, making sure that it was being done in the given time.

30 minutes into the experiment, the researchers entered the room with a plate of cookies and left it there.

What they noticed, as time passed, is that the leader consumed significantly more cookies, compared to the other two individuals. Not just that! They left the crumbs on the table.

I just want you to mull over this, think about it, how that position in a social experiment made the individual behave, especially when they knew that they had the power of the position.



This is one of my favourite stories. I heard it a long time ago and I follow the principle in my life, in a big way. It is a story about Gandhi.

In the 1930s, there was a woman who had a young child, a young boy, who was very fond of sugar. He would eat far too much of it.

The Mother was worried about his health but he would not listen to her. As a solution, she thought she would take her Son to see Gandhi to get advice because he respected and looked up to Gandhi as his idol. He worshipped him.

She travelled miles in the scorching heat. It was a very difficult journey but she undertook it with the hope that her son would be told to improve his habits and he would get back on track.

After a long, tiresome journey, she reached Gandhi, and she said, “Bapu, my son looks up to you and he consumes way too much sugar. I have told him not to, but he just does not listen to me. Could you please tell him not to consume sugar and take care of his health?”.

Gandhi looked at the woman and her young son, and said, “Come back after two weeks”.

The woman was upset. Gandhi just had to utter a few words to her son but he refused to do it and instead told her to come back again later.

However, she thought to herself that there must be a reason and after two weeks she undertook the same journey to Gandhi. She approached and asked, “Bapu, you remember, I requested that you tell my son not to eat sugar? He consumes far too much sugar, which is not good for his health”.

This time, he looked at the young boy and in a very firm tone he said, “Son, you should not be consuming too much sugar. It’s not good for your health”.

And the boy very respectfully looked up at Bapu and said, “I will stop eating sugar Bapu. I will not do that ever again”.

The mother was equally stunned and delighted. She looked at Bapu and asked, “Bapu, you could have said the same thing two weeks ago but you made me come all the way here?”.

Bapu looked at her and said, “Two weeks ago, I was also eating way too much sugar”.



What I have seen so many times in businesses, is that there is a burden of leadership on business owners.

They want their team members to be:

  • Disciplined
  • Do the best possible
  • Show up on time
  • Be proactive
  • Take initiative
  • Have a strategic mindset
  • Be diligent
  • Go beyond the given

We would all love our team members to possess these traits.

Please make a note of this:

If you want to be a successful leader, you need to spend 40 % of your time in self-leadership. Rather than trying to lead other people.

Because, mark my words here, people don’t get led by what you say. People get led by what they see. And therefore, congruency and authenticity are so important in being an effective leader.

So, what are the two components that you need to focus on, in leading yourself in a better way?


1. Self-awareness

You need to have the self-awareness to be able to observe oneself without any emotional state and to understand exactly where your strengths and weaknesses are.

Being in-tune with yourself, without too much emotion, happens when you give yourself time to reflect.

What I have seen is that, so many business owners are busy running from pillar to post, that they don’t make conscious time, to sit down and reflect on what’s going on. What is their current state and where do they need to become better? Where are they already strong?

It is this self-reflection, which leads to self-awareness.


2. Self-discipline / self-regulation

It is so important to make yourself more disciplined, in how you’re thinking and how you’re behaving. When you do that, people around you observe and they want to take your lead because they see authenticity.

If you’re not aware and you’re not disciplined enough, then what happens? You ask someone to do something, because you know that’s the right thing, for yourself and the other person. But then somewhere deep down might feel an element of guilt.

You might think, “I’m not doing it, so you know what, it’s okay if he or she also did not do it”. That’s called typical collusion. You’ve just colluded, with the non-performance or the sub performance because you were not able to regulate your behaviour, or your activity, or your thinking. That collusion at an organizational level only leads to increased sub-optimal performance.


I will add one more point, something that our clients love about us. We’re not sitting here in pyjamas, and having coffee and saying, “Hey, we’ll help you to grow your business, or buy other businesses”.

I, myself have got a good-sized team functioning most professionally. We don’t have just one business, we have multiple businesses, that we have bought and that we have developed.

It’s the congruence of what we are consulting our clients on, the fact that we are also practising it in our own businesses.

With us, you can be safe in the knowledge that it’s not conceptual, it’s not theoretical. We are leading from the front with our own strategies and getting the results to match.

I hope this helps you in improving your self-leadership. If you are interested in working with us at all, we would love to hear from you. Get in touch and let us know how else we can help you to become a better leader.

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There are 2 comments:

  1. Ravi Gosain - 6th April 2021 at 7:27 am

    Excellent reading. People must read and follow these practically to be successful leaders. You may add one more quality, i.e. Self esteem. Trust in yourself, your ability, your planning, your thoughts and gain confidence. May start with small projects to achieve success and build upon them. This practice will give lot of self-confidence.

  2. Mukesh Ahuja Dhanani - 29th December 2021 at 1:20 pm

    Thank you very much, Shweta.

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