Skip to content

6 Critical Areas of Self-Leadership

By Maxwell Leadership | October 3, 2023
6 Critical Areas of Self-Leadership

This blog post has been adapted from Dr. John Maxwell’s leadership development resource, The 360 Degree Leader. John Maxwell has been one of the world’s foremost personal and professional leadership experts for more than 40 years, and this guidebook instructs leaders on how to influence others no matter their title. The 360 Degree Leader is this week’s Book of the Week, so you can get it here for just $10.

American pastor and author Bill Hybels once said, “You are the most difficult person you will ever lead.”

And he was right.

Leading others isn’t exactly an “easy A.” But when we lead ourselves, we take on the role of leader and follower – we face the challenges of both sides of the equation. We must be dedicated to focus, discipline, intentionality, and purpose. Self-leadership is a tall order with zero off-hours.

But it’s absolutely necessary if we ever want to lead anyone else.

Self-Leadership: Making vs. Managing Decisions

We often think that self-leadership is about making good decisions every day, when the reality is that we need to make a few critical decisions in major areas of life and then manage those decisions day to day.

If you’re interested in improving your self-leadership, focus on these six areas:


There are many factors that contribute to auto accidents – lack of sleep, inclement weather, and driving intoxicated among them. But one of the most common culprits is distracted driving – and one of the most common distractions? Emotional problems.

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have found that “emotionally agitated” drivers are not two, not three, but more than ten times more likely to experience a crash.

There are times to let our feelings show – after all, in the right context, people relate to and connect with emotions. And it’s not healthy for anyone to deny or bury what they’re feeling. But in the wrong time and place, an outburst of emotion can cause more harm than good. Awareness and control of our emotions is one of the first and most powerful steps of self-leadership.


Time is valuable. Psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck said, “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.” In What to Do Between Birth and Death, Dr. Charles Spezzano says that people don’t pay for things with money; they pay for them with time. After all, we earn money by investing our time. “The phrase spending your time is not a metaphor,” said Spezzano. “It’s how life works.”

Instead of thinking about what you do and what you buy in terms of money, think about them in terms of time. Think about it: what is worth spending your life on? Seeing things in that light just may change the way you manage your time.


In today’s world of shorter and shorter attention spans, many people in the personal growth community are searching for “secrets to success.” And while there are no formulas for instant growth, we can accelerate the process by working smarter, not harder. And one of those smart ways of working has every bit as much to do with what we don’t do as what we do. In Good to Great, American writer and researcher Jim Collins wrote:

Most of us lead busy, but undisciplined lives. We have ever-expanding “to do” lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who build the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of “stop doing” lists as the “to do” lists. They displayed a remarkable amount of discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk. 

You must be ruthless in your judgment of what you should not do. Just because you like doing something doesn’t mean it should stay on your to-do list. If it is a strength, do it. If it helps you grow, do it. If your leader says you must handle it personally, do it. Anything else is a candidate for your “stop doing” list.


Some people have to ration their energy so that they don’t run out. But even the Energizer Bunny himself can have the energy sucked right out of him under difficult circumstances. Often, leaders in limiting situations have to deal with “the ABCs energy-drain.”

Activity Without Direction—doing things that don’t seem to matter

Burden Without Action—not being able to do things that really matter

Conflict Without Resolution—not being able to deal with what’s the matter 

If you’re in an organization or situation where you’re navigating these ABCs, you must manage your energy well (and don’t forget to account for the energy it takes to do that!).


Poet and novelist James Joyce said, “Your mind will give back to you exactly what you put into it.” The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness. If you find that the pace of life is too demanding for you to stop and think during the day, then get into the habit of jotting down the three or four things that need good mental processing or planning that you can’t stop to think about. Then carve out some time later when you can give those items some good think-time. That may be thirty minutes later that same day, or you may want to keep a running list for a whole week and then take a couple of hours on Saturday. Just don’t let the list get so long that it disheartens or intimidates you.


In The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business Life, French journalist and politician Emile de Girardin is quoted as saying, “The power of words is immense. A well-chosen word has often sufficed to stop a flying army, to change defeat into victory, and to save an empire.” If you wish to make sure that your words carry weight, then weigh them well. The good news is that if you manage your thinking and take advantage of focused think-time, you will probably see improvement in the area of managing your words too.

Looking for tools to help you better lead yourself and others?

John Maxwell’s friend Deion Sanders recently shared John’s book, The 360 Degree Leader! This book has helped him do what he’s doing now, and it’ll teach you to lead in a different way than you’ve ever understood leadership before.

We wanted to give you an opportunity to buy this book at a discounted rate so that you can begin transforming your leadership! You can get it here for only $10.

More Articles

Do I Believe The Best In Others?
By Mark Cole | March 1, 2022

Do I Believe The Best In Others?

By John C. Maxwell | October 6, 2021


The 5 Key Resilience Traits You Need Right Now
By Valorie Burton | September 21, 2021

The 5 Key Resilience Traits You Need Right Now

Be the first to comment on "6 Critical Areas of Self-Leadership"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *