Positive Self-leadership: A Framework for Professional Leadership Development

  • Marieta Du PlessisEmail author


Self-leadership, referring to self-influencing behaviours and thoughts geared towards enhancing performance, is an important tool for both individual personal mastery and organisational success. However, programmes aimed at developing self-leadership are still largely based on developing gaps in leader capability and reserved for those in formal leadership positions. Further, theoretical frameworks for the development of self-leadership from a positive psychological perspective are lacking in literature. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter is to develop a positive self-leadership development framework focusing on the optimisation of character strengths; interests and aspirations; abilities and talents; and environmental strengths. The aim is three-fold: (a) to conceptualise positive self-leadership, (b) to present a capability profile for positive self-leadership, and (c) to develop a positive psychological intervention protocol for developing positive self-leadership.


Positive self-leadership Leadership development programme Positive organisational interventions 


  1. Alves, J. C., Lovelace, K. J., Manz, C. C., Matsypura, D., Toyasaki, F., & Ke, K. (2006). A cross-cultural perspective of self-leadership. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(4), 338–359.Google Scholar
  2. Amundsen, S., & Martinsen, Ø. L. (2014). Empowering leadership: Construct clarification, conceptualization, and validation of a new scale. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(3), 487–511.Google Scholar
  3. Anthony, W. A. (1993). Recovery from mental illness: The guiding vision of the mental health service system in the 1990s. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 16(4), 11–23.Google Scholar
  4. Asplund, J., Lopez, S. J., Hodges, T., & Harter, J. (2009). The Clifton StrengthsFinder® 2.0 technical report: Development and validation. Princeton, NJ: The Gallup Organization.Google Scholar
  5. Avey, J. B., Luthans, F., Hannah, S. T., Sweetman, D., & Peterson, C. (2012). Impact of employees’ character strengths of wisdom on stress and creative performance. Human Resource Management Journal, 22(2), 165–181.Google Scholar
  6. Avolio, B. J., & Gardner, W. L. (2005). Authentic leadership development: Getting to the root of positive forms of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 16(3), 315–338.Google Scholar
  7. Ay, F. A., Karakaya, A., & Yilmaz, K. (2015). Relations between self-leadership and critical thinking skills. Procedia-social and Behavioral Sciences, 207, 29–41.Google Scholar
  8. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  9. Barrett, F. J., Cooperider, D. L., & Fry, R. E. (2005). Bringing every mind into the game to realize the positive revolution in strategy. The Appreciative Inquiry Summit. In J. William, R. S. Rothwell, & N. Gary (Eds.), Practicing organization development: A guide for consultants (pp. 501–549). San Francisco, CA: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E. & Wrzesniewski, A. (2008). What is job crafting and why does it matter? Theory-to-practice briefing. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. Retrieved from on 17 September 2018.
  11. Berg, J. M., Dutton, J. E., & Wrzesniewski, A., & Baker, W. E. (2010). Job crafting exercise. Ann Arbor, MI: Regents of the University of Michigan. Retrieved from on 13 September 2018.
  12. Bligh, M. C., & Kohles, J. C. (2012). From radical to mainstream? How follower-centric approaches inform leadership. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 220(4), 205–209.Google Scholar
  13. Bouskila-Yam, O., & Kluger, A. N. (2011). Strength-based performance appraisal and goal setting. Human Resource Management Review, 21(2), 137–147.Google Scholar
  14. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (1981). Attention and self-regulation: A control theory approach to human behavior. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  15. Cautela, J. R. (1969). Behavior therapy and self-control: Techniques and applications. In C. M. Franks (Ed.), Behavioral therapy: Appraisal and status (pp. 323–340). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  16. Clifton, D. O., & Harter, J. K. (2003). Investing in strengths. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship (pp. 111–121). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
  17. Creswell, J. D. (2017). Mindfulness interventions. Annual Review of Psychology, 68, 491–516.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Deci, E., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  19. DiLiello, T. C., & Houghton, J. D. (2006). Maximizing organisational leadership capacity for the future: Toward a model of self-leadership, innovation and creativity. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(4), 319–337.Google Scholar
  20. Dogan, S., & Sahin, F. (2008). A study of reliability, validity and adaptation of revised self-leadership questionnaire-RSLQ to Turkish context. Journal of Economics and Administrative Sciences, 26, 139–164.Google Scholar
  21. Dutton, J. E., & Ragins, B. R. (2007). Moving forward: Positive relationships at work as a research frontier. In J. E. Dutton & B. R. Ragins (Eds.), Exploring positive relationships at work: Building a theoretical and research foundation (pp. 387–400). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Fiedler, F. E. (1996). Research on leadership selection and training: One view of the future. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41, 241–250.Google Scholar
  23. Ford, R. C., & Fottler, M. D. (1995). Empowerment: A matter of degree. Academy of Management Perspectives, 9(3), 21–29.Google Scholar
  24. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.Google Scholar
  25. Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678–686.Google Scholar
  26. Hannah, S. T., Woolfolk, R. L., & Lord, R. G. (2009). Leader self-structure: A framework for positive leadership. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30(2), 269–290.Google Scholar
  27. Harris, J., & White, V. (2009). Introduction: Modernizing social work. In J. Harris & V. White (Eds.), Modernising social work: Critical considerations (pp. 1–8). Bristol, United Kingdom: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  28. Harter, J., & Rath, T. (2010). Well-being: The five essential elements. New York, NY: Gallup Press.Google Scholar
  29. Higgins, E. T. (1998). Promotion and prevention: Regulatory focus as a motivational principle. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 30, pp. 1–46). New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hobfoll, S. E. (2011). Conservation of resource caravans and engaged settings. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(1), 116–122.Google Scholar
  31. Hodges, T. D., & Asplund, J. (2010). Strengths development in the workplace. In P. A. Linley, S. Harrington, & N. Garcea (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 213–221). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Hooijberg, R., Bullis, R. C., & Hunt, J. G. (1999). Behavioral complexity and the development of military leadership for the twenty-first century. In J. G. (J.) Hunt, G. E. Dodge, & L. Wong (Eds.), Out-of-the-box leadership: Transforming the twenty-first-century army and other top-performing organizations (Vol. 1, pp. 111–130). Stamford, CT: JAI.Google Scholar
  33. Houghton, J. D., Neck, C. P., & Manz, C. C. (2003). Self-leadership and super leadership: The art of creating shared leadership in teams. In C. L. Pearce & J. A. Conger (Eds.), Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership (pp. 123–140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  34. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2009). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York, NY: Delta Trade Paperback.Google Scholar
  35. Kerr, S., & Jermier, J. M. (1978). Substitutes for leadership: Their meaning and measurement. Organization Behavior and Human Performance, 22, 375–403.Google Scholar
  36. Kirkman, B. L., & Shapiro, D. L. (2001). The impact of team members’ cultural values on productivity, cooperation, and empowerment in self-managing work teams. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32(5), 597–617.Google Scholar
  37. Kopelman, S., Chen, L., & Shoshana, J. (2009). Renarrating positive relational identities in organizations: Self-narration as a mechanism for strategic emotion management in interpersonal interactions. In L. E. Roberts & J. E. Dutton (Eds.), Exploring positive identities and organizations: Building a theoretical and research foundation (pp. 265–287). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.Google Scholar
  38. Kristof-Brown, A. L., Zimmerman, R. D., & Johnson, E. C. (2005). Consequences of individuals’ fit at work: A meta-analysis of person-job, person-organization, person-group and person-supervisor fit. Personnel Psychology, 58(2), 281–342.Google Scholar
  39. Luthans, F. (2002). Positive organizational behaviour: Developing and managing psychological strengths. Academy of Management Executive, 16, 57–75.Google Scholar
  40. Luthans, F. (2012). Psychological capital: Implications for HRD, retrospective analysis, and future directions. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 23(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  41. Luthans, F., Youssef, C. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2007). Psychological capital: Developing the human competitive edge. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Malinga, K. S., Stander, M. W., & Nell, W. (2019). Positive leadership: Moving towards an integrated definition and interventions. In L. E. van Zyl & S. Rothmann (Eds.), Positive psychological intervention design and protocols for multi-cultural contexts. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  43. Manz, C. C. (1983). The art of self-leadership: Strategies for personal effectiveness in your life and work. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  44. Manz, C. C. (1991). Developing self-leaders through super leadership. Supervisory Management, 36(9), 3.Google Scholar
  45. Manz, C. C. (1992). Mastering self-leadership: Empowering yourself for personal excellence. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  46. Manz, C. C. (2015). Taking the self-leadership high road: Smooth surface or potholes ahead? Academy of Management Perspectives, 29(1), 132–151.Google Scholar
  47. Manz, C. C., & Neck, C. P. (1991). Inner leadership: Creating productive thought patterns. The Executive, 5, 87–95.Google Scholar
  48. Manz, C. C., & Neck, C. P. (2004). Mastering self-leadership: Empowering yourself for personal excellence (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  49. Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (1987). Leading workers to lead themselves: The external leadership of self-managing work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 32(1), 106–129.Google Scholar
  50. Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (2001). The new super leadership: Leading others to lead themselves. San-Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.Google Scholar
  51. Manz, C. C., Skaggs, B. C., Pearce, C. L., & Wassenaar, C. L. (2015). Serving one another: Are shared and self-leadership the keys to service sustainability? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(4), 607–612.Google Scholar
  52. Manz, C. C., Houghton, J. D., Neck, C. P., Fugate, M., & Pearce, C. (2016). Whistle while you work: Toward a model of emotional self-leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 23(4), 374–386.Google Scholar
  53. Müller, T., & Niessen, C. (2018). Self-leadership and self-control strength in the work context. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 33(1), 74–92.Google Scholar
  54. Neck, C. P., & Houghton, J. D. (2006). Two decades of self-leadership theory and research: Past developments, present trends, and future possibilities. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(4), 270–295.Google Scholar
  55. Neck, C. P., & Manz, C. C. (1996). Thought self-leadership: The impact of mental strategies training on employee behaviour, cognition, and emotion. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 17(5), 445–467.Google Scholar
  56. Neck, C. P., & Manz, C. C. (2013). Mastering self-leadership: Empowering yourself for personal excellence (6th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  57. Pearce, C. L., & Manz, C. C. (2014). The leadership disease… and its potential cures. Business Horizons, 57(2), 215–224.Google Scholar
  58. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification (Vol. 1). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Ramon, S. (2013). [Review of the book: The strengths model: A recovery-oriented approach to mental health services, by C. A. Rapp and R. J. Goscha]. American Journal of Psychiatric Rehabilitation, 16(3), 232–233.Google Scholar
  60. Rapp, C. A., & Goscha, R. J. (2011). The strengths model: A recovery-oriented approach to mental health services. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2008). Strengths based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. New York, NY: Gallup Press.Google Scholar
  62. Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2017). Organizational behavior (17th ed.). Essex, United Kingdom: Pearson.Google Scholar
  63. Roberts, L. M., Dutton, J. E., Spreitzer, G. M., Heaphy, E. D., & Quinn, R. E. (2005). Composing the reflected best self-portrait: Building pathways for becoming extraordinary in work organizations. Academy of Management Review, 30(4), 712–736.Google Scholar
  64. Ryff, C. D. (1995). Psychological well-being in adult life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(4), 99–104.Google Scholar
  65. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 13–39.Google Scholar
  66. Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421.Google Scholar
  67. Shipper, F., & Manz, C. C. (1992). Employee self-management without formally designated teams: An alternative road to empowerment. Organizational Dynamics, 20(3), 48–61.Google Scholar
  68. Singh, R., Kumar, N., & Puri, S. (2017). Thought self-leadership strategies and sales performance: Integrating selling skills and adaptive selling behavior as missing links. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 32(5), 652–663.Google Scholar
  69. Stander, E., & Van Zyl, L. E. (2019). The Talent Development Centre (TDC) as an integrated leadership development and succession planning tool. In L. E. van Zyl & S. Rothmann (Eds.), Positive psychological intervention design and protocols for multi-cultural contexts. New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  70. Stewart, G. L., Carson, K. P., & Cardy, R. L. (1996). The joint effects of conscientiousness and self-leadership training on employee self-directed behavior in a service setting. Personnel Psychology, 49(1), 143–164.Google Scholar
  71. Stewart, G. L., Courtright, S. H., & Manz, C. C. (2011). Self-leadership: A multilevel review. Journal of Management, 37(1), 185–222.Google Scholar
  72. Stewart, G. L., Courtright, S. H., & Manz, C. C. (2019). Self-leadership: A paradoxical core of organizational behaviour. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 6, 47–67.Google Scholar
  73. Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2011). Needs and subjective well-being around the world. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(2), 354–365.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Tims, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2010). Job crafting: Towards a new model of individual job redesign. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 36(2), 1–9.Google Scholar
  75. Uhl-Bien, M., & Pillai, R. (2007). The romance of leadership and the social construction of followership. In B. Shamir, R. Pillai, M. C. Bligh, & M. Uhl-Bien (Eds.), Follower-centered perspectives on leadership: A tribute to the memory of James R. Meindl (pp. 187–210). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.Google Scholar
  76. Vallacher, R. R., & Wegner, D. M. (1985). A theory of action identification. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  77. Van Zyl, L. E., & Stander, M. W. (2013). A strengths-based approach towards coaching in a multicultural environment. In J. Cornelius-White, R. Motschnig-Pitrik, & M. Lux (Eds.), Interdisciplinary handbook of the person-centered approach (pp. 245–257). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  78. Van Zyl, L. E., Olckers, C., & Van der Vaart, L. (2017). Future perspectives on psychological ownership in multi-cultural contexts. In C. Olckers, L. E. Van Zyl, & L. Van der Vaart (Eds.), Theoretical orientations and practical applications of psychological ownership (pp. 315–352). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  79. Woolley, L., Caza, A., & Levy, L. (2011). Authentic leadership and follower development: Psychological capital, positive work climate, and gender. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 18(4), 438–448.Google Scholar
  80. Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 179–201.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial PsychologyUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations