Home Articles INFLUENCE: Mastering self-leadership

INFLUENCE: Mastering self-leadership

Christiaan Engelbrecht penned down a few thoughts towards developing our leadership awareness, more specifically the mastering of self-leadership.

In this century, successful leadership is linked to authenticity, humility, simplicity, intentionality, clarity and creativity. This is very different to a decade ago when it was all about time-management, process management, problem-solving, organisational skills, procedural planning and risk management. I’m not saying these are no longer important, but let’s take cognisance of the fundamental shift in focus.


A good place to start our discussion is to understand what Self consists of. Theology, philosophy and psychology have taught us that we consist of more than just physical form. Self consists of three parts: Body, Mind and Spirit. To master self-leadership one must lead Self in all these areas. Your car can’t take you to work if the engine is not working. Equally so, you can’t function as a leader if the Body, Mind and Spirit are not fully functional and working in unison.

Let’s go through seven key areas within Body, Mind and Spirit, being your physical body, how your body interacts with the environment, energy in relation to the mind, continuous learning, emotions, thought and Spirit.


Leading through your physical body is the foundation of self-leadership – literally! Regular exercise stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. High serotonin levels lift your mood and assista with clarity of thinking. These are both vitally important aspects in leading teams and organisations. Similarly, eating healthy introduces all the nutrients the body needs.

The impact of physical appearance is also something to consider: you will probably be very cautious to let someone with greasy overalls run your entire financial portfolio. Not to say that this person would not be fantastic at it, we have just been conditioned that a successful person wearing a tailor-made suit is more likely to create financial wealth. By being aware of how we portray ourselves into the world, we are taking ownership and responsibility of the visual perceptions others have of us.

To consistently be at peak performance and maximising others’ performance can only be achieved if your body is healthy, vibrant and full of energy!


Leading the environment is crucial to your success as this creates the platform for all interactions.
If we consider the environment to be all things in close proximity to you which is under your control, then we can lead the environment by changing it to suit our needs. A clean and organised work environment frees up movement, whether physical or mental.  Introducing ample natural light and splashes of colour lifts the mood of any space and introduces an element of creativity. An open plan environment naturally encourages interactions and aids with the flow of information in the organisation.
A carefully planned and well-executed environment enhances the working experience, increases productivity, and stimulates well-being of ourselves and our employees.


Learning is embedded in our blueprint. From the day you were born you have learnt skills, information and concepts about everything in your life. I admire people who live fully by learning something new every day. Leading by learning is to continuously strive to know more, but not only in your industry, you current job function, the business world or about setting up a new business. True leading by learning will take you on a journey of a very broad range of topics. When last have you learnt something about your body by reading a medical journal? We don’t think of doing this, yet is it not in our best interest to know more about more?  In my experience, the broader I read, the easier networking seems to be. It becomes easier for me to connect with my various teams.To read a broad spectrum of topics and read deeply into these topics serves you in areas and situations where you least likely expect it.


There is a link between the body and the mind, being the energy you project and attract. This is often referred to the as the Universal Law of Energy Transmutation. Have you noticed how some people can work right through the night and then still have ample energy the next day? These energy leaders understand that your mind is actually controlling the amount of energy you have at your disposal. Think about it like this: when you have to do something you absolutely love then you have a lot of energy to do it and time flies when you are actually doing it.  Your preferences, which are nothing more than mindsets, give you lots of energy. If you control your mindset and attitude towards a task, then you can control the energy you have for these tasks. If you have lots of energy, then you can’t help but project it to others. You team will pick up on this and they too will be energised!


Emotions do flare up from time to time, particularly when the pressure is on. We seem to get caught in it. It depletes our energy, consumes our discussions and leads us to do or say things we would normally not do or say. Sigmund Freud has named suppression of emotions one of the top reasons for dysfunctional thinking. We know prolonged emotional suppression can lead to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

So how do I lead my emotions?

First, one should understand that all emotions are yours. Not anyone else, but yours.  You create it. You feel it. It is just yours.

Become aware of them as they arise, identify them accurately and then be aware of the impact these emotions have on your body. Victor Frankl wrote in his book Man’s Search For Meaning that between stimulus and response there is a space. Take this space. Breathe. You can even write down your emotion on paper describing exactly how you feel and how your body feels, write down what action you want to take not taking into account any limitations (such as laws!). In a calm state, as you read it to yourself, you will see the frivolous nature of having negative emotions and the damage to yourself and others the actions would probably have caused.

An increased conscious awareness of your emotions will lead you on a path where you will be able to feel the emotion, become aware of the emotion and what it is doing to your body and mind, and then discern whether it is serving you or not. If it is not serving you, then know that this too shall pass. You are able to go through this cycle of an emotion very quickly and can decide not let it lead you to unwanted behaviour.


A famous quote by Napoleon Hill: ‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’
Thoughts are the most powerful tool we have. Thoughts are the instruments the mind uses to create our daily experience. It is only be leading through your thoughts that you will create the experience you want to have.

The institute of The Three Principles says that humans have about 60 000 to 100 000 thoughts per day and we are mostly not even aware that we have these thoughts. We can only change what we are thinking once we know what we are thinking. Eckhart Tolle explains in his book The Power of Now that we should step out of the thought process and become the observer of our thoughts. We can then lead ourselves with our thoughts, pick the thoughts that will get us aligned to our goals. Only thoughts that are aligned with our highest purpose steer us towards achieving what we want to achieve.


Most of us are inherently aware that there is more to life than just what is in front of us, what we can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. We inherently know that we are part of something larger than just this world. We often express this with different religions or religious activities. Through these activities we connect to spiritual-self, we connect to our spirituality. Our spiritual-self communicates with us by means of our feelings. It is in the contentedness you feel when in a deep, graceful prayer, in the euphoria you have during a religious event. Those are all our feelings, our spiritual-self guiding us.

How often have you read a message from a staff member saying that he is ill, but you know that this is not the case? You do not know why you know this, but you do … and you are more often than not correct! We need to learn to listen inward and trust this intuition or feeling. If you are more in tune with your feelings, then you have a deeper wisdom about you. You can only become more aware of these feelings if you spend time with spiritual-self. Whether this is praying, meditating, yoga or whatever it is you wish to do, do more of it! Lead by listening inward to your spiritual-self and your rewards will be limitless.


You are guaranteed to be at your best as a leader in the modern era if you have mastered the art of self-leadership in the areas of body, mind and spirit. Once we have practised leading in these areas, we come to understand that even though this article started with physicality and led you through to feelings, it is feelings that initiate thoughts, emotions, energy which manifests in learning, us creating the environment, and eventually in how you treat and portray your body.

AUTHOR | Christiaan Engelbrecht CA(SA)