Creating a Culture of Gratitude

Thought Self-Leadership

"Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power."—Lao Tzu

We generally think of leadership in the context of exercising influence on others toward a desired outcome such as Winston Churchill’s actions in leading the people of England during the early days of World War II. Rather than social influence on others, self-leadership is an approach to exerting self-influence.

This process is designed to provide self-direction and motivation in the accomplishment of goals important to an individual. In its essence, self-leadership is, “the process of influencing oneself to establish the self-direction and motivation needed to perform” (Manz 1983, 1986, 1992).

Self-leadership developed out of Manz and Sims (1980) early work centered around self-management as a leadership substitute.

Self-management developed from previous research on the concept of self-control (e.g., Thoresen and Mahoney 1974) and its related methods such as self-observation, goal setting, incentives, and rehearsal (Andrasik and Heimberg 1982; Hackman 1986; Manz and Sims 1980; Marx 1982; Mills 1983).

Self-leadership as a construct encompasses the practice of “influencing oneself to establish self-direction” (Neck 2018; Neck and Manz 2010; Neck and Houghton 2006; Manz and Neck 1999; Neck et al. 1999; Manz 1983, 1986, 1992).

In comparing self-management and self-leadership, “the process of self-leadership prescribes a more active and comprehensive role for members in a work system and represents a much more advanced form of self-influence” (Godwin et al. 1999, p. 155).

An important part of self-leadership is thought self-leadership, which purports that an individual (or volunteer) can self-influence with the use of particular cognitive strategies (Manz and Neck 1991, 1999; Neck 1996, 2018; Neck and Manz 1992, 1994, 1996a, 1996b; Neck and Milliman 1994; Neck et al. 1997; Manz and Neck 1999; Neck et al. 1995).

These strategies include self-regulation of our beliefs and assumptions (Burns 1980; Ellis 1975), self-talk (Ellis 1962), and mental imagery (Manz 1992).

Collectively, these cognitive methods help to shape a person’s thought patterns in a constructive way that enables more positive habitual ways of thinking or schema (Manz 1983, 1992; Manz and Neck 1991, 1999; Neck and Manz 1992, 1996a, 1996b).

Thought self-leadership postulates that self-influence through these cognitive strategies results in more positive, constructive thought processes, habitual ways of thinking, affect, and influence on behavior (see (Manz and Neck 1991; Neck and Manz 1992) for an expanded explanation of thought self-leadership).


This page is an edited adaptation and expansion of an excerpt from the paper Utilizing Self-Leadership to Enhance Gratitude Thought Patterns. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

Godwin, Jeffrey L., and Susan M. Hershelman. 2021. Utilizing Self-Leadership to Enhance Gratitude Thought Patterns. Administrative Sciences 11: 40.

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