The Start of Leading Teams with Self-leadership

Our world is no longer what it used to be. What used to work may still work. But one has to ask if it is still the best and the most effective and relevant way going forward.

Recently, we see more and more articles and statistics being published, focusing on the importance of taking care of and understanding “Self” and the great benefits there are for companies to incorporate that into the company’s practice.

A survey* shows investing in employee experience and their well-being was associated with:

  • a 21% improvement in work effectiveness
  • a 46% improvement in employee engagement, and 
  • a 45% improvement in well-being.

That was also accompanied by lower rates of employee turnover, higher ratings on innovation, and increased Iong-term stock performance. 

In addition, these companies are also more frequently cited as great places to work. One has to ask why there aren’t more companies putting a focus on Self?



The concept of SELF has never been highlighted in such a light in the corporate environment. If we are to continue to lead others in this new landscape and focus, first and foremost, we must be clear and grounded with WHO we are. Being able to lead our SELF from a truthful and authentic place before we can effectively and efficiently manage and lead others is almost a pre-requisite.

The conventional way of leadership is to lead with our minds. It is about giving clear directions in terms of mission, vision, goals and tasks. However, when it comes to leading with Self, it is more about leading with our hearts

The whole idea may sound foreign. It is only so because the concept of Self or leading with our hearts hasn’t been referred to or used often. It is not dissimilar to the term “mindfulness” or “mindset” 10 or 15 years ago. They were foreign to us, too when they were introduced into the corporate environment.



The biggest challenge many leaders face is not in the doing, that is to lead with the heart. Rather it is the shifting from “mindset” to “heart-set” in our minds.

We are accustomed to and good at living our life with our minds – think logic, reasons, rationale. We analyse and go through one layer of thought or belief after another to arrive at our conclusions or solutions. After all, we are mostly taught to think, rarely to feel.

Living and leading with our hearts requires no doing or thinking on our part as the hearts don’t require what the minds do. Hence, I said the challenge isn’t in the doing. Rather, it is in the BE-ing as the hearts only require us to listen and feel. It is a game of shifting from what makes sense in our minds to what we sense in our hearts.



Our hearts are no strangers to us. Think gut feeling. Gut feeling isn’t something we can make sense of with our minds. It is what we sense deep in our core. Yet, many of us won’t hesitate to follow.

Whenever I hear people say “I wish I had followed my gut” or “I should have known better.” The issue isn’t we didn’t know or we didn’t know better. It is we don’t trust what we sense as much as what makes sense to us. When our minds can’t make sense of what we sense, we choose the conventional and familiar path.

The good news is living and leading with Self is easier than we think, that is if we would stop thinking!

Unlike the mind, our heart knows. It never needs to analyze, rationalize or logicalize anything. Ever wonder why the expression only goes “I am in two minds” but never “I am in two hearts?”



If you are new to the concept and process, a simple and great way to kick start your journey with Self is to set aside some “me time” daily. As few as 5 minutes is all it needs to make a great beginning.

Find a spot where you are not conscious of yourself and won’t be disturbed. You can have your eyes closed and focus on each of your inhales and exhale or have your eyes open and watch the world go by. Set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, it’s done. Yes, it is that simple and easy, to begin with.

The first session may feel like a walk in the park. Soon enough, you may find yourself feeling awkward in the following sessions. Sitting still for 5 minutes without touching our phone (not even once!), engaging or distracting ourselves with anything sounds simple. However, when it comes to the actual doing, you may be surprised by how hard it can be. 

Give yourself and Self some time and space to get into the groove. Stick with it for at least 14 days consecutively before adding anything new to it. To make it easier and more effective, it’s best to do the “me time” at the same time each day and preferably at the same spot if possible.



The same exercise also makes a great first step for our teams. It can be done individually or, better yet, collectively as a team, be it the whole team or a small group of 3 or 4 people if the team is big. Do it at the beginning of each day or whatever time suits you.

Before implementing it, take time to introduce the exercise to the team and explain why it is being done and what benefits there are. When we understand why we are doing what we are doing and what benefits there are, we are more open to experiencing and experimenting with new ideas. After all, if we as leaders are finding this whole concept strange when reading this article, what makes us think that our teams won’t be feeling the same?

In each session, there is no need for briefing or debriefing. Practice it on each working day with the same people and preferably in the same space at the same time. Make it a ritual. After a month or so, bring the team together and have each other share their feelings and experiences.



The focus of the sharing is not on what we think works or doesn’t work or how it works if it works. If we do, we are taking ourselves back to our minds. Instead, focus on sharing how we feel over the last month doing the exercise. How do we feel? What’s the experience like? Do we sense anything different during those 5 minutes or in our lives in general? 

At times, some of us may find it difficult to use words to describe our experiences. After all, words are for the mind and can never properly capture or represent our feelings. Think how often “I am speechless” is used when we can’t find the words for it.

One tip I have to make it easier to share our feeling is to start our sentences with “I feel”, not “I think.” Correct each other during group sharing.

You may be surprised how this commonly used phrase “I think” is so heavily ingrained in us. With practice, we would become more aware of our choice of words. More importantly, it will help us tap into our feelings better and gradually shift from “mindset” (think) to “heart-set” (feel.)



The era of leading teams with self-leadership is here. It is not foreign. It is not strange.

It may take us some time to get our heads (minds) around it. And it’s time we let our hearts lead the way, leaving our minds to take a back seat for a little while.

Small and easy steps can mark a great beginning of our personal, team and company’s journey. Start trusting what we sense, not just what makes sense. Spend time to connect and cultivate Self, individually and collectively. Express with “I feel.” Be aware of our choice of words and therefore how we operate.

Every day is a great day to start learning and polishing how we can lead with Self and our teams. Make today your day to begin whatever step you choose to take.

As leaders, having a great mindset has never been negotiable. In this new era, having a truthful heart-set is fundamental. The key to leading Self and teams lies in the intersection of our mind and heart. When we have them working together, not against each other, we are tapping into a new source of strength and inspiration.

*Reference: McKinsey & Company, Future proof: Solving the ‘adaptability paradox’ for the long term