Self-Leadership: When, Where, and Who To Learn From

This month, we are discussing the importance of taking a step back to grow yourself. One of the most important things for your business is to set aside time for professional development, but that can often fall to the wayside amidst all the other tasks that consume our day-to-day as leaders.

A pivotal moment that helped me understand the importance of prioritizing self-development happened when I attended a leadership conference early in my career. I heard a speaker that changed everything I thought I knew about leadership. He instructed us to take out a sheet of paper and draw a circle with two lines (one North to South, and one East to West), like a compass. He had read an article that really challenged him about the nature of leadership, and so he asked us this question —how much of leadership is really North to South, that is, leader to follower? At the time, I would have said 95%. The speaker challenged this notion, stating that North to South is only 5% of all leadership. Now he had my attention!

The speaker started to unpack it… 50% of your leadership effort should be self-leadership! If you can’t manage yourself well, why would anyone follow you? He went on to discuss all the different ways one should measure out their leadership efforts on the compass, which you can read more about here, but I want to focus on that very important 50%: self-leadership.

Self-Leadership chart

I often reflect on my younger self and the pivotal role self-leadership and professional development played in my growth. I was a 21-year-old kid who knew nothing, and I had to take learning steps to grow into a person who could lead marketing for a $12 billion organization. I wholeheartedly believe that for your business to grow, the people must grow first.

The normal company uses people to grow the business, but the remarkable company uses the business to grow the people… and that includes yourself.


We all know that finding the time to grow yourself is hard, but we also know that it’s part of leading ourselves well. With that in mind, I want to equip you with some practical tips on when you can find the time to learn, where you can learn, and who you can learn from, that have helped my self-leadership journey.

When: Try to change your thinking from “I don’t have time” to “where can I find the time?” when prioritizing self-leadership.

Have 45 minutes in the car? Start viewing your daily commute as your “University on Wheels” and listen to an educational audiobook. Have a weekly workout routine? Try ditching the music for a leadership podcast. The time is there. You just may have to get creative at repurposing it.

Where: In order to become excellent, you need to study excellence.

One way we studied excellence at Chick-fil-A was through what we called “Corporate Tourism.” Over the course of my career, we visited companies demonstrating excellence, such as Apple, Google, Zappos, Airbnb, and Patagonia (the list could go on). We would spend a couple of hours meeting with different departments, walking around the offices, and asking people questions. By doing this, we learned so many different things that we could take home and translate into our own work. Additionally, we didn’t want to leave it to chance that these takeaways were implemented. Part of the schedule on each trip was time set aside to intentionally unpack what we learned and develop a plan for action. When we were in those meetings unpacking what we learned, I was amazed how my peers had different insights than I did. We all saw the same things, but I learned so much from seeing the same experience through their eyes!

Who: Don’t just rely on your boss for growth and development.

Yes, our leaders should help guide and shape us, but taking the time to learn from individuals who work alongside and under us is just as important. One example at Chick-fil-A was our “Reverse Mentoring” sessions. These sessions would gather all our college interns and senior leaders together and give the interns the platform to teach our leaders things they believe they need to know and improve on. The interns brought up blind spots and areas of improvement that the senior leaders would have never spotted on their own. It was fascinating! Reverse mentoring is even more important in the digital age so that senior leaders can keep up with current trends that impact the bottom line.

These are just a few ways I’ve effectively prioritized self-development in my life, but I would love to hear from you! How are you setting time aside for professional development? Where are you finding opportunities for education? Have you learned from anyone lately that people might not think to learn from? Are you looking outside of your company to learn?

Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.

David Salyers
Founder, Spark A Revolution

P.S – I have the privilege of joining forces with culture leader Teryluz Andreu in Axialient’s upcoming webinar, Wednesday, September 28th. It’s free to attend and we’d love to have you join us as we discuss how to build a remarkable brand from the inside out.
You can register for the webinar through this link:


I’d love to connect with you on social media, you can find me on these platforms:

Together, we can Spark a Revolution of brands more defined by meaning than money, brands that achieve success in a manner that redefines it.

David Salyers
Founder, Spark A Revolution

Recent Resources

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