Two decades of self-leadership theory and research: Past developments, present trends, and future possibilities

Christopher P. Neck, Jeffery D. Houghton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Scopus citations


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide a thorough review of self-leadership literature past and present, including a historical overview of how the concept was created and expanded as well as a detailed look at more recent self-leadership research trends and directions. The paper also presents a theoretical and conceptual explanation and differentiation of the self-leadership concept relative to other related motivational, personality, and self-influence constructs. Design-methodology-approach Self-leadership research and related literatures of motivation, personality and self-influence are discussed and described in order to present the current state of the self-leadership body of knowledge and to suggest future directions to explore and study. Findings It is suggested that self-leadership is a normative model of self-influence that operates within the framework of more descriptive and deductive theories such as self-regulation and social cognitive theory. Research limitations-implications While self-leadership research composes an impressive body of knowledge, it is a domain of study that has been under-investigated in some aspects, both empirically and conceptually. Practical implications This paper suggests several future directions that researchers can undertake to advance self-leadership knowledge. Originality-value This paper fills a void in the organizational literature by reviewing the body of self-leadership knowledge, by stating how self-leadership is a distinctive theory in its own, and by presenting directions for future self-leadership research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)270-295
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Empowerment
  • Leadership
  • Management techniques
  • Motivation psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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