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

Christopher P. Neck (Department of Management, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA)
Jeffery D. Houghton (Department of Management Science, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Publication date: 1 June 2006



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.


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.


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.


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.



Neck, C.P. and Houghton, J.D. (2006), "Two decades of self‐leadership theory and research: Past developments, present trends, and future possibilities", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 270-295.

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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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