Exploring the impacts of personal factors on self-leadership in a hospital setting


  • Ozgur Ugurluoglu,

    1. Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Healthcare Management, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
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  • Meltem Saygılı,

    1. Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Healthcare Management, Kırıkkale University, Kırıkkale, Turkey
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  • Ozlem Ozer,

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Healthcare Management, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
    • Correspondence to: O. Ozer, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences Department of Healthcare Management, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. E-mail: ozlem.ozer@hacettepe.edu.tr

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  • Fatih Santas

    1. Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Healthcare Management, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
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Self-leadership may be defined as a self-effecting process that individuals experience by maintaining the motivation they require for fulfilling their roles and duties. The self-leadership process comprises three key strategies: behaviour-oriented strategies, natural reward strategies and constructive thought pattern strategies. What is intended herein is to inquire about the implementation of self-leadership within organisations and to examine the effects of such variables as age, gender, total terms of employment, marital status and education on self-leadership strategies. The primary data collection instrument was a survey distributed to 450 personnel working at a state hospital in Kırıkkale, Turkey, and feedback thereto was received from 308 (68.4%) of those surveyed. As a result of the findings taken from the analyses, age, total terms of employment and receipt of education in leadership affect the use of self-leadership strategies. Although age and total terms of employment display a negative-directional correlation with the self-leadership strategies, female employees and those who receive education in leadership are more inclined towards self-leadership strategies. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Leadership, and works on this phenomenon, date to the beginning of civilization. Leaders, managers, leadership styles and variables at work have been studied in particular for the last two centuries (Stone and Patterson, 2005:1). Individuals' personal careers, as well as the fates of organisations, are all shaped by means of effective leadership behaviours. Leadership is deemed to be critical for the success of the organisation, and some even argue that it is the most critical component thereof (Lussier and Achua, 2010:4).

Despite being deemed as a critical aspect within organisations and despite being widely discussed, it seems that research on leadership did not begin until the 20th century (Yukl, 2002: 2). Despite the critical and pivotal position of the leadership studies within managerial and organisational behaviour literature (Yukl, 1989:251), it may very well be said that the concept of leadership has yet to be precisely clarified.

According to Stogdill (1974), the number of leadership definitions is almost as great as the number of those who are trying to define leadership. A similar conclusion has also been deduced from a comprehensive literature study (Bass, 1985). This is due to the general tendency among researchers to define leadership in parallel with either their individual points of view or such features of the phenomenon that attract them the most (Yukl, 2002).

Despite different leadership definitions, examining a couple of the prominent definitions within the literature reveals that leadership has been defined either as a process in which a person influences and directs the activities of others under certain conditions and in order to realise certain personal, or group objectives (Deitzer et al., 1979:196), or as the skill of persuading people to endeavour towards defined objectives (Davis, 1988:141). In other words, leadership is defined as the process in which an individual influences others towards certain objectives. What is meant by influencing is persuasion, authority, control, power, motivation and aspiration (Gelatt, 2002:66).

Despite having been defined in various ways, the common points in the definitions of the leadership concept are seen to be ‘influencing’ and ‘directing’ (House and Aditya, 1997:464). Leadership is not a process peculiar only to formal organisations; it is not imperative for a leader to be bestowed with official powers for the formation of leadership, and leadership is not limited to the top executives of organisations (Koçel, 2010:572).

Under today's conditions, it is not appropriate for organisations to approach leaders as heroic and supernatural beings, as in ancient times. That is why the most appropriate leader of today is a person who leads others towards self-leadership (Manz and Sims, 1991:18). It is a must for enterprises, being operated in an ever-changing and dynamic environment, to continuously revise their organisational structures, as well as the knowledge and potentials of their employees to sustain in the aforementioned ever-changing and dynamic environment. The type of leadership that may empower the enterprises under such circumstances is what Manz & Sims has called ‘super-leadership’. What is emphasised by super-leadership is bringing out the self-leadership energy to lead, which is found in every person (Manz and Sims, 1989:3; Manz and Sims, 1991:18). The focus of super-leadership view on the followers who become self-leaders. Power is shared therein by leaders and followers. The leader's duty is to assist the followers in developing the skills they need in their roles and in developing their self-leadership as well. That is why self-leadership is pivotal to the new form of leadership being required for overcoming the organisational difficulties of the 21st century (Manz and Sims, 1991:22; Pearce and Manz, 2005:132).

The objective of this study is to inquire about the utilisation of self-leadership within organisations and to examine the effects of variables including age, gender, total terms of employment, marital status and education on the self-leadership strategies. It is considered that studying the factors that influence these strategies is critical to the understanding and utilisation of the self-leadership concept.

Self-leadership Concept and Strategies

Self-leadership is a self-influencing process in which individuals provide the self-leadership and motivation that they require in fulfilling their duties and works (Manz, 1986:589). Self-leadership is the whole of the strategies, concentrating on the behaviours and thoughts, that individuals may use in influencing themselves. Although individuals' control over their own behaviours is essential, what they do to direct themselves is contained within this leadership (Bakan, 2008:6).

Self-leadership is a concept that has been derived from Kerr and Jermier's (1978) concept of the substitutes for leadership and upon the expansion of the self-leadership concept itself (Manz, 1986). Self-leadership suggests certain cognitive and behavioural strategies that are intended to increase the effectiveness of the individuals. The literature reveals that self-leadership strategies are generally clustered into the three primary categories (Houghton and Neck, 2002:673; Neck and Houghton, 2006:271):

  • Behaviour-focused strategies
  • Natural reward strategies
  • Constructive thought pattern strategies

Although it is intended to escalate the level of self-awareness by means of behaviour-focused strategies, it is thereby maintained to control such behaviours that comprise necessary but not necessarily attractive roles. What is emphasised by these strategies are the behaviours concerning such roles, which are not seemingly positive but should be overcome anyway. Behaviour-focused strategies comprise the strategies of self-observation, goal-setting, self-awarding, self-punishment and clues (Neck and Houghton, 2006:271; Houghton and Neck, 2002:673). Self-observation entails the individual escalating his/her awareness in why and when he/she displays certain behaviours (Manz and Sims, 1989:45). Such awareness may help in overcoming the individual's display of effective but unproductive behaviours. Moreover, individuals with accurate knowledge of the level of their behaviours and performances may set better goals for themselves. There are studies available that reveal the fact that individuals display higher performances with higher levels of motivation when they set certain goals that are difficult to reach (Houghton and Neck, 2002:673; Politis, 2006:204). Self-awarding may not only be both so simple and abstract as when the individual congratulates himself/herself mentally before an important achievement but also be as concrete as going on holiday upon completing a project (D'Intino et al., 2007:106; Houghton, 2000:5). Similar to awarding, punishment may also be resorted to for causing changes in behaviours. However, care should be taken in resorting to punishment because it may negatively affect one's performance. Moreover, concrete clues in the environment may be used for developing constructive behaviours and eliminating those clues that are not constructive. Computer screen savers, small reminder cards and motivating posters are examples of such clues, which may be helpful in reaching set goals (Manz and Neck, 1999:21–35; Manz and Sims, 1980:364). In short, behaviour-focused strategies are being used for encouraging such positive behaviours, which may be helpful in reaching objectives and goals while suppressing negative, undesirable behaviours that lead unsuccessful outcomes.

Natural award strategies focus on bringing out the joyful sides of a role or an activity, and it is expected to motivate or reward the individual (Houghton and Neck, 2002:673; Neck and Houghton, 2006:272). For instance, an employee may turn his/her workplace into a more pleasant environment by playing light music or by hanging pictures on the walls of his/her workplace. He/she may thereby increase his/her performance by way of focusing on the cheerful sides of his/her work or duty (Houghton and Neck, 2002:674). Natural award strategies mainly comprise two strategies. Although the first one addresses turning work itself into an award by way of adding more pleasing and cheerful features to work, the second one de-emphasises the negative aspects of the work and addresses bringing out the joyous aspects thereof (Neck and Houghton, 2006:273). In short, the natural award strategies suggest focusing on the cheerful aspects of the work, thereby asserting an increase in the individual's performance.

Constructive thought pattern strategies comprise identifying and changing dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs, and they also involve positive soliloquy and mental imagination (Houghton and Jinkerson, 2007:46; Neck and Manz, 1996:446). Constructive thought pattern strategies imply that they may not only determine but also confront dysfunctional beliefs and assumptions by way of self-analysis and replace them with more logical ones (Houghton, 2000:5; Houghton and Neck, 2002:674). On the one hand, soliloquy is the individual's secretly spoken speech to himself/herself (Neck and Manz, 1992). Analysis of soliloquy patterns enables not only the elimination of one's negative and pessimistic soliloquies but also the development of more optimistic ones (D'Intino et al., 2007:107). Mental imagination, on the other hand, is the individual's dream of successful performance of a task before the actual definition of the task itself (Neck and Manz, 1992; Houghton and Jinkerson, 2007:46). The individuals who imagine their successful performance of a task or activity are more likely to display such a successful performance under the real circumstances (Houghon, 2000:6). As a result of the meta-analysis conducted by Driskell et al. (1994) of 35 empiricist studies, mental imaginations have been found to yield positive and critical effects on individual performance outputs. In short, formation of constructive thought patterns is thought to influence performance positively.

Self-leadership has recently gained critical popularity and is addressed in numerous studies and books (Houghton and Neck, 2002: 674). Although some of the studies dealt with the relationship between self-leadership and such personal variables as age, gender and cultural differences (Kazan, 1999; Kurman, 2001), some of them inquired about the effects of self-leadership on certain output variables (Neck and Manz, 1996; Robert and Foti, 1998; Houghton and Jinkerson, 2007). According to D'Intino et al. (2007), studying the relationships between the self-leadership strategies and all the aforementioned concepts and individual differences is crucial for putting forth what self-leadership means. To inquire about the impact of self-leadership within organisations, influences of such personal variables as age, gender, total terms of employment and duty on the self-leadership strategies are to be studied herein. Having largely been developed within the culture of the USA, the intercultural and international aspects of the self-leadership concept could not have exactly been put forth today. According to Alves et al. (2006), the self-leadership concept may be sensed differently within different cultures. In this respect, it is assumed herein that the conclusions of this study may bring forth critical results in terms of utility and functionality of the self-leadership concept within different cultures.


Population and sampling of the study

The population of the study comprises 750 medical and administrative personnel working at a state hospital in Kırıkkale. Having distributed the surveys, prepared as the data collection instruments, to 450 of the aforesaid 750 employees present at the time of study, 308 of the 450 employees responded. Although the average age of the participants is 38.1 years, the average of the total terms of employment of the participants is 15.2 years. Of the aforesaid 308, 26 (8.4%) are physicians at the hospital, 119 (38.6%) are nurses, 109 (35.5%) are other healthcare personnel and the remaining 54 (17.5%) are employed as administrative personnel. Although 53.6% of the participants are women, the remaining 46.4% are men. Although 80.2% of the participants are married, 72.4% of the same have not undergone any training on leadership. In terms of the level of education of the aforementioned population, 93 (30.2%) are graduates of primary education and high schools, 124 (40.3%) are graduates of associate degree programmes, 66 (21.4%) are graduates of undergraduate programmes and 25 (8.1%) have had specialised training and postgraduate education.

Data collection tools

Self-leadership features of the participants have been identified by means of the ‘self-leadership scale’, which was developed by Houghton and Neck (2002). The scale comprises 35 articles, and the answer scale of each question is in the form of a 5-folded Likert scale, ranging from the statement of ‘I do not agree’ to that of ‘I agree’. The scale comprises three self-leadership strategies, namely behaviour-oriented strategies, natural reward strategies and constructive thinking pattern strategies. Behaviour-focused strategies are assessed with 18 questions, natural reward strategies are assessed with 5 questions, and constructive thought pattern strategies are assessed with 12 questions. The scale was translated and adapted to Turkish by Doğan and Şahin (2008). Results of the exploratory factor analysis being conducted by the authors have revealed that the scale has nine factor structures, explaining 68% of the total variance. It has been found that Turkish adaptation of the scale has shown structural consistency with the original scale and that the reliability coefficients of the sub-scales vary between the values of 0.64 and 0.87. It has been ascertained herein that the reliability coefficients of the sub-scales of the scale vary between the values of 0.73 and 0.85.

Data analysis

Although significance testing and single direction variance analysis of the difference between the two averages were used when comparing the self-leadership scores of the participants of the study with the variables of age, gender, marital status, total term of employment and educational status, the Scheffe test was used in determining from which groups the differences originated. All statistical tests were analysed using spss 18.0 (IBM, Armonk, NY, USA), and the alpha level was taken as 0.05 in all statistical tests.


Basic statistics concerning the variables in the study are given in Table 1. Upon examining the score averages of the answers given by the 308 employees who participated in the study, in response to the basic components of self-leadership, employees are observed to be resorting mostly to natural reward strategies (mean = 4.10). It was found that they in turn resort to constructivist thought pattern (mean = 3.84) and behaviour-focused strategies (mean = 3.81). Upon examining the correlation coefficients between the self-leadership strategies, a statistically meaningful, positive and high level of relationship was then determined between behaviour-focused strategies and constructivist thought pattern strategies (r = 0.763, p < 0.05). The relationships between behaviour-focused strategies and natural reward strategies (r = 0.689, p < 0.05), and those between natural reward strategies and constructivist thought pattern strategies were found to be statistically meaningful, in the same direction, and at medium level.

Table 1. Means, standard deviations and intercorrelations
Self-leadership strategiesMeansStandard deviations(1)(2)(3)
  • *

    p < 0.01

Behaviour-focused strategies3.810.5710.689*0.763*
Natural reward strategies4.100.670.689*10.584*
Constructive thought pattern strategies3.840.650.763*0.584*1

The self-leadership scores of the participants of the study were compared with respect to various variables, and t-test and ANOVA test results thereof are shown in Table 2. Considering the results of the t-test and ANOVA, which compare the behaviour-focused strategy scores of the participants with respect to various variables, participants' behaviour-focused strategy scores are observed to reveal statistically meaningful differences per age (F = 3.855, p < 0.05) and total terms of employment (F = 3.754, p < 0.05). According to the results of the Scheffe test, having been conducted to find from which groups these differences originate, participants above the age of 41 years and with job experience for 19 years and above have been found to give lower scores to behaviour-focused strategies when compared with those of other groups. It may be said in general that as the age and total term of employment increase, scores given to behaviour-focused strategies decrease. Participants' scoring of behaviour-focused strategies statistically varies also in terms of gender (t = 2.052, p < 0.05), as female participants are observed with higher scores (3.87) than those of the male participants (3.73). Other variables with statistically significant impact on behaviour-focused strategies are the participants' educational statuses (F = 3.496, p < 0.05) and their training statuses in leadership. The Scheffe test results reveal that among the participants, those who are graduates of primary education and high school have lower scores (3.68) in comparison with those who are graduates of associate degree programmes (3.87). Additionally, the participants trained in leadership are observed to give higher scores (3.92) to behaviour-focused strategies, in comparison with those not trained in leadership (3.76).

Table 2. The views of the respondents on self-leadership sub-dimensions according to individual characteristics
 Behaviour-focused strategiesNatural reward strategiesConstructive thought pattern strategies
Individual characteristicMeanSDMeanSDMeanSD
  • SD, standard deviation.

  • *

    p < 0.05

Age (years)   
 F = 3.855; p = 0.022F = 1.165; p = 0.313F = 1.909; p = 0.150
Working experience (years)   
 F = 3.754; p = 0.025F = 0.572; p = 0.565F = 0.592; p = 0.554
 t = 2.052; p = 0.041t = −0.149; p = 0.882t = 2.546; p = 0.011
Educational level   
Primary and high school level3.680.614.040.743.780.65
Associate degree3.870.544.160.613.880.63
Undergraduate and postgraduate degree3.840.574.050.643.830.67
 F = 3.496; p = 0.032F = 1.105; p = 0.332F = 0.678; p = 0.508
Other health personnel3.800.614.120.723.780.65
Administrative personnel3.660.574.060.633.810.62
 F = 1.581; p = 0.194F = 0.231; p = 0.875F = 1.112; p = 0.344
Marital status   
 t = 0.325; p = 0.745t = 1.214; p = 0.226t = 0.078; p = 0.938
Leadership training   
 t = −2.195; p = 0.029t = −0.558; p = 0.578t = −2.020; p = 0.044

Considering the results of the tests, which compare the participants' scorings of natural reward strategies with respect to various variables, groups' scorings to natural reward strategies do not seem to vary statistically (see Table 2). Considering the results of the t-test and ANOVA, which compare the constructive thought pattern strategy scores of the participants with respect to various variables, participants' constructive thought pattern strategy scores are observed to reveal statistically meaningful differences with respect to gender (t = 2.546, p < 0.05) and their statuses of whether they are trained in leadership or not (t = −2.020, p < 0.05). The average constructive thought pattern strategy score of women is 3.93 and that of the men is 3.74. The average of those trained in leadership (3.96) is higher than that of those having received no training in leadership (3.79).


It was attempted herein to examine the influence of various personal variables on the self-leadership strategies. It was found that personal features of the participants, including age, gender, total term of employment and whether the respective person was trained in leadership are influential in the utilisation of self-leadership strategies.

Age and total term of employment have revealed a negative-directional relationship herein with behaviour-focused strategies being among the self-leadership strategies. As the age and total term of employment increase, utilisation of behaviour-focused strategies decreases. This is a finding further supported by literature (Kazan, 1999; Kazan and Earnest, 2000). In a study conducted among 127 company employees, Kazan (1999) found that the age variable displays a reverse-directional relationship with self-leadership. According to this finding, younger people tend to resort to self-leadership more than older people. That is why it may be said that self-leadership functions contrary to time. In other words, as time goes by, the skill of independent decision-making ceases, the person then tends to act in parallel with certain individual plans in his/her life, pursues certain predetermined steps and tends to do less personal observation. This finding reveals that younger people, who are still in the process of creating an identity both in their careers and in their personal lives, are more aim-focused than older people, who have already achieved most of their career and personal aims. Although possessing fewer things to lose in terms of career investments, younger people may therefore be more inclined to take risks when embarking on a new business. On the other hand, older generations are inclined to show more respect to rules, policies and formal authority systems. It may be said that older people depend on the organisational structures, systems and procedures more than self-leadership in the cases of motivational and behavioural guidance (D'Intino et al., 2007).

Although older individuals are more tolerant of their own mistakes, self-rewarding and self-punishment may not play a decisive role in controlling one's behaviours, as is suggested by self-leadership theory. Furthermore, older individuals may not only recognise personal interconnectedness more, but they may also tend do make fewer decisions on their own. (Kazan, 1999). In conclusion, the results of this study reveal the fact that self-leadership suits more of the younger individuals, who are still struggling for the creation of their personal identities, and who are still at the bottom of the ladder. However, this should not be interpreted as self-leadership being inapplicable for older individuals. In this respect, if older employees are required to develop their self-leadership skills, they may increase such skills by way of undergoing respective informal and formal trainings and courses.

In this study, gender has been found to be another influential variable on a person's self-leadership. In general, the studies within literature could not have revealed a relationship between gender and self-leadership (Kazan, 1999; Kazan and Earnest, 2000; Kurman, 2001). A significant difference has been found herein between the scores given by female participants and those given by male participants to behaviour-focused strategies and constructive thought pattern strategies. Accordingly, female participants hold higher points in both strategies in comparison with those of the male participants. It may therefore be presumed that female participants tend to utilise self-leadership strategies more. Despite not conforming to international studies, this is a finding showing similarities with the results of a national study. In a study conducted among 145 healthcare personnel, Uğurluoğlu (2010) found gender to be such a variable influencing the constructivist thought pattern strategies among self-leadership strategies. In this study, female participants' self-leadership scores are higher than those of the male participants. Such a resemblance recalls the relationship between self-leadership and cultural differences. Behavioural and thinking processes of people from different cultures may be quite different from each other. That is why this is a finding that may very well be interpreted as women in Turkish culture being more influential than men in terms of self-leadership. It is clear that further studies may be worthwhile to understand the relationship between self-leadership and the gender factor better.

Undergoing training in leadership was found herein as a factor that facilitates the utility of self-leadership strategies. The participants being trained in leadership give higher scores to behaviour-focused strategies and to constructivist thought pattern strategies, in comparison with those of the participants lacking any training in leadership, and these differences also matter statistically. Upon reviewing the literature, it is observed that self-leadership is conceptualised as not being a permanent personal feature in general, but rather a learned behaviour (Manz, 1986). Self-leadership is learnable; thus, it may not be limited only to those having been born with the skills of self-motivation and employment (Manz and Sims, 1991). A positive effect of education on the self-leadership behaviours has been put forth also by means of related studies (Neck and Manz, 1996; Stewart et al., 1996; Uğurluoğlu, 2010). In particular, the training to be given the employees on the self-leadership strategies may not only facilitate the utility of these strategies but also cause the employees to become more assertive in taking on responsibilities.

It was revealed herein that both the occupation of the participants and their marital statuses have no influence on the self-leadership strategies. Although physicians, other healthcare personnel and administrative personnel shared similar opinions on self-leadership strategies, self-leadership scorings of married and single participants did not statistically differ from each other.

There are certain limitations with regard to the issue of the generalisation of the results of this study to all health sector employees. Sampling of the study comprises the personnel of a state hospital in a city in Turkey. It is suggested that future studies with larger samplings may bring forth more effective results. In future studies to be conducted on the issue of this study, such critical personal features as focus of control, self-esteem, self-sufficiency, integrity, emotional balance, self-monitoring and need for autonomy, which are deemed to be influential on the self-leadership strategies, may further be examined. In addition, healthcare personnel with high level of self-leadership have better clinical outcomes or not might be a topic for future studies.


The authors have no competing interests.