3 Domains of Self-Leadership

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Notice that I didn’t say, “The 3 Domains…,” there are many domains of self-leadership, but in this blog, I want to share with you information about three domains of self-leadership that seem to have been forgotten in the current literature.


There are many articles, blogs, books, and websites devoted to discussing self-leadership. Their definitions and guidance range from checklists with ‘rules’ to follow that focus on setting goals to a focus on self-awareness and self-management. All of these have some value. Of course I favor the ones that focus on self-awareness and self-management.

I also like the ones that cite the evidence that leadership development and organizational change programs need to start with self-leadership of not just the leaders, but also the individuals at all levels. And they also cite evidence that organizations are more successful by traditional measures when they do provide coaching and training that develops self-leadership.

So how do we develop this self-leadership across an organization? How do we approach development of self-awareness when the focus is on actions to take rather than self-reflection? We can develop a great deal of the self-awareness needed for self-leadership through the Berens CORE™ Approach to introducing the multiple lenses of looking at individual differences. These lenses cover the three classic domains of psychology that help us understand different aspects of who we are and why we behave the way we do.

Three Domains

ConativeEssential Motivators (aka Keirseyan Temperament Theory) tells us about our deepest psychological needs and therefore relates to conation (aka our ‘will’). There are four Essential Motivator patterns we call Improviser, Stabilizer, Theorist, and Catalyst. Each pattern has a set of core needs, set of values, and talents. When the needs are not met, we go to great lengths to get them met. We find the source of deep psychological stress and better manage that stress when we take actions to get our needs met and use our talents.

AffectiveInteraction Styles, which relates to four energy patterns that express a certain emotional tone. We called them Chart-the-Course™, Behind-the-Scenes™, In-Charge™, and Get-Things-Going™. Each pattern conveys an emotional ‘feel’ that is communicated to others. There is a core drive, an aim to that drive, and a belief about what will work best. And of course there are corresponding talents.

CognitiveCognitive Dynamics and Cognitive Styles, which relate to patterns of thinking about things that affect what kinds of information and kinds of conclusions we tend to give privilege to. This lens also give is a sense of our cognitive ‘quest’ or intention. This lens relates to the work of Carl Jung and later, Isabel Myers and the MBTI® instrument. One view of this is what we call Cognitive Dynamics, which describes sixteen types in terms of the patterns of eight cognitive processes with some that we tend to privilege over others, and others that we are drawn to develop access to over time. This lens gives us a map for development as well as doing shadow work, which is key to self-leadership. There is also a new Cognitive lens that brings us new ways of looking at the 16 type patterns in terms of four intentional patterns. We call these Enhancing, Customizing, Authenticating, and Orchestrating.

Using the Lenses for Self-Leadership

Each lens tells us something we must have in order to have a sense of wellbeing. However, awareness of these core needs, drives, and intentions is usually outside our awareness.  Once we have names for the patterns and recognize them within ourselves, we have a map to help us lead these aspects of ourselves.

There is a natural path that leads to developing self-leadership. It starts with realizing that people have different needs, drives, and intentions as well as different talents and stressors. Then learning to identify those patterns in themselves and others. In the end, It most go beyond the naming, to truly self-managing by engaging in practices that help get to true self-leadership where we actively seek situations which engage their talents and better manage stress as well as actively seek perspectives different from theirs.

I hope I’ve peeked your curiosity and you explore the power in using these lenses for self-leadership. You can read more about these lenses here and the new Cognitive Styles lens here.