The principles of leadership apply equally as much to those who are self-employed as to managing directors of big corporations.

Successful leadership includes self-leadership as well as leading others; this means not only employees, but customers, family members, suppliers and other stakeholders in an organisation.

Leading others is impossible if the leader is not self-aware.  Self-knowledge is crucial for the self-employed if they want to lead others successfully. The more self-knowledge they have, the better they will be able to lead others and the more successful they will become in their businesses.

It is important for the self-employed to strive for leadership excellence. This can be achieved through a continuous process of self-discovery, training and self-development.

Much has been written about the process of developing leadership skills, but there are two sets of practical guidelines that I believe every self-employed business owner should apply.

These golden rules can be used as practical guidelines and the questions can be used as a regular check-up to ensure you are on the right track of self-development.

Self-employed business people need to follow these 9 golden rules to develop their leadership skills.

  1. Know thyself. Understand your personal strengths and weaknesses, and your ‘blind spots’. Self-knowledge and understanding are vital preconditions for successful leadership.


  1. Authority and Power often expose the worst in mankind. Many leaders of weak character or with poor skills cannot handle it. This can be prevented.


  1. Do not waste time, resources and energy on things you cannot change or control. Understand what you can change and what you can’t, and how to manage the difference.


  1. Effective leaders should always: embrace the truth, encourage candid criticism throughout the organization, be skeptical of flattering appraisals, and never let authority place a wedge between them and the truth.


  1. Create a competitive environment. Use the forces of competition constructively to improve every facet of the competitiveness of your company. This must be a strong driving force to develop and optimize talent and skills.


  1. Be a dedicated leader who continuously strives to personally achieve higher standards. Be dedicated to your own value systems and principles; be a real authentic leader that will earn the trust and admiration of others.


  1. Believe in yourself and your own ability to improve your skills and become a better leader.


  1. Invest time, energy, money and other resources in yourself to improve your own skills. You are your biggest asset; improve and invest in yourself. Focus your energy on improving your own leadership skills.


  1. Never, never, give up. Achieving your goals will take longer than you thought, and you will face more obstacles than you anticipated. However, your perseverance will be well worth the effort.


Great leaders tend to ask many questions.

Asking questions is important to develop an inquisitive, learning mind-set—so vital on your journey to develop leadership skills.


My favourite questions that the self-employed must ask regularly are the following:

  1. Who has had a major impact on your leadership? Why?
  2. How have you coped, or how are you coping, with failure?
  3. Can you share what you’ve learned from past failures?
  4. Who do you know that I should know?
  5. Where do you find your inspiration?
  6. How do you decide who to mentor?
  7. Do you separate your work life and family life? Why?
  8. When faced with two great opportunities, how do you decide which one to go with?
  9. What advantages have you seen with emerging technology in business?
  10. What steps have you taken to become a better leader? What has been its impact?
  11. How do you relax?
  12. How do you create a vision for your business that everyone on your team can latch onto?
  13. What do you do to stay grounded?
  14. Are you asking other leaders for advice and answers to your burning questions?

The extent of your leadership ability will determine your success or failure. Neglect self-improvement and your skills will deteriorate. You cannot afford it. Your business cannot afford it, nor can your family.

Follow these golden rules. Learn them by heart and apply them daily. Use the questions to improve yourself every day.