Talk to yourself like a leader


 Managers listen to themselves, leaders talk to themselves.

I heard this the other day, and after pausing to reflect a little, I realised how true it was, especially when we apply it to ourselves.

We may not all have the opportunity to actually lead a team, or even manage one. However, we ALL have the chance to think and act like a leader.

Managers manage, and they are vital

Managers keep things operational. They make sure things happen. They are vitally important, and the skills required are valuable.  We all know the manager who ensures the team runs smoothly and ensures everyone knows what is required of them and what is expected.  This type of manager can be found everywhere; in our working life, in the local community sports club, at our children’s school and even in our own homes. Many of us engage in managerial behaviour to keep our homes and families operating smoothly! 

I love managers and the role they provide.  My resume shows a number of managerial roles I’ve undertaken, and I continue to be a manager for each of my children’s sports teams. I also use a lot of managerial skills to keep our household moving along and organised. 


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Many of us are leaders even when we are not aware that we are. Whether you are aware or not, as a mentor, a role model or a parent, we are always leading others by what we do and what we say. 

The best leaders inspire people. They motivate others and help us strive to be our best. They talk to us, and when they do, the language is positive, inspiring, motivational and often, affirming.  There is kindness, understanding and compassion whilst also drive, enthusiasm and passion. 

Leaders are not necessarily loud, flashy people. They can be quiet, and softly spoken yet still incredible leaders.  Think of some of the great leaders who were deeply inspiring and motivating – Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi. Great leaders know they have to practice what they preach, and so they role model through their actions.  

Whilst there is a belief that great leaders are born not made, I refute this.  We ALL have an opportunity to be a leader in our own life.

Opportunities for leadership 

There are always opportunities in our life when we can be a leader.  It may be that through our actions we inspire others, or we motivate ourselves.  When we do this for ourselves, it is natural that we do also it for others. It’s a great way to tap into our natural leadership abilities.

We can use this same approach when we talk to ourselves. We can use positive language and encourage ourselves. We can talk to ourselves with affirming and empowering language. We can demonstrate leadership within ourselves. 

Manager or leader?

During times of uncertainty and change we can talk to ourselves like a leader, or we can listen to ourselves, like a manager.

An example

By way of illustration, here is an example. I’ve simplified it to be applicable to many situations.


A goal or project has been set, with a deadline of 1 month. 

You’ve been steadily working towards the goal / on the project. Progress has been variable, despite your best efforts.  The deadline is approaching, and you are swamped with other demands on your time.  The deadline passes, and the goal / project is not completed.


A manager in this situation would be feeling frustrated. They would feel expectations had been clear, the timeframe was reasonable and yet you hadn’t achieved the required outcome. A manager may speak to you about your performance, and demand you complete the project NOW. Or, they may start to doubt your commitment, skills and/or ability to actually get the project completed or achieve the goal.


A leader may also be feeling frustrated. But their behaviour and speech are different. A leader enquires as to what else you may need, offers support to assist you in completing the goal or project and encourages you to continue. Leaders offer inspiration and motivation, by remaining positive and looking at the bigger picture.

Whilst this example has been simplified, the situation is very common and occurs all over the world, in all different circumstances.

Imagine for a moment that both the manager and leader in the above example are simply voices in your head.  Which one do you recognise? 

My guess, the manager. 

Manager downsides

When we are managers, we are busy getting things done. We listen to our own words. Which can be fine, when it’s positive.

However, we also listen to our own rhetoric, which can be debilitating when that voice is negative. Or when we are not thinking big enough.

When we are thinking like a manager, and being focussed on getting things done, we can be disappointed with ourselves when we don’t achieve our goals.  The critical voice inside us can switch into overdrive as we berate ourselves for not being good enough to have completed the tasks needed to reach the goal. 

If you examine the way you respond during a challenging time, such as when you have not reached a goal or have experienced a setback, you may find your thoughts are more aligned with being a manager than a leader. 

When it’s better not to listen

As humans, we love to improve and do better, and we enjoy the satisfaction of achieving something.  However, our tendency is also to focus on what went wrong, and where we didn’t get it right. In these moments, we are listening to our internal manager voice, the one that tells us we ‘should have tried harder’, that we are ‘just not good enough’.  Worse still, if we listen to ourselves too long, we can start to believe the negative things we are saying.

We can be full of criticism for our self, which permeates the way we interact with those around us. Whether they be colleagues, friends, or most upsetting, our children and loved ones.  And engaging with others from a place of criticism and negativity can lead to critical and negative comments from us, and similar responses from others. Which is not what any of us desire. 

What would it be like to talk to yourself like a leader?

The very best leaders are inspiring, motivating and encourage us to be our best.

To talk to ourselves like a leader, we would encourage ourselves. Our internal leader offers positivity and support and says things like ‘You’ve got this!’, ‘Keep going, you are doing great!’

 With kind, inspiring talk, we know we CAN do it.

And so, we do.  

The risk is we spend too long listening to our inner manager, and not talking to ourselves like a leader. 

Leadership + Management can go together

Leadership and management are not mutually exclusive.  Many of the best leaders I have known have also been managers. From the earliest leader that I worked with when I was just 20 years old (she is still one of the best leader/managers I have ever worked with), to the many leaders, male and female, I encountered through my 20+ year career. Both skills are incredibly important, in our professional and personal lives.

Be a leader

The world needs managers AND it needs leaders.  We all have an innate leader inside us. We can bring out our own leadership abilities when we ponder the following questions; 

  • How do I show up in the world as a leader?

  • How do I inspire others?

  • What behaviour am I demonstrating for those I may not be aware are being influenced by my actions?

It is never too late to decide we would like to welcome our inner leader in all our relationships, professional and personal. 

Where can you activate your innate leader, and inspire and support others to be their best?


I love to support people confidently live their life, and embracing our inner leader is a big part of this. If you’d like to learn more, book your complimentary consult and we can explore the possibility of working together.