Contributor | Tony Gambill

Leaders will ultimately succeed or fail based on their ability to effectively navigate their most important, complex, and relational situations. These are the harder situations that leaders regularly encounter where there is no one right answer and successfully engaging others is critical for success.

I have coached and trained thousands of leaders and employees throughout my career and a great majority of them possessed more than enough intelligence, willingness, and knowledge to succeed. Research shows that the two primary reasons leaders fail are because of failed relationships, or because they fail to continually learn.

Ongoing leadership success is mostly determined by one’s ability to develop advanced Self-Leadership skills which enable one to better navigate important, complex, and relational situations.

SOAR Model for Self-Leadership

You have probably heard many times how important it is for leaders to demonstrate self-awareness, emotional intelligence, inclusion, mindfulness, empathy, social intelligence, and learning agility. In our upcoming book, Getting It Right When It Matters Most (Gambill and Carbonara, 2021), we introduce the SOAR Self-Leadership Model. This model takes the fewest, most important knowledge and skills from each of these important concepts and places them in a practical, replicable, and research-backed roadmap for effectively navigating your most difficult situations. The four phases of the model are Self, Outlook, Action, and Reflection (SOAR).

For better or worse, you bring Self to every important, complex, and relational situation you encounter which creates a need for an intentional Outlook that allows you to choose one or a set of Actions—that lead to either positive, negative, or neutral outcomes for Reflection which promotes continuous growth. That is the cycle.

The most effective leaders share a pattern of foundational Self-Leadership behaviors which all of their other actions are built upon. Our successes or setbacks are directly tied to how we show up when engaging with our harder situations. The SOAR Self-Leadership model provides a framework to develop the essential knowledge and tools for effectively managing Self, bringing awareness and clarity to your opportunities through your Outlook, creating insights for the best Actions, and understanding and learning from your results through Reflection.

Below are the four phases of the SOAR Self-Leadership Model. Read the definitions and the behaviors for each phase to assess how well you are developing your Self-Leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities.


Understanding the unique you that has evolved based on your one-of-a-kind combination of personality, physical traits, intelligence, habits, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses.

  1. I can easily articulate my goals and ambitions.
  2. I can describe the environment that brings out my Best Self.
  3. I can describe the environment that brings out my Worst Self.
  4. I understand my strengths and how to use them to achieve my goals.
  5. I understand my weaknesses and how they can get in the way of achieving my goals.
  6. I can name the personal values I believe in the most.
  7. I consider these personal values when taking action.
  8. I prioritize self-care to address my most basic needs
  9. I am aware of when my most fundamental needs are not being met.


An awareness of how we view the world and how our emotions impact our worldview.

  1. I am aware of how my perception biases can distort how I see situations and people.
  2. I actively try to understand diverse worldviews.
  3. I try to understand others’ unique situations before making assessments about them.
  4. I am open to changing my conclusions if introduced to information that is inconsistent with my initial beliefs.
  5. I know what triggers my negative emotions.
  6. I recognize how my negative feelings affect my behaviors.
  7. When feeling negative emotions, I always pause to gain balance before reacting.
  8. I regularly use my breathing to calm my emotions.
  9. I am aware of my emotions and can accurately describe my feelings.
  10. I stay true to my Best Self when engaging with my most difficult situations.


The conversations that enable one to successfully advance their most important, complex, and relational situations.

During my harder conversations:

  1. I am always clear about my best intentions (Results and Relationships) for the conversation.
  2. I try to create clarity and alignment on the core issue.
  3. I lead with open-ended questions to understand others’ perspectives.
  4. I take time to ask follow-up questions to increase my understanding.
  5. I am comfortable allowing space and silence after asking a question.
  6. I come prepared to share my perspectives on the issue.
  7. I know how to ask questions that generate forward-focused solutions.
  8. I make time to develop clear agreements for shared action.
  9. I am comfortable with handling the defensiveness of others.


The process of critically evaluating your behaviors, perspectives, habits, and communication from previous actions to gain insights to adapt for future challenges.

  1. I know how to reflect to learn from my experiences.
  2. I actively seek feedback for continuous learning.
  3. I can listen to constructive feedback without being defensive.
  4. I actively set development goals for ongoing improvement.
  5. I share my goals with people who I trust and who will support my progress.
  6. I regularly practice new skills or new approaches to continually develop important skills.
  7. I have a supportive social network that supports my learning and growth.
  8. I create clear plans for overcoming recurring challenges.

In an ever-changing environment when typical habits, behaviors, and thinking aren’t enough, the SOAR model helps leaders apply self-awareness, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and learning agility when navigating their most challenging situations.

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