As organisations strive to become more competitive and leaner, leadership and leading change have become key ingredients in the recipe for success. However leaders in times of difficult organisational change may not be effective in leading the change for themselves and their people. The leader’s ability to see and work beyond his or her personal needs is becoming more prevalent - leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi showed a special kind of behaviour that was fulfilling to a greater purpose.This has prompted the need to gain a deeper understanding into self-sacrificial leadership that will bring about a crucial benefit to organisational sustainability by increasing the ability to lead change and shape leaders into ‘Level 5’ leadership. This qualitative research was accomplished by collecting primary data through 15 semi-structured in-depth interviews from South African business leaders.The findings in terms of the factors that encourage a leader to self-sacrifice their needs for the organisation reveal that it is not about self, but what is best for the organisation as well as the people. Self-motivation, managing own emotions, and internalisation were the findings of the process which the leader goes through in processing loss to lead others on the journey of change. Lastly, the personality traits of leaders who have the strength to lead change and are prepared to sacrifice themselves were found to be an advocate for the value of their people; have humility at their core; and are bold, outspoken and strong minded with a gentle exterior. Recommendations were centered on the crucial role of organisations in shaping an authentic leadership environment and ingredients for leaders of the 22nd century.As a result, this research demonstrates leadership is about self-sacrifice, managing change and leading people.