Personal Excellence: Discipline and Effective Leadership

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Does your boss make demands that he or she is personally incapable of achieving? When a person in a leadership role routinely fails to meet his or her own exacting standards, what does that say about their own effectiveness?

While it’s certainly frustrating to work under a supervisor who isn’t capable of reaching the objectives he or she sets for you, it isn’t by any means unusual. Leaders who habitually fall short of their own targets might not do so because they have two distinct sets of rules with regard to their and their team’s performance – it’s highly probable that he or she just doesn’t have the personal discipline to execute difficult duties consistently.

Discipline and leadership – practice what you preach

Relatively few people in managerial positions truly examine their own ability to perform the same tasks they expect from their teams. For example, many sales managers have thoroughly unrealistic sales target expectations – expectations that they wouldn’t be able to meet, and yet feel perfectly entitled to foist upon their teams.

As a leader, if you have never achieved a particular milestone, don’t make that milestone your team’s performance bar. Of course, encouraging the best possible outcomes is the core responsibility of every leader, but make sure that your team is prepared for the difficulty of the task, and receives all necessary support.

If you have habits, you can have discipline.

What is a habit? A habit is a routine we engage in to satisfy our emotional comfort. Habits can be healthy (like showering in the morning and flossing at night), they can be benign (like reading before bedtime) or they can be dangerous (like smoking). All of these habits became habitual after a period of training. No one becomes addicted to cigarettes after the first puff – you have to put in a bit of effort. Same with grooming; when you do it long enough, it becomes second-nature. If you struggle with having the focus or discipline to reliably perform certain tasks, you have to engage in them over and over again until they become a part of your natural routine.

Keep your tools sharp.

Of course, not every person in a leadership position is required or even expected to perform at the same level as the team. Professional football coaches couldn’t execute an effective defensive maneuver to the same standard as the players – they’re there for their expertise. However, those coaches must nonetheless demonstrate discipline within their own roles. Great coaches work as hard as any member of the team to ensure the standard of play is always exceptional.

If you’re not expected to perform the same tasks as your team, you must still demonstrate your knowledge and experience. Remember: it’s your strategies that are at play, and if your team fails, it’s likely because they weren’t properly coached. Even if you aren’t on the field, you’re still in the game.

Discipline is one of the most important qualities in leadership and in life. Once you’re able to prove that you have the will and determination to consistently perform to the highest standard, you will become an inspiration for any team you lead.