How Self-Discipline Prepares You for Leadership

Discipline is the third Self Leadership quality on the Purpose-Driven Leadership Development Framework.

Together with the first two, Character, and Competence, their presence is the pre-qualifier to even dreaming about leading others.

In my articles “Why Character Will Always Eat Competence for Lunch” and “Leadership is Not About You”, I wrote about the importance of the first two of this three-legged stool that completes Self Leadership.

What's in a Definition?

Today, I want to help you master, the third - Discipline, so that you can use it as a launching pad to handle the rigors of leading people.

One of Google’s definitions of “Discipline” - “training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way”.

And "Training" is “the act of teaching a person a skill or behavior”.

Self-discipline then is 'training yourself to display a skill or behavior in a controlled and habitual way.'

This means that self-discipline is inherently habit-forming.

“Modesta, what does that have to do with leading others?”

Be patient, I’m coming.

Self-Discipline prepares you to lead others in 4 powerful ways:

1. Builds Routine

We all only have 24 hours every single day. Many of us sleep and wake up with good intentions of accomplishing certain goals.

Then our feet hit the floor in the morning, and at 11 pm at night we don’t know what happened to the day.

Experts say the best way to accomplish your goals is to jealously guard the beginning and end of your day.

Michael Hyatt recommends defining priorities, then creating a morning and evening routine to get them done.

When you wrap self-discipline in routine, you in effect recruit, train, and deploy your thoughts, words, actions, time, energy to the fulfillment of whatever you have decided are your daily only-I-can-and-must-dos.

This helps you command your day as a leader. It gives you control and builds productivity and effectiveness into your day, allowing you to accomplish what you must do before and after everyone else comes to you with their demands.

2. Conserves Brain Power

Once self-discipline is grounded in your habits (assuming they are positive), it puts your brain and body on autopilot, allowing you to automatically do the things self-discipline trained you in.

Going on autopilot conserves brain power from having to figure out a response to every single interaction.

This is especially so when you allow self-discipline to form habits you repeat through routine, and drive through processes and systems.

Doing this allows you to go about your day with minimal effort because you have trained yourself with what to think and do for as many interactions as possible. And you have people and technology facilitating it all as your support systems.

You will soon gain the reputation as a leader that runs a tight ship.

3. Creates Stability

Nobody wants to work with a disheveled, disorganized, and disoriented person.

People gravitate towards leaders that are stable, and predictable. It tells them you are dependable.

When you have self-discipline, it shows in your organization, grooming, work presentation, and time and energy management, and many times even your physique and health.

When you consistently respond the same way to situations with similar stimuli, people come to know what to expect.

This makes them feel safe and secure under your leadership because with you, “what you see is what you get”.

4. Develops Excellence

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

Let’s go back to our definitions of “discipline” and “training”:

“Discipline” - “training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way”.

“Training is “the act of teaching a person a skill or behavior”.

When you have self-discipline in a skill or behavior you have trained yourself to perform that skill or behavior out of habit.

That means you get better with each repetition. You get so good at it that in time, you can effortlessly perform that skill or behavior with excellence.

Excellence becomes your norm.

Now let’s take this concept and transfer it to Leadership Development. You can use self-discipline to develop the leadership skills you need to lead others and be able to apply them with excellence (see Purpose-Driven Leadership Development Framework).

What do you think will be the result of becoming a leader of excellence? I hear you sing “happy people”. Yes!

Your self-discipline can elevate you to leadership excellence.

The Case for Self-Discipline

There are many benefits to self-discipline.

As a leader, I hope the four I mentioned are motivation enough to form self-discipline, and habits and routines that will help you effectively lead yourself and others for life.


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