4 Surprising Disciplines Effective Leaders Must Master

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Ask any leader what disciplines are most important in their leadership, and you’re likely to hear such responses as “the discipline of punctuality” or “the discipline of ongoing learning”.

But my recent trip through Australia and India reminded me that there are other, less celebrated disciplines that effective leaders must master as well.

In conversation after conversation I encountered leaders who also upheld other disciplines which, while perhaps less notable, are nonetheless equally important for leaders to master.

In his celebrated leadership book, Great by Choice, Jim Collins unpacks the profound wisdom of the leader’s “20 mile march”.

Collins argues that the discipline of consistency is one of the leader’s greatest allies.

He writes, “The 20-Mile March imposes order amid disorder, consistency amid swirling inconsistency. But it works only if you actually achieve your march year after year. If you set a 20-Mile March and then fail to achieve it — or worse, abandon fanatic discipline altogether — you may well get crushed by events.”

So what are the fanatic disciplines a leader must master?

Volumes have been written about the disciplines of team-building, vision casting and strategic planning.

But I believe that there are at least 4 often overlooked disciplines that effective leaders must master.

1.  The discipline of not working

By this I simply mean that effective leaders know the value of ending the day, of putting down the phone and the laptop, and of saying “Team, we’re done”.

The day of the all-nighter is over.

2.  The discipline of fun

Many driven leaders find that simple fun does not come easy, and that it has to be placed in their Outlook calendar.

That’s ok. Whatever it takes, effective leaders must find a way to keep the discipline of laughter and light-heartedness alive in the organization.

3.  The discipline of celebration

The natural instinct of every leader is to look forward at the distance still to be traveled towards the goal.

But don’t forget the discipline of looking back at the ground that’s already been covered.

Celebrating the progress already achieved builds tremendous momentum for the team.

4.  The discipline of “counting your blessings”

Effective leaders make a regular routine of stopping just to notice how fortunate they, and their organization, really are.

These leaders know that one of the best ways to combat the daily pressures inherent in the role of leadership is to take regular stock of the things that are just going well these days.

So keep diligently focused on the disciplines of number crunching, attendance counting and budget analyzing.

But along the way don’t forget the importance of these other disciplines too.

They’re some of the best ways to keep a spring in your step along your 20 mile march.

What would you add to this list?

Updated from May 5, 2014 post


the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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