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Leadership & Discipline

Leadership and Discipline

The difference between good and great often comes down to discipline. So my question is this – how disciplined are you as a leader? Context, fluidity, and other nuanced behaviors are positive traits to embrace so long as they don’t serve as an excuse for a lack of discipline. I’m not suggesting that leaders should be robotic or static in approach – quite to the contrary. Implementing a framework of discipline allows leaders more flexibility not less. While subjecting yourself to the rigor of discipline is not easy, it is essential if you want to maximize your effectiveness as a leader. The best leaders I know are extremely disciplined people – they simply do the things others are not willing to do.  Are you disciplined in all facets of your life, or just those which come more easily to you?

There’s a lot of material in circulation about strengths and weaknesses, but the truth of the matter is the mantra of “playing to your strengths” is often an excuse to avoid doing things you dislike or don’t happen to be very good at. It’s much easier for most people to refine their areas of giftedness and revel in the admiration of being a high achiever than it is to be honest about their shortcomings. I want you to take a hard look in the mirror – is it truly an attempt to increase your efficiency that guides you to play to your strengths, or is it pride, ego, arrogance and laziness that precludes you from being disciplined? Remember that being efficient is not always the same thing as being effective. Here’s the thing – you don’t need to observe a leader for long to know whether or not they’re disciplined. Disciplined leaders stand out because they’re the one’s that get things done – the ones you can count on.

The good news for those willing to do the work is you can have your cake and eat it too. By applying rigor and discipline to aspects of your personal and professional life that you normally tend to avoid, your strengths will standout even more. How many times have you put up with, or overlooked certain weaknesses in people because of their considerable strengths in other areas? Wouldn’t it be better to find yourself in a place where others weren’t tolerating certain of your behaviors in lieu of others? It’s been said that “Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” Wouldn’t it be better to be viewed as a complete package – the real deal? Sure it would, so why not apply the discipline it takes to ensure that outcome?

I want you to envision a golfer who is long off the tee – the grip it and rip it type who can out drive anyone on the range, yet never wins a round because of their pathetic short game. Here’s the thing; it’s not that this champion of the long drive can’t master their short game, they just spend more time on the driving range than on the putting green. They would rather receive the accolades that are sure to come from their mighty display in the tee box rather than suffer the chuckles that might result from sculling a chip shot around the putting green. Know the type? The sad thing is they don’t just exist on the golf course…

My bottom line is this…real leaders don’t accept mediocrity – they constantly seek improvement. If you want to become a true standout as opposed to someone who has great potential my message is simple – become very intentional about bringing discipline to every area of your life. Take an assessment of what you do well and what you don’t, and then apply rigor, process, structure and discipline to each of those areas. Hard work isn’t easy, but it does pay huge dividends.

As always, feel free to share any thoughts or tips by commenting below…


Image credit: Independent

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    Dan Collins

    November 14, 2011 at 2:12 pm


    Great topic. Playing to ones strengths is a mantra that many profess is effective, productive and ‘smart’. This simple guy agrees but thinks that those who myopically look at only the result outcome miss the bigger picture. “Example is Leadership” and by disregarding, delegating and denying our weaknesses we are by default setting that as an example to follow and a definition of our view of leadership. Yep it gets results, is easier and arguably more effective, but what are we saying to our kids, friends, associates and most importantly to ourselves? – Good post my friend. Dan

      Mike Myatt

      November 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments Dan. I agree with you about delegation – it should be about highest and best use, not shirking responsibility. Have a great day Sir.

    Mike Henry Sr.

    November 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm


    As usual, you call it like it is.  I heard another quote, that
    discipline is knowing what you want.  There are areas of our lives where
    we’re used to making the hard choices and others where we are not.  For
    me, sometimes, I can make the hard choices and do the things necessary
    to achieve goals and develop skills that in the end turn out to be
    unimportant to me.  True greatness also depends on knowing what you
    truly want and what you’ll value the most when you get it.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.  Mike… 

      Mike Myatt

      November 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Mike: 

      I’ve always believed if a person ever reaches a place where all, or frankly even most of their choices have become easy, it means they’ve stopped growing or caring. Astute observations Mike. Thanks for sharing. 

    Mark Oakes

    November 14, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Excellent post, Mike

    We rise to the height of our greatest weakness. A golfer can hit the ball a country mile but if he/she can’t putt their game won’t progress past that limiter. You raise excellent points as it applies to the discipline of leadership. The best leaders passionately seek out their weaknesses and then, through deliberate practice, work to improve these. Once they have improved on one, they move to the next and the next. This regimented discipline is the hallmark of a ‘growth’ mindset.

    As always, thanks for sharing your wisdom!


      Mike Myatt

      November 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm

      “We rise to the height of our greatest weakness.” This is a much better phrase to internalize than “play to your strengths.” Great leaders never stop growing or learning. Thanks for sharing Mark. 


    November 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm


    I appreciated the exchange between yourself and Mark Oakes on this post. ‘Playing to one’s strengths’ is too often a euphemism for ‘making allowances for one’s weaknesses’, as though character deficiencies are somehow offset by other abilities. Trying to separate one’s vocational/professional persona, from what one is when alone, is a recipe for ignominy and shame. The proof is as close as the daily news.


      Mike Myatt

      November 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks for expressing your sentiments on this issue. Attempting to mask one’s weaknesses by playing to strengths will eventually be seen as a weakness by anyone who’s looking. Thanks for sharing Ron. 


    November 15, 2011 at 5:36 am

    Dear Mike.

    In challenging the status quo, we are trapped in the lack of discipline.

    More important now is to delegate and my contribution will always be judged by the market.


    Tanveer Naseer

    November 17, 2011 at 1:07 am

    Hi Mike,

    I think the challenge we face in dealing with our weaknesses has less to do with the actual weakness as it does our perception of what we can do about it.

    In most cases, we tend to present weaknesses as limitations or we focus on aspects that we have no control over and thus, there’s nothing we can do about it. 

    I remember reading one example about this rowing team and their being asked how do they deal with changes in the weather.  The rower responded how there’s nothing he can do about the weather and so he doesn’t focus on that.  Instead, his focus is on developing his skill range so that when changes aren’t ideal, he can respond in such a fashion as to ensure a winning outcome.  In that light, the uncertain weather conditions becomes not so much a weakness to avoid as it is something that allowed him to diversify his skill set.

    That’s what I see as being the other issue with dealing with weaknesses; that we tend to frame them in such a way that there’s clearly no way we can improve on them and consequently, we ‘stick to what we’re good at’ instead of aiming to seek opportunities to challenge ourselves to improve.

    Thanks again, Mike, for another thought-provoking post.

      Mike Myatt

      November 17, 2011 at 2:25 am

      Hi Tanveer:

      I found the analogy used in the story of the rowing team to be very apropos. The lens we use to view the world definitely has an impact on both our outlook and performance. Thanks for sharing Tanveer. 

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