Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Do You Possess the Discipline to Lead?

  Do You Possess the Discipline to Lead?
by Michael Diercks
Managing Partner, LMI
Do you FEEL it?  Do you have it?  It's that single-minded focus that's driven by something seen in your mind, felt in your heart, but not visible to the eye.
Do you have the fortitude to stay the course in spite of adversity? Do you have the determination – the sheer will and grit -- required to lead your organization through all types of situations with your eye on the prize -- long-term survival and success?
The bottom line is: Do you have the discipline to lead?

John F. Kennedy wrote, "The life of the artist is, in relation to his work, stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill. He has turned aside from quick success in order to strip his vision of everything secondary or cheapening. His working life is marked by intensive application and intense discipline"
An artist sees a masterpiece where others see only a blank piece of canvas.  He creates an ordered work of art, a picture that transcends "just drawing." The disciplined leader sees structure when others see only chaos and an untidy bundle of unrelated problems and creates a successful organization. 
Unfortunately, the need for truly disciplined leadership is not always clear to others. This lack of vision is even more pronounced in today's business environment. Today, we refer to the "New World Economy" and the "Information Age" as if businesses just "happen" like falling in love does in a Hollywood movie.
We saw the dot com millionaires as high-profile geniuses – but what about the dot-com failure?  Weren't they all about "right time, right place" – then "wrong time, wrong place?"  In point of fact, today we live in a world of increased competitive pressures.  Pay-at-your-laptop M.B.A. degrees and webinars in and of themselves are NOT going to produce the next great business leaders.   Great business leaders are disciplined, but the concept of disciplined leadership is fading away.

 That picture has faded because of the worldview of business leadership. Instead, the world sees business leaders such as Lee Iacocca and Bill Gates as if they were Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. These businessmen are high profile – and highly accomplished. We see them on television. We read about them in our local newspapers. They always seem to be in the public eye. That is the world's picture of today's business leader: charismatic and combative, aggressive and arrogant, and powerful and omnipotent.  But each and every one of these men has failed – they failed whenever they stopped being disciplined.

The real picture of the truly disciplined leader shows continuing and constant courage and consideration, intellect and integrity, and determination and dependability. This style of leadership captures the essence of discipline. You can see it. You can feel it. You know what it is. You know what it is not.

Discipline is a structured system of rules governing conduct or activity, not a quick fix leading to instant fame. Leadership is the directing of activities, not the manipulation of the press. Disciplined leadership is about long-term, endurable success, not quick profit. A disciplined leader uses a structured system of rules to govern the directing of activities. The disciplined leader is not a performer.

Disciplined leadership requires the kind of resolve that results in years, even decades, of continuous success. In the Harvard Business Review, consultant and author Jim Collins calls this disciplined leadership "Level Five Leadership." Philosopher Peter Koestenbaum, writing in Fast Company, calls it "transformational leadership." But they both are talking about the same thing: Long-term, sustainable leadership through personal humility, authenticity, professional competence and will combined with personal and professional integrity.

This long-term, sustainable leadership requires that structured system of rules to govern its behavior. This type of leadership possesses the character described by Collins and Koestenbaum. This type of leadership requires the discipline described by President Kennedy. This is the type of leadership of a disciplined leader.
Do you possess such a structured system of rules that governs your leadership behavior? Do you have the unquestionable character described by Collins and Koestenbaum? Do you have the intense discipline described by President Kennedy?

     And do you really have the discipline to lead?