How to Stay Disciplined as a Leader

May 5, 2023

Great leaders must be disciplined – but it isn’t easy to keep your focus when you don’t know who you are or what objectives you must have in your sights.

Key Takeaways:

  • Leaders today must be able to deal with increased complexity as well as daily distractions that impede their focus and discipline.
  • Center yourself on your priorities: Direct your attention effectively and allow the 3 Keys to drive your goals.
  • Build a strong support system: Hire cultural fits, seek advice from coaches and mentors, and always take the meeting.
  • Practice accountability and preparedness: avoid the ABCDEs – assume, blame, complain, defend, excuse – that get in the way of discipline. Instead, be prepared for the unexpected and accept your share of the responsibility when things go awry. As a leader, it’s not easy to stay disciplined. We constantly put out fires; we must oversee business metrics and performance. There is always something in the way that makes it hard to stick to our game plan. How do we stay focused?

On top of daily distractions, leaders must deal with an increasingly complex world. Some of the biggest challenges facing today’s leaders require them to:

  • Deal with a shift in work culture and manage remote or hybrid social interactions.
  • Establish a strong, capable team that works well together in a culture of blame-shifting and quiet quitting.
  • Find top talent in a tense labor market.
  • Stay connected to other people to share what you know, learn from others, and make emotional connections.
  • Incite inspiration as a thought leader to be the change you want to see in your organization and in the world.

The more you cater to those daily distractions, the less time you have available to consider these more critical concerns. They impact you, your business, and your industry – and this is why discipline is imperative in leadership.

Center yourself on your priorities

It’s hard to be disciplined without the ability to know and prioritize those things that are critical to your purpose. You must direct your own attention effectively if you want to direct other people. This takes great self-awareness, self-control, focus, and curiosity. You can’t be afraid to ask questions and answer them honestly.

Goals stem from this focus and self-awareness. You must have clear goals and priorities in place, as well as a complete roadmap to reach them. Know your 3 Keys for help along this journey:

  • Purpose: Why does your business exist? What are your vision and mission? What drives everything you do?
  • Values: What is most important to your business? What attracts aligned customers and employees?
  • Story: How is your company different, and how do you communicate your unique story internally and externally?

Your 3 Keys help you prioritize tasks and stay focused on the end goal. With this clarity of purpose, values, and story, you will more easily delegate tasks – you will focus your energies to meet goals driven by your purpose and meaning.

Build a strong support system

I’ve worked very hard over the years to surround myself with reliable team members, and I continuously examine how best to make an impact on those I work with. I’ve been burned in the past when I made a rushed hire to fill an immediate gap on my team – a hire who, by all initial appearances, was an excellent fit but ultimately did not effectively align with our needs. I quickly realized that I need to take more time, make the investment, and ensure cultural alignment, regardless of how long it takes. If you find the right person, the sky’s the limit – and relief will come.

One way to do this right: Have candidates complete cultural assessments to determine whether they’re a good fit for the team – this must be part of the interview process. In addition, make sure candidates talk to multiple team members they will work with regularly. This helps you ensure they’ll be a good cultural fit.

Another tip is to seek advice from mentors or coaches. I regularly introduce new people into my sphere of influence who I trust and lean on for advice. This is often a personal coach, a sales coach, or a mentor because I acknowledge that I don’t know everything about everything, and I want to continually learn from others. 

Time and work are required to maintain strong relationships, but it always pays off. My company is a prime example – the primary source of Advantages clients is referrals from my network. I always take that meeting, make the time, and go to that lunch. I never miss an opportunity.

All of this comes back to a strong foundation built from your 3 Keys – when you have those in place, the solution to these issues becomes clearer.

Practice accountability and be prepared

The ability to hold yourself accountable is a critical component of leadership guided by discipline and thoughtfulness. Great leaders aren’t quick to act from emotion – they remain clear-headed about the facts. This kind of discipline means you need to avoid those dreaded ABCDEs:

  • Assume: Assume nothing
  • Blame: Don’t point fingers and shift the blame
  • Complain: It serves no purpose to complain
  • Defend: Defensiveness impedes knowledge and curiosity
  • Excuse: Don’t make excuses

These reactions don’t get you anywhere, even though they seem easier at the moment. They simply put the responsibility on someone else, create unnecessary conflict, and don’t get to the heart of an issue.

Instead, focus on how to anticipate potential obstacles. Be prepared to be surprised and even to experience unexpected outcomes. Create stronger business strategies and establish a contingency plan. Strive to stay agile and adaptable. 

If you accomplish this, you’ll experience a greater sense of responsibility when something goes wrong. You’ll find you have more patience, understanding, and accountability and less desire to blame and become defensive.

Focus and discipline come from purpose

Discipline is one of the most difficult traits for leaders to develop and maintain, but it’s a necessary part of success and influence. Your purpose must come first, and your focus and discipline will follow. With a clear sense of purpose, you’ll also have clearer priorities and goals and a map to reach them. You’ll build a team to depend on. And you’ll be accountable for and deliberate in your actions. 

At Advantages, we lead you to discover how to connect profit to purpose and establish your brand’s foundation so all else follows. Contact us today to learn how we will work with you to define your purpose and transform your business.

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