The Self-Disciplined Leader

Leadership is about creating environments that influence others to achieve group goals. This works because people support a world they help create.

There are five success areas for leaders to focus on that make all the difference. Rate your performance by giving yourself a mark on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) for each area.


This is a must for leaders. If you can’t organise yourself, your ability to have others follow you is doubtful.

Effective self-directed leaders have a personal vision which they review each day to remind themselves that the compass is more critical than the clock. They write down this vision and they write down their goals. They do this because they know there is magic in committing generalities to specifics in written form.

They have a broad range of goals around their main roles in life, so that the balance between business and non-business is never compromised.

They have clearly defined values that guide their behaviour. This makes them predictable, congruent, consistent and reliable for those dealing with them.

They understand the importance of self-direction and they are evangelistic about converting those they are responsible for into similar individuals.

People skills

Mainly because they lack self-awareness, are under-informed or uneducated, many people find these skills one of the most difficult areas to master.

Leaders know that failure to form effective teams and partnerships at all levels, inside and outside the organisation, will have a critical negative impact on their personal influence capacity.

Organisations that wish to prosper need their people to grow, and that requires a safe, open environment that encourages individual development.

Effective leaders understand what turns people off and stop doing these things. In the same way, they study what works best and strive to interact with others accordingly.

Many successful leaders have read Dale Carnegie’s classic text on developing an aptitude for human relations, and make it their bible for people skills. The primary reason leaders should develop people skills is to ensure they can build trust and respect between themselves and their subordinates.

Process skills

Such skills challenge a leader to ensure the system is not subjecting great people to poor systems and processes, ensuring that they will fail.

We cannot see a process, but we can observe people using that process. It is, therefore, easier to blame the poor performer than the process, and leaders must be attuned to the difference.

Leaders demonstrate the ability to plan, innovate, define clear performance objectives, delegate, utilise time effectively, analyse problems and make good decisions.

As noted above, leaders know that people support a world they help create, so they enlist their people for reviewing and improving processes. Effective people skills ensure processes work optimally through users.

Communication skills

These make or break leaders. By demonstrating effective questioning and listening skills, leaders learn the most.

They understand that, even during their first day on the job, associates can offer valuable insights and ideas for innovations. This is counterintuitive because leaders often fall into the habit of telling everyone what they need to do and how they need to do it.

Leaders are usually the most experienced, smart, capable individuals in a group, and are willing to share their knowledge and insights.

Learning how to ask questions instead of giving orders is an essential discipline for leaders. They also investigate the communication systems in the organisation to ensure they are right, and examine their processes to verify communication flows effectively throughout the organisation.

Checking for understanding and being clear, transparent and concise are great strategies for leadership.

Mass motivational speeches have been replaced in business by quality one-on-one questioning. Such questioning sessions spur the self-discovery process, and provide the best coaching opportunities.


This success area is disseminated throughout the organisation by leaders who hold themselves and their team accountable. Leaders quickly and emphatically admit their own mistakes and lead by example.

Following Mr. or Ms. Perfect is difficult. Leaders have the self-confidence to show their humanity, including their weaknesses, and have the communication skills to enlist their teams’ support.

Leaders coach, guide, support, and train others to achieve mutually agreed goals and objectives, as well as provide direction and manage change.

Leaders also create and monitor systems and processes of control and accountability within their organisation, so that people have the freedom to achieve results.

And your mark is . . .?

What mark did you give yourself out of 50?

We all know we can do better on the basics. Take a moment out from your busy leadership role to gauge your performance in these five areas, then redirect yourself and move forward. Watch the clock but seize the compass!