Leading Yourself Part IV: Self-Discipline

The last, but probably most important, step in the self-leadership development process is self-discipline. Why is this part so important? Because without discipline you will lose the focus and motivation necessary to continue pursuing what you set out to do in the first place—become a better leader.

Who likes discipline? No normal person does. But the reality is, no great things are accomplished without a daily commitment to doing the things that will improve your performance. And no leader becomes a great leader without having the discipline to get better every day at leading himself or herself.

According to Craig Groeschel, “The path to public success is always paved with private discipline.” How true. And what a great reminder that off-stage discipline is essential for on-stage success. Achievement doesn’t happen overnight … it takes time and dedication. The same is true for leadership. Great leaders don’t just become great leaders—they work at it continually.

excellent3.jpgSo, if you have committed to becoming a better leader, let me first congratulate you. The world needs more leaders who will lead themselves and others with excellence.

Second, let me challenge you to never settle for the path of least resistance. Leadership is not always easy, but it is so rewarding and fulfilling to be able to influence others to achieve great things. Focus on doing every day what you need to do in order to get better, to influence others in a positive way, to build stronger teams, and to shape healthier organizations.

And always remember … when a leader gets better, everyone wins! (Bill Hybels)

Quotes on Self-Discipline:

“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” -Jesse Owens

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.” -Harry Truman

“Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward.” -Napoleon Hill

Leading Yourself Part I: Self-Awareness

If you are going to excel as a leader of other people, you must first excel at leading yourself. And that begins with knowing who you are.

Do you know what guides and inspires you? If not, then you are lacking self-awareness, and your leadership is probably suffering as a result.


Knowing who you are begins with clarifying your purpose—your reason for existence. If you read anything on leadership these days, you are probably tired of reading about purpose. I understand. However, the reason it’s talked about so much is because it’s that important! You have to know the core foundational reason for your existence…it’s what makes you unique, and it drives everything you do.


Next you have to be crystal clear about your core values—the beliefs that guide your behavior. Without clear values that help you navigate the challenges each day brings, you will be unable to make decisions with conviction. Leaders who cannot make decisions are not really leaders.


Lastly, determine what inspires passion in you—this is your vision. When you think of the future, what do you see? What excites you? There must be something that drives and challenges you to accomplish something bigger than yourself.

Purpose, values, and vision. Great leaders get clear about each of these for their own life. If you want to be a better leader of others, first start with yourself by making sure you have clarity about each of these core foundational elements of self-leadership.

Leadership Quotes:

“You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too.” – Sam Rayburn

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” – John Buchan

Simple Three-Step Model for Performance Improvement

Most of us, no matter who we are or what we do, desire to see improvement and growth in some area of our life. However, what we do not usually desire is the work that is often required to improve our performance.

Why is this? Because work is hard, and personal growth usually involves doing something that takes us out of our comfort zone. It requires us to be challenged and stretched. As a result, it’s usually easier to just stay where we are. Where it’s comfortable. Where it’s familiar.

The underlying problem is that we do not have a system for improvement, and as a result we often approach change in more of a haphazard fashion that causes inconsistency, frustration, and ultimately stagnation. The key to overcoming this lack of structure is to have a process that can be replicated with ease, regardless of the situation.

Improvement targetIn this post I will share with you a simple process for improving your performance, no matter who you are or what you do. I call it the 3A Model for Performance Improvement. The three-step model can be applied to any area of your life—personal, professional, financial, physical, relational, etc. Here is a summary:

First, evaluate your current situation and where you are now. What is working well? What is not working? Where are your deficiencies? What are your goals, and where are you in relation to those goals? This part of the process involves asking a lot of questions and looking inward.

Next, you need to decide what must change if you are going to improve your current situation and overcome any challenges. What will it take to get you from where you are now to where you want to be long-term? What areas do you need to focus on most in order to effect lasting and meaningful change?

Last, you must execute by taking decisive action. This is the stage where most people struggle because, although they know what needs to be done, they fail to have the discipline to act. The ability to consistently and decisively take action is what separates the winners from the losers and the great from the good. What are the most important steps that you can take right now to move yourself forward toward your goals? Maybe it’s just one or two steps—that’s fine; you have to start somewhere. Focus on a few small, fundamental steps and build upon those.

The best way to visualize this process is to think about halftime during a football game. What happens during halftime?

Teams assess the first half and identify what is and is not working. Then they make adjustments to their game plan and decide what they must change in the second half if they are going to win the game. Finally, they leave the locker room and execute the game plan on the field.

Our lives are the same way. Every day, we have the opportunity to pause and evaluate, to make the necessary changes, and to take action to implement those changes.

The question is whether or not we have the lasting desire to improve and the daily discipline to do what it takes in order to make our goals become reality.

10 Things Every Leader Must Know

Great leaders are great self-leaders. They understand that in order to have maximum impact and influence, they must commit to leading themselves effectively. This is not an easy task though—not even for the best leaders.

I heard Dr. Henry Cloud say one time that, “You are the hardest person you will ever lead.” I agree with that statement because as leaders, we often focus all of our attention on leading others instead of facing ourselves and our own need for improvement. We do this because it’s predictable. It’s more comfortable. It’s often less painful. However, it’s also detrimental to our leadership.  This reality, unfortunately, is something that many leaders fail to grasp.

In order to help you become a better leader of yourself, and ultimately others, I have compiled a list of 10 key things that every leader must know. They are as follows:

What is your purpose in life? When you understand your reason for existence, everything else becomes clearer and more meaningful.

What values influence your behavior? Clear, non-negotiable values will keep you focused on what is most important in life and help you make decisions accordingly.

What is your long-term vision? You need to have a vivid picture of the future in order to know where you are headed in life.

What are your core abilities and gifts? When you focus on maximizing your performance based on your strengths, you have a greater level of impact.

What are your limitations? Confront the reality that you are human and that you do have room for improvement and growth.

What are your goals? You need to consistently set goals that stretch and challenge you to develop and reach your full potential.

What is your strategy for success? You need to have a clear plan for how you are going to achieve your goals.

What steps must you take? A plan without action is meaningless—you need to identify and then implement specific steps in order to achieve your goals.

What are your indicators of success? Clear metrics are essential to knowing if you are (or are not) progressing toward your goals.

What do you need to learn? Leaders are learners, and it is essential that you always stay hungry for learning new knowledge that will enhance your ability to lead more effectively.

If you will commit the time to examining yourself in each of these 10 areas, you will grow as a leader. Your level of impact will also grow. It takes time and discipline, but focusing on improving yourself first will help you become more effective and influential in your leadership of others.

Are You Leading By Example?

Leadership is about influencing others toward the achievement of a common goal and a shared vision. It is about impacting people and making a positive difference.

Leadership is not about occupying some lofty position and telling people what to do. It is not about accumulating and wielding power. It is not about you—it is about others.

I think we’re in a leadership crisis today because people who are in positions of leadership have lost sight of why they are there in the first place. It comes down to a heart issue—people are pursuing leadership positions for all the wrong reasons—their own success, power, and prestige.

True leaders are not concerned about position; they are concerned about leading by example. They show others the way. They model the values. They live out what they expect of others. They foster unity and teamwork. They bring out the best in others. They serve. They point towards the vision and say, “This is where we are headed—follow me!”

True leaders—great leaders—are not concerned about self. No, they are more concerned about the welfare of others and the success of the organization they lead. How rare and refreshing it is to encounter such leaders in today’s world.

Are you leading by example, or are you just occupying a position, becoming intoxicated by power and the allure of prestige and success? It’s a question that any person in a position of leadership needs to ask themselves.