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Five Unexpected Ways in Which Discipline Works in Leadership

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Five Unexpected Ways in Which Discipline Works in Leadership

John Manning's latest book is all about discipline for leaders and how disciplined leaders make for the best leaders. But discipline, as John explains, is not about what most people think about when they hear that term. It's not about following a strict regimen and a low tolerance for errors but something else entirely. Here are five aspects of discipline that may surprise you but have been proven effective by tens of thousands of people around the world.

1. Discipline Does Not Mean Discipline in the Traditional Sense: Discipline is essentially about maintaining focus and not letting anything detract from that focus. Pitfalls in leadership almost always occur when focus is lost or interrupted, so the key is maintaining and staying on target.

2. The Price of a Mistake Is Steeper Than You Think: Research has shown that for any one lapse in leadership that causes trust from others to falter, it takes almost a hundred positive acts to compensate for and recover that trust. It's a lot easier to stay focused and minimize mistakes than it is to try to bounce back from one.

3. The 80-20 Rule: Leaders are perpetually trying to put out all fires and attend to all issues, but research has shown that only 20% of all actions account for 80% of all results. The rest of the 80% of actions have almost no impact on results. What is most important for the leader is to identify the 20% that will drive positive outcomes and focus on those almost exclusively.

4. Consistency Is the Key: There's a myth that suggests that leaders have to adjust radically with each scenario or situation, but studies have shown that consistency in how they handle issues is more effective. When people know how their leaders will react in almost all cases, they are better able to work around that factor. Leaders whose behaviors are inconsistent are not just harder to work with, but appear to be more flighty and give rise to insecurities in others.

5. Behavior Is More Important Than Skills:  While individual skills and strengths are often touted as being keys to good leadership, it's actually behavior in general that most influences others positively. A leader who is very resilient but not very supportive of employees is not as effective as one who may not be as resilient but exhibits better general behavior towards his employees. Skills and talents do not exist in a vacuum, they are part of the complete person's behavior profile.