A Leader’s Discipline

What does your today look like? Make better decisions today, so your tomorrow is better.

Highly effective leaders have great discipline. When they say what they’re going to do…they do it. When they say when they’re going to do it…they do it. When they say how they’re going to do it…they do it.

They do not sugar coat anything, or tell people what they want to hear. They are straight and true with what they say, and they are 100% truthful in what they say.

I have been part of lots of teams, and a lot of the people I have worked with have talked the talk, but they didn’t walk the walk. Meaning, they said that they were going to do something, and it was very rare that they would follow through. They have even committed to something, and still didn’t follow through.

You have probably worked with, or still work with people like that. One of these people may even be your boss, or your boss’s boss. The point is, if you make a commitment, it doesn’t matter what level you are at. Whether you’re the CEO, or the cleaner, it has nothing to do with your position or title. It has everything to do with your character.

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If you have worked with a person who broke a commitment they made to you, did you continue to trust them?

1. Keeping Your Commitments

Thinking about yourself, and your commitment to keeping commitments, ask yourself, “Am I renowned for breaking commitments?” Being totally honest with yourself, “How often do I break commitments?” “What has the impact been on my team, colleagues, friends, and family?”

Highly effective leaders will always ask themselves, “Is this commitment I am about to make going to build trust with the team, or make me untrustworthy?” A highly effective leader is focussed on the team, and the impact their commitments will have on them.

When you are making a commitment, you are revealing to the team, or your friends and family what you intend to do. If you keep that commitment, or if you don’t, then you are revealing to the team, your friends and family how string your character is. Character is the difference between a highly effective leader and a low performing leader.

If you make a commitment with a person, and you keep it, then you are building trust with that person. If you make a commitment to a person, and you break it, you are becoming untrustworthy. Making commitments to people is very serious, so ensure that you treat your commitments in the same way.

What you commit to is very important to the recipients of your commitments. Put yourself in their shoes, and think how they would feel if you were to make a commitment and break it.

When making a commitment, you MUST have the discipline to follow through. If you don’t then you are not only cheating the person you made the commitment to, you are also cheating yourself.

You will start to lose trust with yourself, and fall less out of love with yourself. You are not only committing to another person, you are committing to yourself. So, ensure that you follow through.

2. Discipline

Not having the discipline to follow through with a commitment is one thing, and you will feel bad initially. But, the feeling of regret afterwards is far, far worse. I know this, because I have broken many commitments throughout my life that I truly regretted. You may have too, so you may know the feeling I am talking about.

When I was in my teens, and I broke commitments with my friends, or members of my family, I didn’t really feel anything. I didn’t know that I needed discipline to follow through. I didn’t even know what I was committing to was even a commitment.

However, as I grew older, the commitments I was making were much bigger. I knew that they were commitments, and that I needed to be disciplined to follow through with them.

I remember breaking a commitment with a team member in one of my first management roles, his name was Davey. I was supposed to do his appraisal, and I told him I was going to help him put an action plan together for his development.

But, I forgot. So, another manager did his appraisal, and did nothing about his development plan. My boss asked me why I didn’t do it, when I had committed to them both that I would. I apologised and told them I just forgot. A lousy excuse on my part.

My boss took me aside to have a word with me. He said, “Tom, I don’t expect this from you. Put yourself in Davey’s shoes. How would you feel if I was to make a commitment to you, then didn’t follow through, and just told you I forgot?” “Do you not feel any regret for what you have done?”

“Davey is very upset. You broke your promise to him and you need to make it up to him.” His words really did hit home with me. I was not usually one to behave like this, but I did.

The regret I felt was very heavy on my shoulders, and I needed to rectify this. So, I went to Davey and had a very in-depth conversation. I apologised to him, and told him how much I regretted missing his appraisal. I was sorry for how flippant I was with him in the aftermath.

I made it up to him by re-arranging our appraisal, and I helped him put together his development plan. I agreed to mentor him on his progress, and help him anyway I could. The plan was about 6 months long, and he learned new engineering skills. He even increased his workload and pay with his new skills. I was very proud of him.

3. Making Up for Broken Commitments

It is important that if you do break any commitments, then you make up for them if you can. You don’t want the feeling of regret on your shoulders, because it is very heavy.

If you are now thinking of your own regrets in life, which is good, because you are acknowledging that you have broken commitments. However, my advice is not to dwell on them.

If there was something that you committed to a long time ago, but didn’t have the discipline to follow through, then there is always today. Use your past to inspire you today. Work on yourself to become the best person you can be, and make that commitment to yourself.

When making this commitment to yourself, remain positive with it, and follow through. To be positive every day is difficult, and it takes discipline. As with a lot of the principles throughout my articles, discipline is a decision.

We must decide each day to be disciplined or not. When making that decision, take small steps. Don’t take huge strides. Focus on the small things first before you move up to the big things.

4. Focus On The Small Steps

The more you focus on the small steps, you will eventually make the big strides. Be disciplined to just focus on the small steps. This will help you be positive too. Stay the course, and you will soon develop more, and more self-discipline to take bigger steps.

As you develop this self-discipline and you remain positive, people will start to take notice. When you are at work, you will receive compliments on how you are brightening people’s days. You will influence your team a lot more, and they will start to follow your lead.

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You will also get negativity from some people, and they may avoid you. But, don’t let that stop you. You are on a mission to be self-disciplined, be positive, and become a highly effective leader. Your leader will support you, and will know that you are doing the right thing for yourself, and the team.

Let the low performing leaders be negative. Then just watch how they change when everybody else is following your example. Behaviour breeds behaviour.

Discipline allowed Bob to begin reshaping himself and aligning his life around timeless principles.

As you go through these principles, you need to be disciplined with them all when you start to apply them. I believe you can.

What culture does your organisation operate? Whatever it is, you can be the catalyst to improve it to a culture of discipline. If you can do that, the people will see their jobs as a responsibility.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

26 thoughts on “A Leader’s Discipline

  1. This post is a take of fresh air for me. Discipline is HUGE when it comes to not just our job or work, but family too.

    I believe that we have to take seriously not only our responsibilities as colleagues, or leaders but also as family members and social human beings.

    Thank you for sharing these tips. Going in small steps sounds reasonable to me and I am confident that with the right attitude and patience, great things could be accomplished just by taking simple steps every day.

    1. Hi Ionut,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you thought this article was a breath of fresh air, means a lot to me.

      You are right, discipline is HUGE is all areas of life. When we commit to something we must have the discipline to follow through on that commitment. Especially if that commitment is with family members or with the people we lead in work.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. There are situations you simply can’t hold on to your commitment. And then you have to inform the one you have promised something to. Preferably up front, but even that is not always possible. In any case you have to tell them as soon as possible.

    The best way is not to blame somebody else for the failure as so often happens. Or come up with lame excuses. Just state the reason(s), apologize and come up with the solution you think will work best.

    In my opinion. 🙂

    Oh, BTW Tom, I am reading Obama’s book at the moment. I think it’s brilliant. And from a leader’s point of view very inspiring!

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I have heard that Obama’s book is a good read. I will have to add it to my Christmas list.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Great article Tom. I agree that being disciplined and following through is very important. I remember an incident years ago when working in a nursing home. I had a co-worker who lacked the discipline to follow through in things she would commit to. The thing is though that when you work in healthcare if you don’t follow through somebody else has to pick up the slack. I ended up up with twice the workload because I just couldn’t let the residents suffer because of her lack of discipline. I found myself so exhausted I would fall asleep waiting for the kettle to boil for a cup of tea after work. It certainly didn’t create any great friendships between us but I also didn’t hold any grudges.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences of working in a nursing home. There will be many people who can relate to your experience and learn from it to help them in the future.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Highly effective leaders are those who walk the talk, which basically means they are committed to what they intend to tell others.

    They are self-motivated and also guide others through their path. The position has nothing to do all that matters is an individual character and the way he is committed to his commitments he promised, initially while escaping from your commitments you won’t feel the guilt but when you continue breaking your commitments people will start judging your character,

    You will start to lose trust in yourself and give others will stop trusting you. So keep your commitments don’t give excuses to just get rid instead stay committed and build people’s trust.

    And a leader is always the one who knows the way, shows the way, and goes the way. Have the discipline to follow your commitments and you will surely achieve greater things in life.

    Focus on smaller steps and you will eventually make big strides develop self-discipline and remain positive, you will influence your team a lot more. This is all it takes to be a true leader and you will notice people follow your lead.

    1. Hi Samantha,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I agree that highly effective leaders talk the talk and walk the walk, and you are right that they commit to what they say they are going to do. Following through on those commitments is a great way to lead by example.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Hi Tom,

    Your experience with Davey is certainly one that rings true with me.

    I know that on more than one occasion I have a set a specific time and date for staff appraisals and then failed to follow through.

    Looking back on these times it’s obvious now that it was a lack of discipline on my part, and you’re right, this does often pray heavy on the mind.

    In fact, reading about you talking about your younger days, and breaking commitments to friends and family is something that I know I have been guilty of too.

    I know your use of “small steps” is something that made a big difference in my life.

    In truth, we all have days that don’t quite go to plan, and we typically make big and varied schedules for ourselves, but I have found that just focusing on a few basic things every day makes all the difference.

    I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t expect big things from my team if I wasn’t holding up my end of the bargain, and it was a painful lesson to learn.

    I feel that my actions will have a massive knock-on effect on others, and this is especially true if I wasn’t showing a great deal of discipline in my own life.

    As always Tom, a very thought-provoking read, and something that makes me wary on my own actions.

    Partha

    1. Hi Partha,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this a thought provoking article.

      I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts, especially as they resonate with my experiences of working with former colleagues of mine. Hopefully, a lot of people who are reading this article can resonate too, and can learn from both mine and your experiences. That is what is great about other people contributing to these articles.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I feel these days that keeping commitments has almost become a rarity. Maybe not so much in the workplace, as there are greater repercussions, but definitely outside of work. However I think this does impact how we engage in the workplace too. One of my goals is to start keeping commitments no matter what they are; beers with a mate, painting that room I promised my wife I would, getting that report delivered that i offered to help on, even though it’s not my job or responsibility. Behaviour breeds behaviour, keep a commitment no matter what and the habit will form and it’ll become easier. Great post, Tom.

    1. Hi Gareth,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found this a great post, means so much to me.

      You are right, keeping commitments is a rare thing these days, especially in the workplace. I have worked with many managers who have broken commitments or not followed through on what they dais they were going to do. when we keep commitments and follow through, we are leading by example. when leading by example we are building trust, strengthening relationships and increasing our influence.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Great article on a leaders discipline. This is such an important topic for leaders. I’m so glad that you can share and help people improve their skills. Best wishes and keep up the awesome articles for leaders.

    1. Hi Alyse,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this a valuabel article.

      I agree that this is such an important topic for leaders, and they do need the discipline to follow through on their commitments and lead by example.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Hi Tom

    Well done with another excellent article. There are very clear signs here that you know what you are talking about and this comes from direct experience. Not only do you tell a personal story but the fact that you tell your readers to learn how to fix broken commitments means you have been there. The reality of the workplace and human nature is that we will make commitments and break them and when you are in a supervisory position breaking commitment undermines you probably more than anything else. So you might as well accept that this is going to happen and you will find yourself in damage control mode and have to deal with it and put it right.
    It is a very important lens through which to review where you are and what you need to do. Ask the question – What commitments have I not delivered on lately? – and then – OK, so what am I going to do about it now?
    To be honest, there are a number that I am working on right now – as I type!
    Thanks again and best regards
    Andy

    1. Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy that you found this an excellent article, really does mean a lot to me.

      I appreciate your kind words about the article to, and my experiences. I am also grateful that you have discussed your own experiences as more and more people cannot just learn from me, but they can learn from you too. I hope you get to work on your commitments and follow through on them.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. This is such a wonderful article, And reminds me of a Leader we will never forget, He was such a principled and Disciplined leader, He came in new, to replace an outgoing leader and one thing we noticed was unless travelling or out on vacation, was always the first one to arrive in the office, When asked the answer was, as a leader you should always be an example in everything you do including what you expect others to do DISCIPLINE. Leading by example is very important!!!

    1. Hi Mercy,

      Thank you for your comment. I am so grateful that you think this is a wonderful article and that it reminds you of a leader you will never forget. That really means so much to me.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with your leader, he really does sound like a leader who led by example. The small thing of being in the office first every day, actually is a huge thing. This is a great sign of leading by example, and it is usually these little things that have the biggest impact.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Thanks for sharing another awesome piece of content, Tom. I can relate to a lot of things you’ve said in this post. For instance, the part where you talk about discipline and commitment.

    It’s easy to commit to doing a thing. But it’s extremely hard to stay focused in the long-run. I’ve been there as well. The regret that comes after not doing the things you’ve committed to is far worse.

    Your experience is quite relatable, However, can you offer a few tips and tricks on how to stay committed to your decisions and how to improve your discipline?

    I would really appreciate your input as I value your opinion a lot!

    Thanks in advance! Ivan

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so happy you found this an awesome post, it really does mean a lot.

      It’s great that you can relate to my experiences. The way I stay committed to my decisions and keep my discipline is to keep at the front of my mind “who am I doing this for?” In the workplace, every decision I make is for my team and my people. When I have them in the forefront of my mind, that drives me to keep focussed and follow through on my commitments. The same for friends and family, I make decisions that are for the benefit of others and I need to keep that in my mind.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. This is so true, we have broken plenty of promises and do regret it now but then did no even think about it. But then you get older then you start to care about the things you have not ever thought of. Well for us, this is how it went and messed up a lot of great opportunities.
    We learned to be humble and think of the commitments that we have made thus far, meaning that we stay to the commitments and we know when we can commit to things learning to have discipline.
    We have learned to have more discipline and we hope that others feel that this can help with them as well.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Hi Matthew/Deloris,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this article valuable.

      I too have broken promises in the past, and I am sure we all will in the future too. But, we have to try our best to stay committed, as you say. It’s great that you learned to be humble too and think of others when making commitments. That is what keeps me disciplined, by having my people at the forefront of my mind when following through on commitments.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. Thank you so much for this post. Number 3, Making Up for Broken Commitments, was the one that resonated with me the most.
    It happens to all of us that we say we will do something, but for some reason we never do. I guess it is a question of motivation, but the problem is when you feel like you have the motivation and keep putting it away.
    Keep up with the good work 🙂

    1. Hi Delyana,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really happy that you found point 3 resonated with you.

      I appreciate you sharing that you have had to make up for broken commitments too. It really is something that happens to all of us, and we all have to deal with it.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. I sometimes find it difficult to maintain discipline, especially since I am effectively my own boss.

    Something I lack is a clear and structured ap[proace to my working day which you have described excellently.

    Focusing on the small steps is a point I will have to take on board since my brain is always focused on the bigger picture and what might happen down the road.

    Great article, Tom.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this a great article.

      We all find it difficult to find discipline and maintain it (myself included), so don’t beat yourself up. When we are our own boss, it is very difficult because we only hold ourselves to account. But, you are right, taking small steps is how to do it and then build up as you progress.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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