The Most Underrated Quality of an Awesome Leader

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A business requires numerous things for success. For starters, ideas.

The business then requires follow through on said ideas. The business requires a little luck. It will require some sleepless nights and some early mornings. At some point it will require sales whether you like or not Mr. IAmNotASalesman. It requires resources like money, time, or and knowledge. It requires a hint of arrogance. It requires sacrifice and optimism and a number of other practices that most people have never thought of or even considered.

self-dis·ci·pline (noun) – The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

The most underrated value that a successful business requires, though, is discipline. There is no shortage of ideas, but there’s few people willing to sit down and hammer on those ideas until they form into something tangible, something that produces cash-flow.

Discipline During The Work Day

During the start-up phase, discipline is what makes you set that alarm clock at 5:00 AM even though it’s well past midnight. Discipline is your willingness to keep working on your ideas with little or no money coming in. Discipline is what keeps you setting new goals.

In more mature businesses, discipline has to come from the top. Most of us have experienced the scene where the CEO creates a new rule only to avoid it himself. The hardest person in any organization to get to follow a new rule is at the top. And why wouldn’t it? They’re not used to being told what to do.

I don’t bring this up to whine that they don’t have to follow the rules. I bring it up to point out that they (CEO’s and top level management) have a an opportunity to lead through this scenario. If the CEO (or any other high level figure) is the biggest champion of discipline in the company, that value will flow downhill.

Discipline & Sports Are Synonymous

The best sports teams have two things in common: 1.) a unified team & 2.) accountability to keep it disciplined. Discipline and sports are synonymous for a reason. Discipline is required to forgo distractions and workout till you puke. Discipline is required to know how painful something is going to be, yet still attempt it with an attitude indicative of success.

Underrated Quality of an Awesome Leader

Discipline is ingrained in sports. While playing college football, we were forced to get up at 4:55 am to train. My fellow classmates, who didn’t get to play sports, would have the choice to wake up 3-5 hours after me. I was being trained, at an early age, to learn that to get something, you have to give up most everything else. In sport, it is impossible to have your cake and eat it too. 

At 4:55 am, we were trained to give up the “typical college lifestyle” in exchange for the opportunity to win championships. When our coaches would run us till our legs gave out, we were trading comfort in order forge ourselves into better athletes. When we self-imposed a curfew, we were training ourselves to stay focused on winning.

More than anything, discipline is about figuring out what you’re willing to give up in exchange for that one goal. Sports teams have figured out what discipline can do for an organization, not all businesses have caught on to the trend.

Disciplined Leadership

Great leaders recognize opportunity for their organization. They have their finger on the pulse of their organization and they have the ability to see what is on the horizon. They know what’s happening today, but also what could happen tomorrow and a few years from now if their strategies are effective.

So, as a leader, picture your organization in five years if you helped each of your employees save two hours each day. Picture how smooth your organization could function if everyone followed the processes your management set in place. Picture how your team would react if they saw you as the biggest champion of new company policies.

  • Ex. 1: No designated parking spaces
  • Ex. 2: Email is only usable after 10 AM
  • Ex. 3: Expenses must be logged

Each of these examples are opportunities for the top tier of an organization to lead. How easy it would be to undermine the “no designated parking spaces” rule with a singular “CEO Parking Only” sign out front. But, this creates animosity and stifles buy-in to all new rules, even if they are as silly as a parking spot.


If you ban email until 10 AM to increase productivity, yet your people have four emails waiting at 10:01 AM with your signature, you’ll lose credibility. Morale killing phrases like “I guess the rules don’t apply to everyone” and “Not for us peons” will swirl around the water cooler faster than rumors of layoffs during a depression.

I understand that not everyone enjoys the luxuries of upper management such as assistants who take some of their mundane tasks from their plate. However, when you, as a leader, show your people that the same rules you enforce apply to you, respect is gained. And once you gain your team’s respect, you can begin to ask for their buy-in to your vision.

Company values will reflect management’s values. If you choose to be disciplined, your people will too. You must encourage the values you want to see in your organization. But, you must buy into them first.

Leave me a comment or chat with me on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you. Have a great weekend!