The Importance of Self-Discipline In A Leader

Coach Tony Dungy, known for his self-discipline.

As we continue on the journey of learning the mindset of a leader, I have found that ALL great leaders have mastered the art of self-discipline in their lives. Without it, a leader cannot be successful!

In the book. “The Way of the Leader”, author Donald G. Krause, talks about the importance of self-discipline in the life of a leader. Here are some excerpts to stimulate your thinking on this important subject and hopefully inspire you to ACTION:


  • A leader tends to live by a set of rules or principles that he determines are appropriate for him and acceptable to his constituents (followers or team). A leader does not need external motivation to ensure performance.  
  • Self-discipline is the basic ingredient of self-control and the foundation of self-respect. If an executive lacks self-discipline, self-control, or self-respect, even if he is the person in charge he will not, in fact, be the leader.
  • Self-discipline means; at the most personal level, means that you do not attempt to deceive yourself. Always be careful what you think and do, but be particularly careful when you believe you are alone. Practice self-restraint in your private life. Remember a person’s opinion of himself eventually shows in his face and is reflected in his outward behavior. A true leader exercises self-discipline through controlling his thoughts and action even when he believes that no one else can see him.
  • An effective leader exhibits a poised, self-assured, direct, and controlled demeanor under all circumstances. A controlled manner bestows powerful competitive advantages.
  • Above all, an effective leader is dignified without being arrogant. Arrogance comes from ignorance and lack of self-confidence. When a person displays arrogance he is confirming that he knows very little about true dignity and more importantly, very little about true leadership.
  • Few people will admit their own failures and ever fewer will acknowledge that the true cause of failure lies within themselves. But a person who practices self-discipline and continuously develops his level of skill seldom fails in the long run.
  • An effective leader worries about his own shortcomings and seeks improvement from within. When a person demands excellence from others, but never corrects problems within himself, he cannot lead.
  • Study widely; inquire sincerely; adhere steadfastly to your principles; consider carefully your experiences, what works and what does not work for you. It is in doing these things that you will discover the meaning of excellence. Moreover, find the best leaders and emulate their methods. In this way, you will also discover the meaning of leadership.
  • Excellence in leadership or anything else is not something remote or difficult to find. We need only practice self-discipline, and it (excellence) will begin to appear in our lives!

The Leader’s Attitude Makes All The Difference!

Ken Blanchard, best sellinig author of "One Minute Manager"

Most people would say that success is not a problem.They don’t realize that success can be just as devastating, if not more so, to some people as failure is. There is an abundance of stories about sports figures, entertainers, and business leaders who went quickly to the top, only to crash and burn.

As a coach or leader, your own mental attitude towards winning and losing is key.  As a leader, you can’t afford to let yourself be overconfident through victory or be consumed by failure. Doing so tends to divert attention from the [team], business at hand, or preparing for the next step.

It sounds trite, but one of the marks of real success in life is to believe that there is a reason for everything. We can’t control every event, but we can control our response to it. Life is unpredictable. What makes a winner is that when something happens, that person’s belief system brings forth attitudes that can take good events and make them better, likewise, it transforms bad events into opportunities to learn.

~ Ken Blanchard

Adapted from “The Little Book of Coaching” by Ken Blanchard & Don Shula

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