The fine art of discipline

Business leaders must seize the future to distinguish themselves from mere management.
The fine art of discipline
By Alex Andarakis
Sun 04 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

In the journey of professional development, many of us envision the attainment of a senior management position as a leader of an organisation and the formation of talented individuals as the pinnacle of our careers. The many years of education, training, development and the arduous tour of duty on behalf of our organisations exposes us to many different skills, capabilities and management styles in which we look to capture best in class apply best practice, and then also apply that to our leadership time, in a quest to create a legacy which can be remembered and looked on as the best. This legacy should be focused on results and meaning under our leadership.

The role of being a leader requires great discipline and passion, and while much is written about leadership styles and behaviour, little has been written about leadership attitude. One of the best quotes that I have heard and one that has stayed with me for years comes from the movie, ‘Remember The Titans’ where one high school football captain criticises the attitude of his star player, only to be told that ‘attitude reflects leadership’. Nothing can be closer to the truth, and it is this that separates great leaders from the pretenders.

Fostering the appropriate attitude within an organisation requires great discipline from its respective leader.

The development of a strong follower network within the business requires great skill from the leader in areas such as creating space for personal and professional growth for the management, empowerment, ability to challenge strategy and operational norms, as well as the freedom to exercise diversity in terms of management styles and techniques.

Once the vision and direction of the strategic journey has been defined, agreed and management has taken ownership, the leader needs to allow his team the width and scope to drive the execution of the plan.

A strategy is only as good as the level of engagement in which the management team has adopted, and their passionate communication throughout the internal and external ecosystem in which they operate.

Leadership discipline comes in many forms, and during my experience can be summarized as patience, active listening, consistency in feedback and communication, as well as respect for individuals and their professional opinions.

It is a fact that the leader does not, and will never have the mortgage on all the good ideas, and much can be generated from valuing the contribution of any member of your team.

Having the discipline to allow yourself the space to operate at a different altitude to the one you did in your formative years defines your leadership ambition, divorcing yourself from the micromanagement details that need to be the domain of your management team. Being a contributor to the expansion of ideas and how they could fit into an evolving strategy and execution plan is where the value addition comes into play, and where a leader's contribution needs to be focused. This is what separates leaders from managers, and where the major leap in being able to seize the future comes into play for leaders.

Matching attitude to behaviour is a major challenge for leaders, and one in which they are constantly under the microscope from their constituents. If an organisation or leader lists ‘empowerment’ as a value within the company, then it must remain disciplined in encouraging empowerment, tolerating, yet learning from failure along the way, and pushing the management team for continual re-invention of process and practices.

Simply telling people that they are empowered is not enough, people need to feel and sense the leadership ambition that empowerment is cherished, and only then will this be truly delivered.

The power of an empowered company is rooted to the quality of the strategic framework which has been defined and understood by all, and the strength and clarity of the operational controls in place.

This is the discipline that the leader needs to bring to the business. An example of this phenomenon can be seen in the development of Russia and China post the communist era, with China flourishing under an empowered capitalist approach within a defined strategic framework and tight operational controls, while Russia is inconsistent through the absence of a defined discipline in both areas.

A leader’s discipline will drive disciplined thought, disciplined action and disciplined people, and this is the legacy that an effective leader will leave during his era.

Alex Andarakis is CEO of drinks giant Aujan Industries

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